From Vanilla Ice 'wannabe' to Mr. positivity: John Cena says staying authentic is key to his success

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What does it take to have a career as fruitful and diverse as John Cena's?

The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star is one of the highest-paid and most decorated wrestlers in the franchise. In the 2017 calendar year, Cena earned $10 million, according to Forbes.

Cena is also an accomplished actor and will appear in the upcoming "Fast and Furious 9." When he's not acting, he's writing children's books, practicing piano, learning Mandarin and sending uplifting tweets out to his 11.9 million followers.

Cena attributes his success in all these fields and his popularity on social media to one trait: authenticity.

"It's the same thing that garnered me a lot of success in the WWE, which was remaining authentic," Cena told Sports Illustrated in a recent interview.

In Cena's early WWE days, he was known for his persona, Doctor of Thuganomics, who was a "Vanilla Ice exaggerated wannabe" with a lot of "bravado and swagger," Cena told Sports Illustrated. At the time, it felt authentic: When he was younger, "hip hop was part of my life, a part of my culture," he said.

But as Cena's career progressed, more kids and families started coming to his matches, so he shifted his on-stage attitude; he stopped cursing and moved on from rapping.

"That was the spawn of the character I became, which was, 'Work hard, never give up, show respect.' That's who I am." (Cena did briefly revive his Doctor of Thuganomics character for WrestleMania 35 in April.)

Cena certainly works hard: He doesn't vacation and has never taken more than two days off of work, he told "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in September. He also has no plans to retire from the WWE, he told NBC's "Sunday Today" in October.

Nowadays, Cena uses social media as a diary, and a place to spread positivity, he told Delta Sky magazine in a November interview. His Twitter bio reads: "A forum of thoughts and perspectives designed to ignite conversations and actions leading to growth, and occasional self promotion."

"I know that social media is most times a difficult, argumentative, and negative place, Twitter especially, because of the ability to hide behind the text," Cena told Sports Illustrated. "So what can I do? Send out good stuff, be honest with everybody, and then follow people that relate to the good stuff."

This philosophy is summed up in one of Cena's recent tweets: "Ask questions. Challenge norms. Seek answers, to everything in life, especially to the reflection starting back at you. Most of the time this is very difficult, but the end product is more than worth it."

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