He’s one of the most iconic people in Hollywood, with films grossing nearly $ 10.5 billion worldwide. But once upon a time Johnson was just a 6-foot-5-inch high school man trying to make his professional football dreams come true. After a college career that included a 1991 National Championship at the University of Miami, the dream was nearer. But then the 1995 NFL Draft rolled around and Johnson wasn’t selected. He signed with a Canadian professional team to be cut after two months.
“In 1995 I had seven dollars in my pocket and I knew two things: I’m fucking broke and one day I won’t be,” says Johnson.
With football in his past, Johnson turned to the family business: pro wrestling. As a third generation wrestler, “Rocky Maivia” was often hyped up early and often despite lack of experience. For the next eight years “The Rock” would change the sport and usher in the “Attitude Era” of the WWE with trash talking and chaos. He holds the title for the most watched pay-per-view fight. But building one of the greatest careers in wrestling wasn’t enough.
“I’ll never get full,” says Johnson. “Of course I’m not talking about food. When I grew up, I had nothing for a long time. Someone told me a long time ago, and I have never forgotten, “Once you’ve been hungry – really, really hungry – you’ll never be full.”
Hungry and charismatic Johnson, who we know from big budget action films, made his big film debut in The Scorpion King. In less than two decades, he became the highest-paid film actor of all time, founded his own media company, and most recently became the most-visited American on Instagram after breaking $ 200 million in October. (Cristiano Ronaldo is the most visited person on the planet at 241 million.) All of this means that Johnson has made an undeniable (and by every measurement) successful career by putting his heart into everything he does.
“The most powerful thing I can be is myself,” says Johnson.
You want to like Johnson. It could be that he hears “You’re Welcome” in the popular animated film Moana. It could be his brief glimpse of vulnerability in comedy roles like Baywatch and Jumanji. Or maybe the inspiration you feel as you scroll through his Instagram profile. (Seriously, give it a try. It would definitely blow the Montage out of the water.) Even if he brings up topics that many entertainers want to avoid, you want to like Johnson. He is open and honest about his political beliefs. He regularly speaks on social issues, is known to donate money for an abandoned dog surgery, and expresses an undying love and support for U.S. troops.
To be so famous, so open, and yet so personable is no easy task. But in several vulnerable interviews, Johnson speaks about his difficult childhood, growing up poor and fighting for every inch. Rather than announcing a tired rags-to-fortune story full of mentality, Johnson admits that this is not always enough. But in the face of uncontrollable roadblocks, there is still an opportunity to fight.
“I grew up where a window would not open when the door was closed,” he says. “The only thing I had was cracks. I would do anything to get through those cracks – scratch, scratch, bite, squeeze, bleed. Now the opportunity is there and it’s the size of a garage. “
Was Johnson always aiming to become the biggest name in WWE and then become the highest paid actor in Hollywood? Who knows? And to ask Johnson who cares? The purpose is not to unlock a secret. Happiness and fulfillment can be found in the tiny cracks that open with hard work and persistence that you will see in almost every one of his Instagram posts.
“We do what they don’t want today, so tomorrow we can do what they can’t.”
As with all successful people, we expect some kind of roadmap from them. We try to find clues that will help us on our own journeys. Johnson’s life is full of nuggets of wisdom about adapting, increasing positivity, and resilience to failure. Here are seven of our favorites.
1. Build your resilience muscle.
Whether you’re trying to do the NFL or trying to become a senior partner in your law firm, resilience benefits everyone. But it takes consistency to build muscle, including elasticity. First, choose one small thing – drink eight glasses of water a day, for example – and do it every day for a week. Then for a month. Then for three months. Add an extra little thing when you feel like you have the first. If it feels silly or pointless or harsh, remind yourself that you are building muscle and not wanting to have fun all the time.
2. Surround yourself with positivity.
For many, “being positive” is anything but helpful. Especially in stressful or difficult times in our lives, such mundane and generic advice can cause even more feelings of negativity. Instead of trying to hack into positivity, increase the number of positive clues around you. How that looks is up to you: sticky notes in obvious places with mantras; make regular plans with positive people in your life; or maybe the first thing you will do every morning is listen to an uplifting podcast.
3. Dig tunnel vision.
Also, leave behind the idea that “it’s always been done that way”. Many of us have a rough idea of where our life should lead. For some, it’s a white picket fence and a couple of kids in the yard. For others, it’s a life of travel and adventure. Along with this vision there is a self-made timeline of when these things should happen. Leave that behind you too. Life never works the way you imagine it, and that’s the beauty of it. Surely plan for the future, but take the wild turns that happen along the way.
4. Familiarize yourself with the risk.
Imagine a spectrum of risk comfort. We all end up somewhere on that spectrum, but it’s not static. As children, we do not have enough life experience to understand the possible consequences of risk behavior. As we get older, our lessons often make us a little more confident. But nothing big happens when you play your life small. Increase your risk comfort by taking little risk every day. This looks different for everyone, but it can include volunteering on a new project at work if you’ve previously stayed in the background or had a difficult conversation with a friend you’ve been putting off for years.
5. Adopt a student mindset.
What better way to adapt than constantly learning, growing, and expanding your worldview? Listen to podcasts outside of your normal interests. Read nonfiction books recommended by people intimidating you. Adopt online or in-person tactics on topics that scare you. People are like trees, and our potential to grow in the course of our lives is almost limitless.
6. Say yes more.
There are a thousand reasons to say no. No to a girl’s night after a long day / week / month at work. No, training at 6 a.m. because we slept badly. No to this new freelance presence because we are convinced that we are not entirely qualified. Take a page from Shonda Rhimes’ book and just say yes. Try it for a week and write about what you are feeling, what thoughts arise and how the course of your week has changed.
7. Take the bike.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, Wow, this week has really passed, ask yourself why. If you’ve been so busy at work or at home that you haven’t had time to just be with yourself, how do you feel? If you prioritize yourself last, what version of you do you give to loved ones? When we let life happen to us, we lose the parts of us that make us. First, write down everything you do every day. Then make a list of the things you want to do for yourself each day. Make space for this list. Be relentless and unforgiving with your new calendar.
Read On: Dwayne Johnson is on our latest list from The SUCCESS 25. Meet all of the key voices to fuel your personal growth in 2021.
Photo by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com
Cecilia Meis is the integrated content editor for SUCCESS magazine and SUCCESS.com. She recently earned a bachelor’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. Cecilia is from Kansas City and enjoys sand volleyball, new stationery, and a heaped plate with burnt ends.