He makes it look so easy, doesn’t he?
Highest paid actor in Hollywood.
160 Million social media followers.
People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.
But when you dig deeper, you’ll see that Dwayne Johnson’s success is a case study in determination. And that will-to-power has created a seemingly unstoppable force of pop culture.
I'm always asked, 'What’s the secret to success?' But there are no secrets. Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.
It took him a while to discover that formula. He was the product of years of turmoil growing up, with the result being a pretty bad attitude.
His father, the professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, needed to travel the circuit to make a living, so there was little sense of permanence. He attended four high schools in just three years.
Lest anyone think the “family business” was lucrative, eviction notices constantly dogged his parents. When Dwayne was 15, they were living in a small studio in Honolulu and came home to find a lock on the door. His mother, who cleaned hotel rooms, couldn’t afford to pay their $180/week rent.
His anger also led to a serious problem with authority. In fact, when he lived in Hawaii, he admits to being arrested eight or nine time, mostly for petty theft and vandalism.
Right there, the future star could have continued down a path to nowhere. But something intervened -- and it gave him the structure and discipline his life otherwise lacked.
That something was football.
He threw himself into the sport with reckless abandon, even winning a full-scholarship to play at college football powerhouse University of Miami.
But once again, nothing proved easy. On the final practice before his freshman season, he tore his left shoulder. Four knee surgeries followed. And for the entirety of his college career, he had the misfortune of playing behind future NFL Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp.
He barely saw the field at The U and failed to get drafted into the NFL. Humbled, he signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League before the 1995 season.
Two months later he was cut, effectively killing his dream of playing pro ball.
Broke, jobless and embarrassed, he headed back to Tampa to move in with his parents and -- now famously – realized he had seven dollars to his name (in a twist of irony, he later named his highly-successful production company 7 Bucks Productions).
Dwayne Johnson had hit rock (no pun intended) bottom.
Success isn't always about greatness. It's about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.
Every personal history has a dividing line of before and after. Returning home defeated, he admits to suffering through a bitter depression. Once that cloud lifted, he decided it was time to give pro wrestling a go.
His father didn’t agree, telling his son he had nothing to offer the sport…and the sport had little to offer him.
Looking back, I understand that my father was thinking, ‘Man, I wrestled for 40 years, and this is what I have to show for it: a tiny apartment in Tampa. I don’t want this for you.'
But the showmanship of wrestling came easy to him. He had the natural ability to connect with an audience. And he became a star.
Soon, his outsized personality transcended the ring. After hosting Saturday Night Live and guesting on That 70's Show, he began to explore a career as an actor. In 2001, a small role in The Mummy Returns (he had one line) led to a starring role -- and $5.5 M paycheck -- for spinoff The Scorpion King.
By 2004, his Hollywood career was in swing and enabled him to leave wrestling and give acting his full attention (although he later returned to headline several WrestleMania events).
From wrestling in flea markets (making $40 bucks a match) to used car dealerships to barns, to breaking attendance records in every major dome in the U.S., I learned that the most important relationship I will EVER have in business is the relationship I have with my audience. Pay attention to who you do your business for.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of his success is his unprecedented connection to fans. It’s estimated that his social media efforts add up to $20 million in marketing value to a TV or film project, far and away the highest in the business.
Yes, Dwayne Johnson is a superstar. But there aren't many who remain that driven and that humble.
And yet his greatest ability may be his likability.