With multiple hit movie franchises under his belt in addition to more than a decade as one of the WWE’s biggest stars, it’s easy to forget that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson came from humble beginnings.
In a new, 17-minute Facebook video recorded—where else?—from inside his personal gym, the Iron Paradise, The Rock took a break from working out to answer a few questions from fans, including one about whether or not he felt nervous about initially breaking into Hollywood.
After quickly answering a couple of other questions about his height (6’4”) and current weight (277 pounds), the Rock revealed that, yes, he was nervous about breaking in—and that’s part of what led him initially to listen to some bad advice.
“The people I had around me were telling me in order to become a box office powerhouse, you can’t use the name The Rock, you can’t work out as much,” Johnson said, adding that he also lost a significant amount of weight during that time, dropping down to around 205 pounds. “I bought into it, I did a ton of cardio,” he said.
It’s not like his career was foundering, exactly—Johnson was working steadily, making entertaining action movies, and getting decent reviews, but the movies weren’t the “home runs” that Johnson imagined he could produce. Something felt wrong, and around 2010, he decided to address it head-on. “There was no blueprint for a guy like me who was half-black, half-Samoan, 6’4, 275 pounds, raising an eyebrow and talking a lot of shit,” Johnson said. “I felt like my career was just on the precipice of fading off into the darkness.”
He looked at some of the biggest actors in the world at the time—Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Will Smith—and wondered how he could learn from them while creating a new kind of blueprint, one that would play more to his very literal strengths. So he called his team together and asked them to buy in. “I needed everybody in the room have faith, and put our best foot forward—that just because we don’t see it in front of us doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
His speech, however, didn’t have the motivational effect he intended it to have on everyone in the room. “They looked at me like I had three heads—and I’ve got a big-ass head anyway, so you can only imagine,” he laughed. “It wasn’t in a positive way, either. I felt that.” So Johnson made a decision that he now says changed the trajectory of his life and career: He fired everybody on the spot.
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“I said, you’re gone—thank you for your efforts, but everyone is gone, clean slate. I’m going to put people around me who are not only hungry to win and hungry to succeed, but more importantly, have the faith and understand the value in possibility.”
In the months following that meeting, Johnson signed with a new agency, WME, and started a business partnership with his ex-wife, Dany Garcia, who ran her own management company. “I selectively, strategically placed the best people around me. I also went outside of Hollywood to get the best business minds as well.”
The results in the decade since speak for themselves, but there’s one more lesson The Rock urges people to take to heart as they arrive at their own pivotal moments. “There’s incredible power in being yourself. After I hired those people, I also said I’m gonna go back to the gym and train the way I want to train. I’m going to embrace my past as a pro wrestler. That is who I am, that’s how I cut my teeth,” he said, adding that it paid immediate dividends—his matches set pay-per-view records for the WWE as his acting career began to flourish.
“Surround yourself with good people,” he said in closing. “You’re the product. You’re in control of the people you keep around you.”
Watch the video here:
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