No. 2: When in Doubt, Go Back to Basics
Under the watchful eye of coach Cwik, Dwayne steadily improved, both as a student and as an athlete. By the time he was a high school senior he was ranked one of the top 10 defensive tackles in the nation and was offered a scholarship to the University of Miami. He jumped on the opportunity like a loose ball.
At Miami, his combination of size, strength, athleticism, and work ethic made Dwayne a standout from the moment he first stepped onto the field. Finally, at 18, and with a lifetime worth of mistakes and heartaches behind him, Dwayne Johnson was cooking with gas.
“I was ballin’. I was going to be the only freshman to play. Then, on the very last day of practice with pads I completely dislocated my shoulder. It was an awful dislocation. That night I was having a complete reconstruction of my shoulder. I went from being on top of the world to in the dumps at 18.”
Dwayne quickly fell into a depression. He stopped going to class. Then, without taking any of his midterms, he just went home.
One day he got a call from Miami’s head coach, Dennis Erickson.
“He says to me, ‘I’d like you to come back to school early.’ I ask, ‘How early?’ and he says, ‘In a couple of days.’
“So I come back to school, and he was so pissed. He and my defensive line coach charged hard on me. They grilled me. ‘How can you do this? You embarrassed us! You embarrassed the team! You were in a leadership position, and now you have a 0.7 GPA because you fucked off and left!’ ”
Then came a challenge that would test Dwayne’s mettle as much as any workout he’d ever had.
“They said, ‘Here’s what’s gonna happen. From now on, you are under academic probation. You are on the verge of having your scholarship pulled. You will attend every class. Then, when you’re done with class, you will go straight to the gym and attend every team meeting, and you will sit on the sidelines at every practice. But here’s the key: In order to get into the football building, you will have to get signatures from every one of your professors every day saying that you attended class.’ ”
Even counting the nine arrests, and all his other youthful “indiscretions,” this represented a new low for Dwayne. He was embarrassed and remorseful. He knew that if he were to lose his scholarship he’d be out of school: His parents simply couldn’t afford to pay his tuition. And so, Dwayne made the decision to travel the hard road once more. By this point it was well-worn. He didn’t need directions. He would simply call upon the same principles that powered him through his most grueling training sessions: focus, persistence, and of course, lots of hard work.
“I did everything they told me to do and turned it around. Eventually I became the academic captain, and by my junior year I was pre-season All-America on a couple of lists. I did what had to be done.”
No. 1: Failure is a Virtue
Others in Dwayne Johnson’s position might choose to sweep their history under the rug, ashamed of the mess and how it might appear, but not Dwayne. To him, there’s a sublime beauty in life’s struggles, and he knows that just as he owes his mountainous biceps and barn-door-wide shoulders to years of strain and pain, so, too, are his successes made possible by earlier losses.
“I always want to remind people of my past, because it is directly responsible for who I am today. It’s undeniable that I’m a product of those tough times. I am a product of the most challenging times of my life. And that’s the value of them. They shape you and they mold you, and so, I was formed by these lessons at a very young age.”
One experience in particular has left a lasting impact, and for as painful a memory as it is, he keeps it in his thoughts at all times.
“As crazy as it may sound, in my mind, I’m always a week away from getting evicted, and that’s what keeps me motivated, not the material things. You can strip them all away–strip them away today. Strip away the glitz and the glamour of Hollywood. Strip away the red carpet, the big box-office global hits, the cars, the homes. Strip everything away to me going back to being dead broke, evicted with seven bucks in my pocket, and you know what? The one thing that’s absolutely guaranteed is that I will still be training when the sun comes up.”
Training, and continuing to learn the lessons that come from iron and sweat and lots of good, old-fashioned hard work.