Dwayne Johnson needs no introduction. America’s favorite tough guy is killing it again at the box office with Hobbs & Shaw, an offshoot of the Fast & Furious series. The Rock has achieved a level of fame and success that few people aspire to. He is a household name in the US and is as famous for his charisma as he is for his biceps. Few people are aware of the setbacks he endured prior to making it big. In a talk delivered to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Rock opened up about the adversity he lived in his younger years that made him who he is today. Remember the hard times is the takeaway for anyone who’s ever been through something and made it to a better place in life. I’ve transcribed a large segment of the speech embedded below.
Start strong, finish strong. The wolf is always scratching. Let’s roll. Up at 3:45 AM, cardio by 4:45 AM, hitting the iron by 6:15 AM, in my pickup truck by 7:15 AM, heading to work, ready to get after it. Ready to shoot. There’s no substitute for hard work. I’m going to make something out of myself, and it’s going to be so good, it’s bad. . .
Instead of telling you what I think you should be doing, or how I think you can be better, I thought well, let me just speak from the heart. Speak from my gut. And really not have anything prepared, but just tell you what’s worked for me. And maybe some of the stuff that’s worked for me might work for you, now, currently, presently as you guys have your goals and ambitions, but then further down the line as you guys continue to live your life.
This idea and this notion that you can be anything you want, that you can accomplish anything you want, right, we hear that, you’ve heard that from the time you were little boys, you hear that now, you’re already incredibly accomplished, you guys know that. The thing that has worked for me is to remember the hard times. I’m sure you guys all have your processes, and again, I’m going to tell you what’s worked for me.
So before a big movie comes out, before back in the days when I was wrestling with WWE, a WrestleMania match, anything big that would happen, I would always take a moment and I would just remind myself, alright, I was evicted when I was 14. We were kicked off the island, we couldn’t live in Hawaii, had no place to live. Lot of s**t happened when I moved to Nashville, I was arrested multiple times by the time I was 16 years old. I would remember that, and it allows me then to be present in the moment and understand holy s**t, the stuff I have around me now, this is the s**t I dreamed of when I was a kid. I am here.
I played for the University of Miami, played for great teams. Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis were my teammates. They were balling. Warren Sapp was playing Tight End at that time. I was starting Defensive Tackle, yeah, they moved him over to D-line. And he looked at me, and was like “Yo dude, I’m going take your spot.” I said you aren’t taking my spot. He said I’m going to take your spot. I said no, you ain’t. We battled, and he took my spot. Now you can imagine how that f**cked with me because there goes my opportunity. He went in, switched to defensive tackle and lit the world on fire.
Well what that did, it crushed me, and it crushed my dreams. I had a pi*s poor senior year, zero production, no NFL, no combine invite, nothing. I finally went to the CFL, Calvary Stampederes making $250 a week Canadian. Canadian. And I had to send that s**t home, to my wife at that time. I had no money. So I remember that. When I got cut from Canada, my dad in his pickup truck came down 4 o’clock in the morning, picked me up in Miami from Tampa. We lived in a little apartment in Tampa, he drove down in his little pickup truck to Miami to get me when I was cut from the CFL. And I thought well f**k. I leave home like you guys left home, I’m ready to tackle the world, to get after it, achieve my dreams and goals–crushed by 22, 23 years old.
Now I got to move back in with my mom and dad. I played on great teams, though, wait a second, this is not supposed to be my future. I’m supposed to be in the NFL right now, I’m supposed to be making a lot of coin and buying my parents s**t, buying me s**t, taking care of my wife, it never happened. So I pulled out my wallet and thought, let me see how much money I have. I opened it up and I had a 5, a 1 and change. Well at least it rounded up to 7 bucks. But I thought God ain’t this a b**ch, I got 7 bucks in my pocket. Where do I go now? What do I do? I can’t go back to the CFL.
The point comes where you hear that voice, the big runs over, you’re done. And so I heard that voice. So as coach was saying, man I hold to that. I’m telling you. My back up against this motherf**cker [the wall], we laugh, we joke ,we have a good time, but my back is still up against this mother f**cker. Do not forget it. What this also helps me do, and again, it works for me. At some point, you have to be f**cking tired of not being #1. You have to be. And you have to play angry. And I play angry.
Now I’m cool and calm with my approach, and when I step out on my field, which is a set–and you’re always going to have haters. And haters are like, God d**n, how many movies are you going to make? How much s**t are you going to do? You do a lot of s**t, and I say, yes, because of my ambition. Of course, why not. I can do it. Yeah, I love what I do. And not only that, but in what world do we not work every day. My back is up against this thing. And I started to play angry, by the way, and I still play angry.
My last match—Brock Lesnar–I realized if I had to be great at something and I wanted to be great in this world of Hollywood and movie-making and producing and entertainment, I had to commit like you guys had to commit. Obviously when you commit to something, you commit to the goal. So I quietly retired, two years later I thought “what did I do with my career?” because my movies were not doing well. I was written off. This was around 2006, 2007, I pulled a Jim Brown, I left when I was on top, like #1 in the wrestling business.
It was a ballsy, gutsy, some call it stupid move. But I had to commit and I had to follow what was in my gut. What helps me is to keep the hard times in the front of my mind because it allows me to go into these big moments that I’ve worked my a** off for, and you guys have worked your a** off. It allows me to go into these moments with a different perspective.
And what it also does for me, and again this works for me, my back is up against this motherf**cker. Every day, it’s against this f**cking wall. But it’s up against this motherf**cker because it’s what I believe in. And when my back is up against this mother f**cker, then there’s no where to go but that way [straight ahead]. Doesn’t mean you don’t smile, doesn’t mean you don’t laugh and joke. I’m a happy guy. But when it comes to business, and when it comes to executing, it’s up against this. And I got to go that way. And I don’t give a f**ck who is in front of me, they’re not going to stop me. . .
The key for me was where does it start? What’s the anchor? What’s the anchor? So I could have all these ambitions, and you guys have all these ambitions, which is great, it’s important. I’ll play this role, you’ll play that role. I’ll execute this thing, and it will come out this summer, you guys will execute this thing during the summer, right, when it’s time to really put in a lot more work. But the key with me is just always finding what the anchor is, and the anchor is getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning every day before anybody else. And grounding my thought process in the idea that no one will outwork me. I love and I respect you guys, but you motherf**ckers will not outwork me. It all starts with this. Two hands. Putting it to work.
My last match in WWE, I’ll share this with you guys, too. Again because there’s a takeaway here from all of this. I wrestled John Cena and I went in and I think it was 2013, and I went in WWE champion, and we went in Metlife Stadium, we had a record-breaking attendance, which was amazing that night. We accomplished our goal. So I wrestled with John Cena and we had 45 minutes planned for the match. It’s non-stop go. So you’re conditioning is tested.
At that time I wasn’t full time in WWE, I was just doing these spot matches where I was still shooting GI Joe or Pain and Gain at that time. Or no, it was Fast and Furious in London. I had to travel to the ring, get all my ringwork in, travel back to shoot. Then back again to WWE Raw. Doing those shows. The big build-up to WrestleMania against John. We get to Metlife Stadium, it’s a big night, this is it, it’s game night, it’s championship night for me. A 45 minute match planned out. There’s no cut, there’s no alright, let’s pick back up tomorrow. It’s go-time. Just like you guys in a game.
At the 15-minute mark, Bang! I feel something pop, I’m like boom. Laying there. And both of us are out. I said “Oh f**k, something’s going on.” That was 85,000 people, and we’re just laid out, I kind of roll over, I stick my hand down in my trunks just to see, I wanted to make sure there was no bone sticking out. Well I said if there’s no bone sticking out–something just happened.
The referee comes over, he’s like “Rock, are you alright?” I said yeah yeah, I think I’m alright. I get up, I go to step, and I can’t step. I can’t do this [walk normally]. I have to use my leg like momentum. So now in that moment, and you guys are going to have these moments, you probably already had them already when you’re in the game, you’re in the thick of things, and you have to make a decision, what are you going to do. We’re going to stay in the game, committed to the team. I committed to my team, the entire roster, right.
So I have one moment, in this moment it was a defining moment. I could either tell him no, I’m done. He gives the signal, the match is over. Or, let’s keep going. We have this decision. I said no, let’s keep going. I said how much time is left. He said 32 minutes. I’m like “f**k, OK.” I wrestled the whole match, I couldn’t move. I’m getting scared because I”m thinking man, what happens if I pinch something, you know, I don’t know you, your mind starts fucking with you in the moment. There’s 85,000 people, your adrenaline is rushing, what happens if I lose my leg or some s**t if I just did something to my artery.
The final move of the match was his big finishing move, and I remember, I’m getting up and I’m turning like this because I have to fall into him, he’s going to hit me with his big finisher. I remember turning into John and I remember thinking to myself God, please don’t let this be too bad. Just take care of me. Take care of me.
Bang! I feel boom! And I don’t know what the f**k just happened. Now luckily the match is over, he pins me 1-2-3. I get to the back, I can’t move, now I’m getting a little nervous. I got on the jet, rushed home to my doctors down in Florida. And I get an MRI, find out that I have completely torn my adductor, the top of my adductor, and the top of my quad off my pelvis. What I was proud of was to walk out on my own, but not only that but in this f**ing moment where the odds are against you, people are watching, your teams depending on you. You either say I’m done, or this s**t, whatever the f**k is going on, is temporary. And it may f**k me up at some point down the road, but I’m not going to let this opportunity go by without giving it my all.
As you guys know, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. You’re going to go on, you’re going to become world champions, one of the keys is remember where you came from. Keep that s**t in the front of your mind, and when s**t goes bad and it goes sideways–a lot of s**t does–you’re getting booed out of the building, or you’re coming through this injury, or people writing you off. You guys ain’t going to make it. Any of that. You got to keep that in here [chest]. It should drive you. It should. It works for me. It should drive you. You got all the talent in the world, it’s all right here. Really the two things I want to say are you got to be the hardest workers in the room, and don’t f*k the opportunity up.