He was supposed to be playing in the NFL.

So, why was his dad driving him back home? All he had was seven bucks in his pocket.

How does the Rock go from ZERO to HERO?

By working harder than everyone else in the room. Read on!

Read the Non-Fiction Article:
Be the Hardest Worker in the Room

He couldn’t figure out where it went wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He was supposed to be a huge success playing pro football and living the good life.

So, why was he in his father’s pickup truck getting a ride back to Florida to live with his parents? He couldn’t even afford to get himself home. All he had was seven bucks in his pocket. (He only had six dollars and some change, but he rounded up.)

Dwayne Johnson was good at playing football in high school. He was so good that he earned a full athletic scholarship to the University of Miami. Johnson played backup defensive end for the Hurricanes. The National Football League (NFL) does an event called the Scouting Combine. This is where top college players go to get drafted into the NFL. Johnson didn’t get invited to the Scouting Combine. But, he did manage to get picked up by the Canadian Football League (CFL).

“I knew in my heart I was going to make it in the CFL – and parlay that into a very successful career in the NFL. Maybe even win a Super Bowl.”

Dwayne Johnson – The Rock

Where did it go wrong? Johnson didn’t really get to play pro football. He only got to be on the practice roster for the Calgary Stampeders. He made $250 a week, which he had to send home to his wife. Johnson lived with three other practice-roster players. He slept on a used mattress he brought back from a hotel dumpster.

Calgary didn’t need him. So head coach Wally Buono cut him from the team. He just wasn’t good enough, and he had to go home. Johnson had no money, so he called his dad to drive up from Tampa to get him.

Times were tough for Johnson. He was back living with his parents, trying to figure things out, and facing some dark days alone.

“At 23, you think life is over. I fell into a deep depression, and I remember at that time, the only thing I wanted to do was clean the walls. I grabbed some cleaner and a rag, and for days I would clean – I cleaned everything. It was just the only thing I can control.”

Dwayne Johnson – The Rock

Decades later, Johnson would talk to Oprah about those dark times when he felt trapped in his head. Johnson told Oprah that he wished he knew that he wasn’t alone. The big picture can be tough to see when you’re struggling. You’re not the first to go through mental health obstacles. You won’t be the last to go through it, either.

You just feel like you’re alone. And, you feel like it’s only you, and you’re in your bubble, and I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], hey, it’s going to be okay. You’re gonna be okay. I wish I knew that. Just gotta remember: Hold on to that fundamental quality of faith. Have faith. That on the other side of your pain is something good.

Johnson battled his depression. He chose to focus on what he could control. In his case, it was cleaning that small apartment. Although he wasn’t certified, Johnson got a job as a trainer at a local Bally gym. He smiled and told them he knew what he was doing. Johnson also told the gym that he was great with people.

One day, the head coach called from Calgary and asked him to return. Johnson politely thanked him for the opportunity and turned it down.

His dad thought he was crazy. Why would he throw away his football career? But Johnson knew otherwise. His gut told him football wasn’t right for him anymore. He wanted to join the family business.

Johnson comes from a family involved with professional wrestling. Johnson’s grandfather (on his mother’s side) was Peter Maivia. Maivia was born in Samoa in the 1930s and was a pro wrestler. When Johnson’s grandfather passed away, Johnson’s grandmother, Lia Maivia, took over Polynesian Pro Wrestling (PPW). She was one of the first female promoters in the business.

Johnson’s father, Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson, was also a pro wrestler. Johnson’s father was trained by Johnson’s grandfather. (Maivia was now wrestling under the name High Chief Peter Maivia.) If Johnson became a pro wrestler, he would be the third generation in his family to wrestle. Although Johnson didn’t know it then, later on, in 2022, his eldest daughter would become the fourth generation wrestler in the family. She started her career as Ava Raine in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

I need you to train me, Johnson said to his father back in the 1990s. And his dad did.

Johnson started his wrestling career as Rocky Maivia, a smiling happy guy who smiled as he got beat down. But this character felt wrong. After all, as Johnson would later put it, “Who was this guy in wrestling who’s smiling when he’s getting beat?”

The crowd didn’t believe Rocky for a second. At his first Wrestlemania, twenty thousand people chanted, “Rocky sucks!” That was tough to hear.

A few weeks later, Johnson injured his knee. He was out for the rest of the summer. During that break, Johnson realized it wasn’t personal. It wasn’t him that the crowd didn’t like. They didn’t like that he wasn’t being real; he wasn’t being true to himself.

Vincent McMahon was the promoter and owner of WWE (then WWF.) He called up Johnson about coming back as a heel. A heel is a villain in professional wrestling. The crowd already hated Rocky Maivia. It made sense to develop the storyline in this direction. Johnson could stir up people to give them someone to love to hate.

Johnson said yes, but under one condition. He wanted two minutes to talk to the crowd live. McMahon agreed. In 1996, Johnson gave a speech that showed who he really was. “In arenas across the country, I heard chants of Rocky Sucks. I may be a lot of things, but sucks isn’t one of them.”

The Rock was born; his wrestling character matched his real personality. Rocky Maivia was a cheesy, smiling, good-boy hero with streamers around his neck. In contrast, the Rock was a gritty, rough, tough-guy villain with a trademark eyebrow raise. Johnson unleashed his full charm. He insulted people and referred to himself in the third person. The crowd loved it!

Today, we’ve seen the Rock in everything from The Scorpion King to Jumanji to Black Adam. He has a production company, Seven Bucks. Seven Bucks creates content for television, film, and digital media. This includes NBC’s Young Rock, Disney’s Jungle Cruise, and Netflix’s Red Notice.

Johnson teamed up with his ex-wife Dany Garcia and a private investment firm called RedBird Capital Partners. Together they purchased the XFL American football minor league. They bought the league from McMahon went it filed for bankruptcy during the Covid shutdown. In March 2021, Johnson posted on his Instagram about what he was doing with the XFL. The XFL and the CFL were talking about working together. In the end, an XFL-CFL partnership didn’t work out.

The XFL did, however, form a partnership with the NFL. They are going to work together to develop the game and the players. They will also share innovation programs and data. Garcia is the Co-Owner and Chairwoman of the XFL. She talked about “leveraging the newest technology to enhance gameday experience.”

Life goes full circle. In his twenties, Johnson was cut from professional football. Now, he’s in his fifties and owns a professional football league. The XFL will kickstart the first game of its new season in February 2023.

Johnson once gave a speech for the LA Lakers. How do you motivate professional NBA basketball players? Remember, these athletes are the best of the best. Johnson simply shared some things that worked for him.

He talked about being grateful. When Johnson was fourteen, his family was evicted from their home in Hawaii. He was arrested as a teen in Nashville. He told the Lakers, “I would remember that, and it allows me then to be present in the moment.”

Johnson thinks about the hard times to keep focused. It reminds him to be hungry and to play angry. Playing angry doesn’t mean being hot-tempered or not smiling. After all, Johnson is a happy guy. But he uses hunger as fuel. He uses inner anger to stay focused. This is how he works towards success. He does everything like his back is against the wall. He fights for things as if the only way out is forwards. He doesn’t care who is in front of him, “they’re not gonna stop me.”

There were days when Johnson had nothing. There are times when he’s grateful to have a lot. Either way, Johnson always centers himself by returning daily to his anchor. He’s found his safe place. For him, it’s working out at his gym, the Iron Paradise. (He also has a traveling Iron Paradise. This is the gym he brings everywhere while filming a movie.)

Johnson constantly posts on Instagram. It’s 3:45 AM, and he’s up doing cardio, lifting weights, and grounding his thoughts. He wears a shirt that literally says to be the hardest worker in the room. By the time regular people wake up, Johnson has already trained two full workouts to kick start his day.

Today, Johnson has an estimated net worth of $800 million. He has 357 million followers on Instagram. Johnson uses social media to grow his charming brand. He understands how to run a business because he’s had years of failures and successes. Johnson now owns a tequila company, a production company, and a football league. He is also one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood.

But he always remembers the day he only had seven dollars.

The Hardest Worker from an SEOT perspective

We can learn a lot about what real effort looks like from Johnson’s story of going from zero to hero. There was a time in his life when he only had a few dollars. Today, he’s worth $800M. He plays action heroes in movies. (Well, Black Adam might be more of an anti-hero than a typical hero.)

EFFORT Idea #1: Be the hardest worker in the room

Look around. If you really want something, you must go after it by working harder than everyone else. If you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll probably end up being average. Average just means you’re in the middle.

Johnson talks to his Instagram fans while working out at the gym. We get an inside peek at what it looks like when you’re working harder than the average person. For example, no one else is at the gym while he’s putting in the work.

“It’s four o’clock in the morning. It’s Saturday afternoon. Empty gym just the way we like it. I worked out twice before everyone wakes up. I’m out working all my competition.”

Most of us struggle to get out of bed. We hit snooze on the alarm. By that time, Johnson has already worked out twice. If you work harder than everyone else, it makes sense that, one day, you’ll outpace the competition.

Johnson replies to his Instagram comments in between workout sets. He likes to connect with his fans. Johnson wants to know what’s on their mind so he can reply. One of his followers says he’s on top and asks where he could possibly go from there. After all, Johnson always talks about outworking the competition. But if you’re at the top, who’s his competition?

“Everyone’s my competition, but the fundamental key that I’ve learned over the years is – I’ll share with you – my number one competition is me. It’s always you versus you. You’ve got to be the one to get up every morning, be disciplined, put in the consistent daily hard work because that gains success. No coach, no trainer, no mentor, no boss can do it. You versus you.”

Sometimes students want to do better in school, sports, or life. But how many of us do extra homework? Who stays after practice to go over basic drills? How often do we turn off Netflix to develop a better habit?

Johnson knows what real effort looks like. Working harder than everyone else has helped him get to the top. It also allows him to stay at the top. His story shows us that if you want to go from zero to hero, one way is to work harder than everyone else. You will find success if you can do this in everything you do.

We can infer that it if it worked for The Rock when he had nothing, it might work for us too!

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