My name is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. I started training hard at 14yrs old. Not for fame or competition, but because we were evicted from our small apartment in Hawaii. I really hated that feeling of helplessness and never wanted that to happen again. So, I did the only thing I could control with my own two hands in hopes that one day my family would never worry about being evicted again – I trained
We were living in an apartment that cost $120 a week. We come home, and there’s a padlock on the door and an eviction notice. My mom starts bawling. She just started crying and breaking down. ‘Where are we going to live? What are we going to do?” It was a destructive period in my life because my family’s financial disrepair forced me down a dangerous path as a teenager.
In Waikiki there’s a couple high-end blocks where there’s your Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Armani jewelry stores, plenty of jewelry stores. There are a lot of tourists that come into Waikiki and there’s a lot of money. A lot of foreign money that comes in, and I was part of a theft ring that would target those groups. We would target the money, high-end clothes and the jewelry – turn around and sell it, best we could.
I was in and out of police custody, constantly getting picked up until one day, I just knew I had to stop. It was about, ‘What can I control with these two hands? The only thing I could do was train and build my body. The successful men I knew were men who built their bodies. By the time I was 16 years old, I was 6’4 225lbs, but I kept bouncing around schools…couldn’t be controlled. I had a very bad mustache and a chip on my shoulder.
During school one day, I chose to use the teacher’s lounge bathroom rather than the one reserved for students. A teacher comes in, his name is Jody Cwik. Tough guy. He says, ‘Hey, you can’t be in here.’ I kind of pause, look over my shoulder [and say], ‘Okay, I’ll leave when I’m done.’ And I continue to wash my hands
He looked at me, didn’t say a word, but he was fuming.
Later that night, I thought about my behavior and decided to seek Cwik out to rectify my action. I felt bad, I just felt bad. He shook my hand. I’ll never forget that shake—he wouldn’t let it go—[and he] said, ‘I want you to do something for me. … I want you to come out and play football for me.’ And I went out, and I played football for Jody Cwik. He was our head football coach, and he became a father figure to me and mentor.
My grades got better, and I started getting recruited from every college across the country. My thought process started to change. That’s when I started thinking about goals and what I wanted to accomplish. Much of my success at an early age should be credit to Coach Cwik. I love that man. I’ll never forget the impact that he had on my life. My takeaway from that amazing relationship that I had was the empathy that he had for a punk kid who treated him so rudely and disrespectfully. He looked past that BS and said, ‘I believe in you and I want to turn you around.’
The future seemed bright until an injury cut off my wings before it flourished. After graduating, I wanted to try my luck in football, so I joined a team. Two months into the season, I was cut from the team. I had 7 dollars in my pocket at that time and fell into depression. I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.
You’re not the first to go through it; you’re not going to be the last to go through it… I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK. It’ll be OK.” I didn’t want to do a thing, I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was crying constantly.
Eventually you reach a point where you are all cried out.
After six weeks, the coach called me back. But I’d moved on. I wanted to do other things. I decided to get into my family business- wrestling. My dad tried to discourage me, he called it “the biggest mistake I’ll ever make.”
That’s ironic because I can truthfully tell you that was the best decision I ever made. Another was deciding to eventually leave wrestling for Hollywood.
Hold on to that fundamental quality of faith. Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good.