Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is widely regarded as one of the most successful people in the entertainment world. He went from professional WWE Wrestler in the 90s, to movie star in the 2000s, to world-famous movie star in the 2010s. Johnson made the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list in both 2016 and 2019. He is the owner/founder of multiple companies, has partnerships with many world-famous brands (Ford, Under Armour…), and is the 3rd most followed person on Instagram in the world. That’s a lot of success to deal with. So how does he do it?
No need to start big to become successful
Dwayne Johnson was born in California, moved around a lot, and relocated to Hawaii at age 14. Despite his father’s success as a wrestler, the family’s financials were anything but good. They were eventually evicted from their home. Johnson was arrested multiple times for fighting, theft, and check fraud before the age of 17. He was part of a theft ring. He landed in police custody, often.
One day, he noticed something: “The successful men I knew were men who built their bodies.” He decided to focus on what he could control, to stop blaming it on his environment, and to eventually change things around. In high school, he started playing football, made it all the way to the Miami National Championship Team. He entered the 1995 NFL Draft, but went undrafted.
From there, he decided to focus on wrestling. He went on to become one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. He headlined the most-bought professional wrestling pay-per-view event ever, WrestleMania XXVIII. He was featured in the most watched episodes of WWE’s television shows. He is a two-time Intercontinental Champion, a five-time tag team champion, and a ten-time world champion. He was also a Royal Rumble match winner and WWE’s sixth Triple Crown champion. I don’t know much about wrestling, but this sounds rather successful to me.
In the early 2000s, he left wrestling to focus on acting. His movies went on to gross over $3.5 billion in North America and over $10.5 billion worldwide, making him one of the most successful and highest-grossing box-office stars of all time.
He has dozens of projects in the pipeline, including movies lined up until 2021. How does he keep going? Let’s take a closer look.
Important Note: the goal of this article is to analyse Dwayne Johnson’s work ethic and parts of what made him successful. We’re not debating on the actual notion of success here. For a lot of people, the definition of success will not be Dwayne Johnson’s story. The definition of success is different for everybody. In this article, we’re only talking about the systems and the work ethic Johnson put in place to reach his success. Not yours.
Sleep 4 hours a night
In a Variety interview, Johnson said he typically sleeps 3 to 5 hours a night. That’s very little sleep, considering most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to operate properly. Johnson might be part of the lucky 1% who can run on such little sleep. Like a lot of people who get things done, he also emphasises the importance of getting time alone in the morning:
“The only thing that’s regimented is I have to wake up before the sun gets up, and I have my two hours alone when no one else is up and the house is quiet.” [Source]
He uses those 2 hours to meditate, get some work done, think about his day, and train. Because The Rock trains, a lot.
“I’m up at 4am daily and puttin’ in the hard work that I already know my competition is not willin’ to do. If they’re willin’ to get up at 4, then you bet […] I’m gettin’ up at 3.” [Source]
You don’t have to wake up at 4am to crush your goals, but that’s what has been working for The Rock. He even released an alarm clock app under his partnership with Under Armour: The Rock Clock. It doesn’t have a snooze button. It has 25 exclusive ringtones made by Johnson himself. And the best of all, it has an option to sync with his actual wake-up time. Seriously motivating.
Lift iron all the time
A quick glance at Johnson’s Instagram account (or just at Johnson himself) will tell you one thing: he’s in the gym nearly everyday. He has shared his massive workouts multiple times. Whether for movies or just to stay fit, The Rock is always training. Just as an example, he spent 18 weeks preparing physically for the movie Fast & Furious Hobbs and Shaw.
The Rock even has a name for his personal gym: The Iron Paradise.
The Iron Paradise is a traveling gym. The Rock takes it with him on movie sets and whenever he has to stay somewhere for a while. It’s 40,000 pound (over 18 tons) of equipment, it requires several 18-wheelers to be transported, and over a hundred people to put together in every location.
It sounds a bit unnecessary, but there are 2 main reasons why The Rock chose that option:
- Anonymity has become impossible for him. If he shows up at a public gym, he simply can’t get his workout in.
- He’s a person who needs to constantly be at the top of his game, and you play best when you know the field by heart. With his own equipment following him, he has no excuse to skip, no excuse to not make the most out of every workout.
The Rock calls his gym his “Anchor”:
The gym is my anchor and will always be my edge over my competition. You don’t have to wake up at 4am to find your anchor. Whatever it is that gives you your edge over everyone around you — then that’s what you do. You find it, you apply it and you protect it. Whether it’s your co-workers, teammates, classmates or business associates, the Anchor Philosophy applies to every facet of our lives. [Source]
Smile/laugh 80% of the time
One striking thing about The Rock is how much he smiles and laughs, and in a very communicative way. He doesn’t have this actor smile that gives away a “I am cooler than you and I know it” vibe. His smile just seems genuine and honest.
The Rock is known to be one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. Now, I’m not a fan of this whole Hollywood world myself, but I know one thing: the more people you hang out with, the more exposure you get, the harder it is to fake who you really are. The Rock has worked with too many people, has had too many partnerships, too many movies, to be able to fake it for this long.
Most of us are not part of Hollywood’s highest spheres, but we know that some actors/producers/directors earned their fare share of criticism for whatever reason. They might have made mistakes they regret, or they might have let fame get to their head… The Rock has been able to maintain the reputation of a super nice guy for decades in the entertainment industry. You can’t fake that.
Be classy but efficient
Dwayne Johnson probably has a stylist for his photoshoots, but he also dresses really good in his everyday life. His outfits are simple, but stylish and efficient, even when he’s not in the spotlight.
Dressing well is not the biggest prerequisite for success, but it definitely helps. Dressing well is part of taking care of yourself. When you feel good, you look good, you perform better, you attract more positive vibes.
Work hard, play hard, and reward yourself. When you perform great, you deserve more than a pat on the back. Having a list of incentives for yourself based on the targets you hit is very good practice to drive motivation and momentum. In the corporate world, it’s called a bonus program. In The Rock’s world, it’s called Cheat Meal Sunday.
It is worth noting that the amount of food The Rock eats in general, and particularly the amount of sugar contained in some of his cheat meals, is not the recommended amount for the average human. That is, one that doesn’t weigh 118kg (260lb) of muscles, and is not 196cm (6”5) tall.
Here are just a few of Dwayne Johnson’s business endeavours:
- Movie roles
- Seven Bucks Production
- Under Armour
- Ford Motor Company
- Teremana Tequila
- The Titan Games
- Athleticon 2020
The list goes on. If you want to be financially successful, you need to have multiple income streams. The Rock is extremely good at doing business this way. He understands how to use his image and reputation to sell his projects. He was all over the Super Bowl last month. He consistently advertises his products/partnerships on his Instagram account followed by 172 million people.
It’s one thing to succeed, it’s another thing to keep at it. Dwayne Johnson has been excellent at maintaining his success.
When a brand signs a deal with Dwayne Johnson, they get a guy who has a rare connection to his audience. Johnson always makes sure to express gratitude for his fans, and routinely visits/messages/supports them individually, on a personal level. It’s of course part of the marketing, but it’s also rare in this business to meet people who actually care about giving back to their audience this much.
“I learned that the most important relationship I will ever have in business is the relationship I have with my audience. Pay attention to who you do your business for. ” [Source]
Dwayne Johnson is also known for the extravagant gifts he gives his entourage: from cars to houses, he never misses an opportunity to surprise people. Again, it’s also part of the marketing. But at least he gives back, and that’s what matters.
Work all the time
“The Rock confuses me in how much energy he has. I don’t know how he can do all the things he does. He’s always doing something. I go to his instagram page all the time feeling like a lazy crap. ” [Source]
— Joe Rogan
Johnson says himself that part of his work ethic stems from training as a kid with his father, who was also a successful wrestler. There’s a ton of fan-made motivational videos featuring Dwayne Johnson working his butt off in the gym. That’s his Anchor. But the Anchor is not everything.
For the past 5 years, Johnson has had an average of 2 main roles in major movie productions per year.
- 2015: Furious 7, San Adreas
- 2016: Central Intelligence, Moana (voiceover)
- 2017: Baywatch, Jumanji
- 2018: Rampage, Skyscraper
- 2019: Hobbs & Shaw, Jumanji 2
In between that, he launched his Project Rock (workout gear) with Under Armour. He’s been working on his own Tequila brand (coming March 2020). He created and produced The Titan Games, released Season 1, and is working on Season 2. He’s been hanging out with fans. He’s done tons of promos and interviews. He got married at 7:45am.
You simply can’t get all this done without an insane work ethic.
Now, when you sleep only 3 to 4 hours a night, you obviously have a lot of time to get things done. But a lot of people have time, and a lot of people don’t do the work. That’s why developing a work ethic is so hard. Sometimes you don’t even need to make time, you already have it. You just have to get to work. Again, do not sleep 3 to 4 hours a night if your body can’t handle it. 99% of people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Respect your health, make time when you’re awake.
When you reach the level of success Johnson has, you have a whole team of people to work with you on your schedule, to assist you and make your use of time as efficient as possible. In a way, it makes it easier for you to organize everything. But there’s no shortcut, you need to work a lot on your own in the first place.
Journaling is one the top habits of highly successful people, and The Rock is no exception to that rule.
People who write down their goals are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t. Journaling gives you a lot more control over your life by planning for it and structuring it. You will automatically develop a mid-term to long-term vision of where you’re going, which will slowly build up to more organisational skills, more confidence, and more clarity in your life. Your mindset will change. The more you do it, the more you get back from it.
“Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”
Again, success is relative to each and everyone. To go from undrafted NFL player to wrestler, to actor and entrepreneur, is probably not your personal definition of success.
The destination is always different, but the journey has a lot of common points for everyone. Hard work, honesty, gratitude, kindness… These are core values that anyone can use, no matter where they stand on the path to success.
One last thing. There are a ton of people out there who work as hard as The Rock, maybe even twice as hard, and these people might never make it to the spotlight. The point here is not to put The Rock on a pedestal, and present him as an overachiever above everyone else. It’s not even about looking up to him. The point is to inspire people reading this who might want to change their life. People who want to do something bigger, seek more, see more, define and reach their goals. The end goal should never be the spotlight, the Vogue cover, or the 172 million followers.
The goal should be to do something meaningful and work hard at it, until you get it, and then work on maintaining it.
So now is your turn.
Define your goals, lay out your plan, and go get to work.
You can achieve so much more than you think once you get to work.