Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s latest action movie has destroyed box office records, racking up $525.2 million in a single weekend – not bad for a 44-year old. The Fate Of The Furious star has morphed from football player, to WWE wrestler, to Hollywood A-Lister, but things could have been very different if he had allowed his experiences of depression to knock down his dreams.
RISING When you fought your battle with depression, what was the turning point for you?
DWAYNE JOHNSON ‘I was arrested by the police several times between the age of 14 and 17. I didn’t have any goals and I was kind of lost. That’s when I started doing bodybuilding religiously. That gave me some purpose and it was a way of improving myself. That was my medication.’
RISING It’s not uncommon for depression to return – was that the case with you?
DJ ‘Exercise was a similar way through depression when I was dropped by my football team in Canada and I struggled to come to terms with that. I think the biggest thing for me was not going back to that team when the invitation came, but to take the setback on the chin and find a new way of fulfilling my dreams. I went into wrestling and never looked back.’
RISING Why is physical strength not a reliable indicator of internal resilience?
DJ ‘I’ve always been very ambitious and I've always had a lot of self-belief, but it took a lot of soul-searching and going through a lot of personal pain, and turmoil to get to the point where I was ready to move forward and make something of my life. You’ve got the work you need to do in the gym, and the work you need to do in yourself. You can’t find peace through just focusing on the mental side, or the physical side. You need to combine.’
‘It took a lot of soul-searching and going through personal pain and turmoil’
RISING Can you train for a fitter, stronger mind at the same time as building a better body?
DJ ‘Of course. It requires great discipline to get into shape and that’s vital when it comes to beating negativity. Thanks to bodybuilding I was able to gain self-respect and set definite goals in my life. I tried to model myself after Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, and I knew that one day I would get into acting.’
RISING Do you think the new focus on body image can be a problem for men?
DJ ‘I don’t see why it should be a problem. I’ve been focusing on body image since I was a teenager but in the context of health and strength. I don’t know why anyone would consider that a bad thing. When I was growing up, bodybuilders were seen as slightly strange and a bit outcast – now it’s more and more the norm, and we are healthier as a result.’
RISING From the outside looking in, your current status as the top-paid actor in the biz, combined with apparently being ‘The Sexiest Man Alive’, looks peachy – how does it feel?
DJ ‘Haha - it's exciting and it's very gratifying, but anything I've accomplished is the result of having great self-belief and determination to succeed in life. I had to pick myself up off the floor and work very hard to make my way back in life. Trying to find work in Hollywood, I had that scratch and claw mentality where you just keep pushing and fighting until you get one job, then the next, and keep moving forward. I hope a lot of people can look at my life, and see that hard work and ambition can take you a long way.’
‘Listen to that little voice inside you that tells you that you can realise your dreams’
RISING Do you ever miss your wrestling days when you would appear before massive crowds, or is acting a less pressurised way to earn a living?
DJ ‘Wrestling in front of a live audience is an extraordinary feeling. You feel such an incredible energy when you’re in the ring. It takes a physical toll on you, but it’s incredibly exciting. Acting is very different, of course. You need to be able to show a wide range of emotions and create many different kinds of characters as opposed to one. Up on the screen, I get to fall in love, be funny, or be very dramatic. When you’re in the ring, the beating you put on your opponent is the only thing that counts!’
RISING If there were three lessons you could pass on to your younger, less secure self – or even perhaps your children – what would they be?
DJ ‘The number one thing is to have confidence in yourself. You need to believe that you are good enough and that you can accomplish what you set your mind to do. You've also got to learn how to block out all the noise, and all the things that distract you from your dreams and ambitions. You've got listen to that little voice inside you that tells you that you're good enough and that you can realise your dreams. I’d also say that if you’re going to invest in something, you need to know everything about how that business works and do whatever it takes to succeed. Perseverance is everything.’
WHAT NEXT? If you’re feeling under pressure, or life is getting you down then try a short exercise – the next time you reach for your smartphone to start a text rally with a friend, stop. Instead invite them to meet face-to-face for a coffee or some food – proper social contact is a great way to instantly lift your mood...