Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson on where he gets his drive: ‘I didn’t want to be evicted anymore’

"I'm constantly knocking on things and thanking spirits for the opportunity."

Jade Scipioni, CNBC Make It
Dwayne Johnson in a promotional picture for Under Armour
Under Armour

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is one of the most successful entertainers in the world. In 2020, for the second year in a row, Johnson, 48, was the highest-paid actor in the world, according to Forbes. (In 2019, he earned $89.4 million, and $87.5 million last year.)

He has also become a savvy businessman as the co-founder of Seven Bucks Productions, tequila brand Teremana, and energy drink Zoa, as well as an investor in fintech company Acorns and co-owner of the XFL, to name a few.

And Johnson accomplished it all, having started with nothing. In fact, 25 years ago, Johnson had only $7 to his name.

So, where did Johnson get the drive to change his life?

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"For many years, my ambition and my drive ... to be honest with you ... was I didn't want to be evicted anymore," Johnson tells CNBC Make It.

"So much of my drive has come from that and the psychology of 'I will do everything that I can and work hard because I didn't want to be evicted again.'"

When Johnson was 14, his family was evicted from their one-bedroom apartment in Hawaii after his parents struggled to pay the rent.

They "got booted off the island," Johnson says.

"We were living in an efficiency [studio] that cost $120 a week," Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. "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?'"

To make matters worse, Johnson was getting into fights and stealing, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But eventually, Johnson channeled his anger and his feelings of helplessness into something he could control — working on his body. Johnson started lifting weights at the YMCA as a teenager, he said in a 2018 Instagram post.

At 18, Johnson earned a full scholarship to play football at the University of Miami and later became an amateur wrestler before making it big at the WWE in the late 1990s.

"Well before I got to the bright lights of the WWE, I started at a very small wrestling organization down in Tennessee, where I would wrestle nightly at flee markets, fairs, and used car dealerships, places like that, for $40 bucks a night," he says.

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Wrestling in front of small groups of people taught him to really connect with an audience, he says.

"I learned back then that the most important thing that I could do is send those people home happy," he says.

That goal still holds true today, Johnson says.

"Once I was lucky enough — knock on wood and thank you, universe — to get to a point where I'm probably not going to get evicted anymore ... my interest and my psychology shifted to taking care of people, serving people, and serving an audience," he says.

Johnson says that there isn't a day that goes by that he's not grateful for every opportunity he has been given.

"I'm constantly knocking on things and thanking spirits for the opportunity," he says.

The article "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson on where he gets his drive: 'I Didn't Want to Be Evicted Anymore'" originally published on CNBC Make It.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.