News & Press

April 7, 2020


“There is a before,” says Dany Garcia, “and there is an after.”

Here is before. It’s around 1998, and at the time, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is a burgeoning wrestler in the WWE. Garcia is about halfway through a career at Merrill Lynch. They are newly married, eating dinner at a restaurant, and discussing Johnson’s path. “I was having a little bit of a challenging time turning the corner in terms of my fame,” recalls Johnson, “because I just, by default, am more reclusive and quiet. And I also can’t hide.”

Let’s be clear: He can’t hide because he’s enormous. His biceps, then and now, are the size of other men’s heads. People were recognizing him from across airports and creating a mob scene. So, sure, he had fame, but it seemed chaotic and uncontrolled, and not advancing his ultimate goal. He didn’t just want to be famous. He wanted to be…bigger than that. More meaningful than that. But how?

Johnson and Garcia were talking this over at their table when another couple approached. The people were shaking nervously. “Excuse me,” they said, “but can we have your autograph?”

Johnson wasn’t in the mood. He slowly, coldly, looked up at them. “Sure,” he said, in the tone of a man who’d rather say no.

The fans grew regretful. “I’m so sorry,” they said.

“No, no, no; it’s OK,” Johnson said.

He signed his name to something and handed it over. They went skulking off.

Johnson turned back to Garcia, and the horribleness of his action sunk in. “We immediately, immediately identified it,” he says. “I had an opportunity to make that person feel so good, and instead they walked away apologetic and feeling awful, when the reality is, I’m a lucky son of a bitch that somebody would care enough to come up and ask for my autograph.”

Johnson and Garcia are analytical people. They like to break things down — to see how A leads to B. So they decided to run an exercise. “And the exercise was: Let’s think about what happens when all of a sudden they’re eating, and they look up, and there I am,” he says. “What’s the conversation they have? The husband goes, ‘Oh my God; there’s the Rock. I’ve got to go over.’ ‘No, don’t go over.’ ‘No, I have to.’ And they work themselves up, and they come over. And that was very helpful for us.”

There is a before and there is an after, Garcia says. That was the before. And this is after: At that dinner, where Johnson and Garcia were puzzling over how to build his career, they’d suddenly been given an answer. “We have the opportunity to make people feel good,” Johnson says. “And that’s a powerful thing to have.”

To read more of Dany & Dwayne’s Entrepreneur cover feature, click here.

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