Sorted Issue 59
Getting to know a bit more about legend Dwayne Johnson, Guvna B
and digging into what really lies behind the art of persuasion.
And Gadgets, Entertainment, Motoring, Movies, Technology
Plus, the greatest team of Christian writers ever assembled.
Beach Body Ready
Your holiday is booked and the countdown is on for your time away in the sun and on the beach.
You’re imagining yourself as James Bond walking out of the sea in Casino Royale showing his six-pack. Unfortunately, you’re not quite there yet, but now is your time to start and get that body.
But where do I start, I hear you saying. Well, I will give you the help and advice that is needed to kick-start your personal transformation. But in simple, manageable ways that you can understand and use straight away.
It all starts with a ‘wanting to do it’ mentality. It’s not easy. I am not saying that to get ‘Ripped’ it doesn’t take hard work and effort, because it does. And to do this, you need the motivation to do this for yourself and not someone else.
Picture in your mind the ideal body for you, and use this as your goal. You need to do this for yourself not anyone else as this will make it accountable to you. Accountability is huge in transformations as it keeps you on track towards your goal.
2. Starting Point
We all need one. And for you it’s now. Weigh yourself in the morning and take this as a starting point, whether it’s to add size or lose fat. Also, keep looking at that beach and imagine yourself there with your six-pack.
Measure yourself and also take a photo of front, side and back. This can be looked at throughout your journey to see how far you have come.
You can use this table to log your results:
To really see a change, it’s mainly about the food you put in your mouth. We need to know how many calories to consume each day. This is worked out by firstly your BMR (the amount of calories needed to function at rest), then by your activity level.
To lose a kilogram each week, we need a calorie deficit of 500kcal per day. And to put on a kilogram, you need to have a 500kcal surplus each week. It will be easier to lose a kilogram in fat than it will to put on a kilogram of muscle, unfortunately. I know, how unfair is that?
We work out our BMR as per the diagram below. Please use this and work yours out:
Then we can work out our activity levels by multiplying our BMR by the appropriate activity level as per below:
Extremely Active (exercise twice per day) x 1.9
Very Active (exercise six to seven days per week) x 1.725
Moderately Active (exercise three to five days per week) x 1.55
Lightly Active (exercise one to three days per week) x 1.375
E.g.: 1805.434 Kcal x 1.55 = 2798Kcal per day calorie expenditure
Then choose your goal, either lose fat or gain weight by adding or reducing your calories by 500kcal per day.
E.g.: 2798 – 500 = 2298Kcal per day to lose 1 kilogram per week.
It’s important to eat a good balance of foods, especially if you’re on a deficit, as you want to eat as much as possible. Plus it’s not recommended to completely cut one food source out of your diet as you will be losing vital vitamins and minerals that your body needs to repair and keep you feeling your best.
Try to eat a protein source such as chicken, eggs, whey protein shakes etc. in each meal. This will help your muscles repair and also protein is great to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Fats are not bad for you.
Yes, they are higher in calories (9kcal per gram) whereas protein and carbohydrates are 4kcal per gram. But they give you energy, insulation and essential vitamins A, D, E and K. Try to pick good fats (unsaturated), e.g. avocado, fish, nuts etc. Saturated fats should be consumed in moderation, e.g. pork, beef, butter, cheese etc. Try to avoid the trans fats, as these clog the arteries, e.g. margarine, doughnuts, biscuits etc. But don’t deprive yourself. You can enjoy the odd biscuit, just not all the time, and factor it into your daily calorie allowance. Try to have a good source of protein and carbohydrates post-workout to help replenish and repair your body.
Then we get into carbohydrates. Our energy source. When in a deficit we cut carbohydrates accordingly, but not altogether, as we need them for our body and brain to function at an optimal level. Try to eat carbohydrates that will fuel your body sustainably but not feel heavy in the stomach, e.g. rice, pasta, oats, with the rest made up of fruit and vegetables. I understand that some people are allergic to these foods and they can be swapped to a variety that can be consumed safely.
Here is an example food day for you:
To complement your food plan, we add in more movement. This will not only transform your shape, but also give you an extra calorie expenditure throughout the day.
This can either be done in a gym environment, outdoors or at home. With or without equipment. It is just important to move more and keep it consistent with progression.
In the tables below is a starting point for you with a 30-minute home workout you can do anywhere. Plus an all-over body gym workout plan. As you progress, you can add in weights, extra repetitions, extra sets, time limits and different exercises to keep your body progressing further.
It is important to do a series of mobility moves to get your joints nice and free-moving. Then a slow warm-up to a comfortable pace, stretch and then re-warm to make your muscles ready for work.
After exercise it is also important to lower the heart rate with a five-minute cool down and stretch to avoid any injuries and also to bring your body back to normal.
It is good to use the scale of 1–10 in exertion and aim for a 6–7.
1–3 = easy
4–5 = slightly exerting
6–7 = moderate exertion (hold a conversation)
8–9 = very exerting
10 = extreme exertion (cannot speak)
Gym routine example:
Now you have a starting plan on being accountable, calorie amounts, foods and exercise, there is no excuse for you not to start constructing that James Bond body ready for the beach.
The main thing is to keep consistent with the food and exercise. It’s a journey, not a quick fix. It takes time to gain the body and six-pack. But it is worth it and a great achievement. And bit by bit I am confident that you will see the changes happen and that will grow your confidence and wanting to keep on pushing and transforming.
What I have suggested is a sustainable food plan and exercise routine that you can use and adapt to keep looking back on and to keep progressing and re-evaluating your goals with. Plus keep you looking like James Bond, ready and waiting for any bit of sun to show your new sculpted six-pack body.
I look forward to seeing your progress pictures and transformations. And if you have any questions, please message me. Send them to me here or on my social media sites:
Facebook: Carl Parnell Nutrition & Fitness
Is persuasion really pot luck?
When the London team went into the Olympic bid pitch, seven years before London 2012 began, they weren’t expecting to win the Olympics. According to the press, Paris were clear leaders while London was trailing. Moscow, New York and Madrid were somewhere in the middle.
When the results were announced, of the 54 photographers poised to capture the celebrants, all but three were camped in front of Paris (the scuffles that erupted among them, as they attempted to get to the London team, made great TV).
So what changed? As then culture secretary Tessa Jowell put it, “We’ve come from nowhere to win the Olympics and that is quite something.” Something had shifted in the brains of the panel of Olympic judges casting the votes. Which begs a question this piece sets out to answer…
What is it that changes people’s thinking? What are the prompts that persuade and influence people to action?
Why, why, why?
Answers to that question are often based on looking around, on understanding what worked elsewhere. For example, if you start with a story, it seems to prompt response. The question I’ve asked is why? Why does some communication (written or spoken) stir and engage, while other attempts cause the audience (whether that’s the reader of an email, viewer of a film, partners sat chatting over food, audience listening to a key-note speech) to clock off?
There’s this region in the middle of your brain known as the limbic region – I call it the Centre Brain. It’s where action is prompted. The problem is that it’s subconscious. So, if I asked you why you decided to adopt that dog from a shelter, throw a coin in the cup of a homeless man, take your partner for dinner or go to the gym (or not), you can give me the reason, but you might struggle more to tell me the exact prompts that spoke to your subconscious action-stirring Centre Brain.
There are five prompts which trigger the Centre Brain. If you know them, and practise using them, then whether you’re in an interview, trying to convince your partner to come paintballing, or hoping to persuade whoever’s in charge that what you have in mind is a good idea, these prompts allow you to speak the language that their action-brain understands.
Of course, this doesn’t mean they will respond. But by giving them the choice in the language of the Centre Brain it prevents your ask going to the Outer Brain (neocortex) which delivers conclusions, not responses.
The 5 persuasion prompts
Start with why – and use that to make what (and how) interesting
If I tell you what I’m going to do this afternoon – visit the ruins of an old abbey – you’ll struggle to stay connected (unless your one of those few guys who find ancient ruins exciting). If I tell you that Tom Cruise was at those ruins three weeks ago, shooting a scene for The Mummy, released in June this year, and that a guy at the company I’m doing some work for (the company own all the land the ruins are on – they’re next to the offices) showed me a selfie of him and Tom Cruise at the ruins, and that Cruise is reportedly back for a final scene later today, then knowing why I’m going there makes the what suddenly more engaging to you.
Why speaks to everyone. Because it allows you to own it. You have your own connection with Tom Cruise, with blockbusters, with big-budget films, which make something you couldn’t care less about – the abbey ruins (unless you’re an ancient relics enthusiast) engaging.
Try it. The why is always there. You know it. But, because it’s stored in your subconscious brain, which doesn’t have words (words sit in the conscious brain), you’re less likely, instinctively, to go for the why first. Next time you’re trying to influence or persuade, don’t start with what, start with the why. That will give them a route into owning what it is you’re suggesting.
Answering the why is why London won the 2012 Olympic bid. Each city was invited to do a final presentation, including film, explaining why their city was the best location for the 2012 Olympics. The other cities all answered with what (you can see the films on Vimeo). What infrastructure their city could offer, what sort of friendly people and engaging culture they’d find, what sort of eating places, hotels, transport – and so on. New York had Spielberg make theirs. Paris had Besson direct theirs. London’s film didn’t show London at all and only mentioned the city name twice. It answered the question with a why. And said to the panel – here’s why London is the best location – because we will inspire the champions of tomorrow. It’s about young people. That’s why.
The votes reportedly jumped during the showing of that film. And London were the unexpected winners.
Pictorialise your point
Words are vehicles. When you read a great novel, your brain is pictoralising the images carried through the words. So much so that if you then see the film, it can feel uncomfortable being faced with a different visualisation to the one your brain created.
This happens because, while words are the primary language of your Outer (conscious) Brain (the bit which helps you reach conclusion – but doesn’t prompt action), pictures are the language of the Centre Brain.
Think of the room you woke up in this morning. Now think of Nelson Mandela. Now think about a table tennis table. You’re seeing pictures, not words, right?
The reason we often struggle to prompt action (“Great – let’s kick this off now. What can I do to get the wheels turning?”) and get stuck at conclusions (“yes – great idea. Let’s hold on to it and see if we can do anything with it, at any point”) is because we’ve forgotten to treat the words as vehicles, and instead ask them to simply explain the what and prompt response. They’re meant to carry the picture which the action-brain needs to stir it to act.
When Churchill spoke to the people of Britain, he didn’t talk about the what, but about the why (defending our country). And he used the words as vehicles to carry a picture. In his 1940 Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech, he painted a picture. It would have lodged in the bit of the brain (the Centre Brain) that doesn’t forget:
“We shall defend our island whatever the cost. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”
If you’ve ever run into someone you’ve not seen for years and said (or thought), “I remember your face, but your name escapes me”, you’re experiencing the longevity of pictures over words in the brain. The Centre Brain stores pictures – faces – over long periods of time, while the Outer Brain will, comparatively, forget words – names – quickly. If you’re sowing an idea which might take time to take root, sow a picture. It will root in the Centre Brain of the person you’re trying to influence. They’ll begin to own it – as so many people owned Churchill’s picture, above. If you offer only words, descriptions of what you hope to do and by when, you’ll find it harder to make that take root. And it will be more quickly forgotten.
Turn your message into an idea
Brands understand that it’s ideas, not messages and not products, that sell. Steve Jobs famously said, “Don’t sell products, sell dreams.”
Back in the 1970s, IBM had a stab at personal computers. Their mistake was to market them using the products to sell the product. In my work with organisations, the most common barrier they face to growth is one they’ve put in place themselves – they sell their product with their product. Watch a set of TV commercials. You’ll see every product wrapped in and presented through an idea.
IBM ads lacked an idea, instead carrying images of the machines themselves, with headlines pointing to the machines: “Presenting the IBM of personal computers”, and later, “Introducing the IBM personal system 2”.
Apple, when they emerged, also marketed personal computers. But not with the machine. They marketed the idea. In one classic Apple ad, there were no pictures of the product at all. No mention of the computers. In fact, just an idea: ‘Think Different’. The advert invited people not to buy the product, but to buy the dream, to embrace the vision to think differently.
Watch a set of TV ads and note down the idea – each ad will have one. And it will be in pictoral form and answer why you need that product. Ad guru David Ogilvy said that “Unless your campaign contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night”.
If you feel your attempts to persuade and influence pass like a ship in the night, then ask yourself whether you have turned your message into an idea. Ideas contain the answer to a problem – and create appetite for action. In The Centre Brain which is flagged at the end of this feature, there’s a section offering steps to help you turn your message into an idea.
Contrast, contrast, contrast
Think of a situation you’ll be in, in the next week, with someone, or a group, or an invisible audience you’re writing for. Or, it may be you and your partner. When you put your ask to them, imagine, above their head, a set of weighing scales, with a bowl on each side. The Centre Brain makes decisions by weighing two options against each other. It always needs two, to contrast and weigh up.
What, then, happens when you make an ask and offer only one option? You decrease your chances of persuading. Why? Because their action-brain will need something to weigh your idea against. And if you don’t put something in the other side of their ‘scales’, then their brain will do it for you. And there’s a high chance it will be a “just say no”.
Jesus did this constantly. He didn’t just talk about building on rock, but on sand as the contrast. He didn’t just talk about seed falling on good soil and growing well, he contrasted it to the seed on rocky soil, withering. He picked the smallest of seeds – the mustard – and talked about how it could become the largest of trees. He talked about sheep – and goats. Strong men who, when bound up, became weak. He understood that outlining only one route gave the brain nothing to weigh it against and so he consistently offered contrast.
Your contrast doesn’t need to be the opposite – suggesting that doom and destruction await if they fail to take up your idea is likely to lead to a whole different sort of conversation. Instead, using the picture you’ve thought and exploring what the contrast looks like in that, may help find a good contrast. Or it may just be two different routes to reach the same destination.
Emotional connection is oxygen
You and I, we’re emotionally connected to so many things.
Football is all about emotional connection. My three sons play in various Sunday league teams. And, depending on how the game is going, the emotional connection to the game can turn watching parents on the same side, who may barely know each other, into brothers and sisters. Or it can reveal a dark underbelly. One recent email from the league, sent to parents, laid out some new rules, instituted “because of a number of serious incidents and a whole host of ongoing issues with referees being intimidated...”
If you support a team, you’ll understand the significant part that your attendance and support plays, emotionally. The sense of shared identity, comradeship and connection is tangible.
When emotional connection is built, it will drive responses which may seem illogical to onlookers. Why buy that phone, when this one does the same job at half the price? It’s what Kevin Roberts calls “Loyalty beyond reason” and if you can create emotional connection, by being open, sometimes even vulnerable or honest about your unanswered questions on your idea, the emotional connection this births is the oxygen which will breathe life into the previous four prompts.
Charles Schulz said, “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” I hope that if there are gears you’ve yet to experience in the persuasion game, that this feature might be useful in helping you find them.
The Centre Brain
The five prompts to persuasion
Steve’s book, The Centre Brain (SPCK – available on Amazon) unpacks the five prompts, using stories and examples and includes a simple ‘system’ to help you apply the prompts to events, conversations and moments where being persuasive counts.
Link for pre-order: amazon.co.uk
Mountain Madness - By Corinna Leenen
Mad – that’s the typical adjective most people choose when I tell them about my new expedition. They will listen for a while but are primarily eager to get in a second-hand anecdote of a climber who died or a story they heard of a recent polar bear attack. Attempts to go through the detailed risk assessments and give a reality check to the horror stories are usually met by patronising smiles. You shouldn’t have asked the question, then, I think; you know expeditions are what I do.
I am not pretending to be Ranulph Fiennes, self-proclaimed ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ adventurer. But madness is relative. For this sports-hating schoolgirl who’s never touched skis before, it certainly brinks on madness to sign up to a 150-mile crossing of a polar plateau, dragging a 20kg pulk and cursing my own ambition. That was in February. Now I’m ready for the next big thing.
Madness seems to be a common thread in adventure – it will get you more funding, more exposure, more people buying your books.
As I write, there are runners in the Lake District attempting to crack the 24-hour 42-summit 66-mile Bob Graham Round. They started at 1 a.m, and I imagine they are somewhere high on the Helvellyn range, struggling. They literally have Everest to climb.
There are people running for six days across the Atacama Desert in Chile. Not only do they run the 150 miles in one of the driest and hottest places in the world, they also have to carry all their food and equipment.
People are setting out on challenges for various charities, rowing across the ocean (good luck, Kelda Wood), surviving in the most inhospitable environments, opening up new lines in distant mountain ranges, swimming in the harshest conditions on earth to raise awareness for how fragile our oceans are.
Expedition dreams live in your head for a while – and the moment you decide to talk about them to others is when they become real.
The first time I talked about this mad challenge I signed up to was in a bothy somewhere in the north-west of Scotland. We were there to do some munros and had already become territorial about ‘our’ bothy. An engineer from Inverness and a homeless-shelter worker from Glasgow arrived in spite of our claims of ownership and spent a happy boozy night with us. We listened to the hair-raising tale of their Aonach Eagach Ridge crossing – a well-rehearsed story which included a backpack being thrown off the ridge in unfortunate miscalculation and a late twist towards a happy ending. My friends chipped in on the evening’s entertainment with sound local knowledge of most bothies and munros in Scotland.
I asked if they had heard of the Moroccan Bob Graham round, or Berber Ridge. They hadn’t. In fact, one of them hadn’t even heard of the Bob Graham round, so I explained the concept of the famed Lake District challenge – a traverse of 42 Lakeland fells within 24 hours. The Round is held in high regards in the Lakes, with a history record going back to the mid-19th century to mark the first recorded long-distance Round in the Lake District. Linking together as many high f mountains as possible seems to have been popular for well over a couple of hundred years.
I tried not to sound too boastful as I listed the numbers for the Moroccan Bob Graham: 30 peaks above 3,000m and nine 4,000m peaks to be traversed in eight days. Even to my ears this now sounded mad.
Eight days will see me high up on the ridge line, sweating in the heat and dust and looking out towards the Sahara and sharp ridges bobbing and weaving their way across the horizon. The prospect of staying high for long and not losing hard-won height is part of what convinced me to sign up. After a miserable mountain day trudging up a hill in the Lake District and walking straight back down, I confessed to myself that the view from the top simply wasn’t enough anymore. I decided that from now on, I would not climb any mountain unless it was for the purpose of getting to a rock climb, a scramble, or running or skiing off the top. Jebel Toubkal, Africa’s highest mountain, isn’t the main objective on this expedition, but rather a happy coincidental stop on a longer journey. All the climbers who have come up the main route to the summit and turn back down again will seem like a different species. I, surrounded by my own special group of people, will close the zipper of my bivvy bag with a wry smile, knowing that I have access to adventures they have not.
Bivving means freedom from the usual schedule of the mountain. The normal acclimatisation routine and summit push allow only for a short time window on the summit. To us, the summit will be ours alone. The culture shock of Marrakech will accentuate the feeling of remoteness and freedom on the ridge. Remoteness also comes from the Atlas being surrounded by the desert. I wonder what it will be like to stay high for that long, to sleep under the amazing starry skies of an unpolluted night, and if I can sense the presence of the desert through strong winds, heat on my face and dust in my drink.
I also wonder how I will cope physically. The ridge is a scramble for most parts, easing us in with a Grade 1 at the start, but ending with Grade 3 terrain.
It is serious. Probably as serious as saw-toothed Sgùrr nan Gillean towering above the entrance to Coire Bhasteir and the deep corries and serrated, pinnacle crest of the Cuillin Ridge. But I still have five months left to prepare and get ready.
For a lot of people the life of an adventurer is the dream. We see their sunrise posts on Instagram, with gas-burning coffee pots at high altitude, overlooking glacier-carved valleys. We wonder – how can they afford this, do they not have normal lives? Do they train day and night?
I realised that I don’t have to be Ranulph Fiennes or Emelie Forsberg or Hazel Findlay. I don’t have to ski everyday or live in my van. It’s OK to do an adventure and then be ‘normal’ for a while.
The Berber Ridge will be an extremely hard challenge, but I’m prepared to see where madness can take me.
The expedition is led by Exped Adventure and runs in October 2017.
For more information, visit: expedadventure.com
Any questions or enquiries,
or call 07854 197584 (01539 822967).
Incredible Journey - Being ‘kidnapped’ in Egypt
“What’s happening?” Steve whispered to me.
“They’re deciding whether or not to let us go.”
“Do you think they will?”
“No,” I said, and when I saw Steve’s shoulders slump and his face darken, I wished I had lied.
Even if I had, it would not have mattered. One of the men had taken out his mobile phone and was speaking into it with urgent vehemence. When the call ended, he pointed at four of the men and issued them instructions. Two manhandled our bikes from us and the other two clapped their hands on our arms and shoulders and began to lead us away. Around the corner, a panel van sat beside the kerb, and Steve was roughly pushed into its open back door first. He complied meekly, head down, resigned to his fate, whatever that might be. I, on the other hand, felt so angry at what was happening to us that I considered kicking out, striking and punching at these men with their hands on me, screaming and flailing like a trapped cat, doing whatever I could, no matter how violent, to get us out of there. But when I looked around me, I could see that to struggle would be pointless, and so I followed his example and let them push me into the van, saying not a word in protest as they slammed the door shut and drove us away.
Discussions about Dagestan with new friends in Russia
“We must drink more. And… we must eat more watermelon!”
The semi-demolished fruit still sat as the centrepiece of our table, a symbolic reminder that it was this that had brought us all together. Ivan secured a knife and set about carving into it with lustre. Feeling light and merry and far beyond [drunk], I waved a hand at the watermelon and attempted a joke of my own.
“That’s what they’re going to do to us in Dagestan.”
The change in atmosphere was as tangible as it was sudden. Katya looked down at her glass of wine. Ivan back-stepped from the table and leaned against the cooker, tapping the knife nervously against his thigh.
“You are going to Dagestan?” he asked.
“Yes,” Steve said. “We need to pass through it to get to Azerbaijan.”
“You should not,” Ivan said. “You should not go to Dagestan.” Gone from his voice was the jokey warmth and ribald humour we had grown used to. Now, he spoke quietly and with certitude.
“We have to,” I said. “To go around it would take too long.”
“I would prefer to take too long rather than to go to Dagestan. Do you know what happens there? People die every day in Dagestan. All the time. Only last week, a Dagestani man here crippled a Russian police officer in the vegetable market. I strongly – strongly – advise that you do not go.”
Encountering trouble in Egypt
Steve saw the car first – it lay in the middle of the road, upturned and on its roof, a burnt-out shell. Metres beyond it, two long strips of tape had been stretched across the road, cordoning off the area. We stopped and looked through. Smoke filtered out from an alleyway between two buildings. As we looked closer, we realised it was not an alleyway at all, but the place where another building had once stood. It had been burnt to the ground.
“I don’t like this,” Steve said. “We should turn around and find another route.”
Passing the smoking remnants of the destroyed building, I looked at those on either side of it. Some were shops, others were homes, all were riddled with the tell-tale pockmarks of bullets. As we continued, I began to realise where the bullets had come from. Many of the men massed here on this street openly carried guns: pistols, shotguns, AK-47s.
Ahead, a tank idled on the side of the road while soldiers began to erect a roadblock from tuk-tuks and flimsy fencing. The atmosphere thickened and grew muggy, swelling with a glowering mood that was as discernible as a current through water. The air felt flammable and someone was about to strike a match.
“We should definitely turn around,” I heard Steve mutter.
Between the Rock and a Hard Place - By Jake Taylor
It takes a certain level of faith to get through the pain of seeing your sporting dreams slip from your grasp, only to reinvent yourself as one of the greatest professional wrestlers in history. To then leave the ring and conquer Hollywood – well, it seems only Dwayne Johnson could manage that with such endearing panache and effortless cool.
But if it hadn’t been for Johnson’s incredible strength of spirit, things could have turned out very different for The Rock – the People’s Champion who became the film industry’s undisputed leading man.
Who’s the biggest male star in Hollywood right now? Brad Pitt; George Clooney; Johnny Depp? Think again. The answer to that question must surely be Dwayne Johnson, and that’s not just because he’s six foot five and has arms like tree trunks. No, the man who made his name as one of the most iconic WWE wrestlers of all time is now worth a staggering $64m a year – and that means he ranks higher than any of those silver screen stalwarts, no matter how extensive their cinematic pedigree.
So how is it that Tinseltown has been conquered by a man whose past life as alter ego ‘The Rock’ mainly involved cocking an incredulous eyebrow and participating in entirely staged bouts of gladiatorial combat – all greased musculature and trash-talking? Johnson isn’t the first member of the World Wrestling Entertainment organisation to have attempted the move from the ring to the red carpet. Former heavyweight ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper made a good fist of things and current industry golden boy John Cena has been known to dabble in gun-toting action movies from time to time. But whereas these films have taken on a cult following (and one made up largely of WWE fans), not one has managed anywhere close to the kind of post-wrestling success that Johnson has.
If Johnson thought fighting in the ring was difficult, his transition to Hollywood necessitated him facing challenges of a very different kind.
“When I first went into acting, it was a weird time for me,” the 44-year-old says. “When you come from the world of wrestling, and you’re half-black, half-Samoan, people don’t know who you are – because they don’t know what you are. And that’s the harsh truth.
“I was coming into a world where the ideal was Brad Pitt, George Clooney. It was all about their aesthetic, their facial features, their bodies, and I was so far removed from that and I thought I needed to be more like them. So I slimmed down, acted a little differently, and tried to fit that mould and get away from wrestling and The Rock and that persona. I was being told that was the best path, and maybe it worked for a little while, but I wasn’t happy. It felt so unnatural and I just thought, ‘I have to be me, that’s the only person I can be,’ rather than trying to fit in.”
While you could be forgiven for thinking that Johnson now has the world at his feet just by virtue of his natural charisma – and the large US following he’d already accrued through his wrestling work – the truth is that life for the California-born star has not always been so pleasant. The son of Canadian wrestler Rocky Johnson, one half of the first black tag-team to win the then-WWF’s coveted Tag Team Championship, Johnson’s childhood was spent largely on the move as his father followed his career. But while Johnson was part of an entertainment industry that was starting to make waves across America, Rocky was wrestling at a time when there was little financial reward for stepping into the ring.
“I saw my family getting evicted from our house when I was 14,” Johnson reminisces. “I remember coming home from school and seeing my mother in front of the house, weeping. There was a padlock on the door and I felt this total sense of helplessness. I swore to myself that nothing like that was going to happen to me and my family again.”
But with the family’s frequent relocation came future problems – and Johnson quickly became, by his own admission, a “delinquent”.
“As the new kid, I was bullied a lot when I was in junior high school,” he reveals. “I had some hard times. I had a lot of problems with my identity and figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be. I was getting into a lot of trouble early on in high school and I was arrested multiple times when I was 15 and 16. I was mixed up, and sports are what turned my life around and gave me something to focus on and gave me some purpose and direction in life. All kids need that and I was lucky enough to find it. During my last year in high school, I won a full scholarship to the University of Miami and we went on to win a national championship.”
But just as it seemed a door had opened for the teenage Johnson, just a few years later it slammed shut once again. “I was probably at my lowest at 24 years old when I was cut from the football team I was playing with in the Canadian version of the NFL,” he explains. “I had just seven bucks in my pocket. I had nowhere to live and I had to move back into my parents’ house – that was a low blow.
“I was lost. I didn’t know where I was going to go or what was going to come next because I couldn’t see a future. All I had known was football up until that time in my life and I was crushed. But in hindsight, it was the best thing to happen to me because I learned during that period that no one was going to hand me a life. I wasn’t going to get back on my feet feeling sorry for myself. I had to pick myself up and keep going and fighting and grasp and claw and scratch at every opportunity that came my way.”
From just seven dollars in hand to an annual take that tops the tables in one of the world’s most lucrative industries, Johnson is riding higher even than when his name was on every American teenage wrestling fan’s lips. No matter how far he goes, however, he still relies on the mentality he forged when he saw his footballing ambitions fade away.
“The scratch and claw mentality is still there,” he agrees. “That mentality comes through when you’re trying to make a transition to Hollywood. It never goes away, and that’s what you see. You get a rejection – a studio or a network says, ‘No, we don’t like your show, go pitch it to someone else,’ or ‘You’re not right for this role, so we’re going to give it to this other guy,’ and that mentality is still there. So if you tell me no, I’m going to say, ‘OK, no problem. I’m going to keep driving forward.’”
Integral to Johnson’s revival was a strong support network, along with his unshakeable self-belief and faith. Though never overtly vocal about his religious beliefs, Johnson has on more than one occasion alluded to his “special relationship with God”, and the inference that relationship has on his personal mantra of “have faith, and on the other side of that pain is something good”.
“After I was finished as a pro football player I was left feeling empty and devastated,” he says. “I was lying on my sofa crying. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone. But I had some good friends who helped pull me out of that, and I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and find a new dream. f
“I turned to bodybuilding because that was something I knew I could do and I enjoyed the feeling that training gave me. That led me into wrestling, where I was able to use some of my natural charisma and all the emotions that I was used to bottling up inside.”
Boosted by the support of WWE president Vince McMahon, Johnson revolutionised the world of professional wrestling in a way that would change the landscape of the sport. His ability to inhabit a persona like The Rock set him in good stead for his future move to the big screen – “I saw that I had a gift for showmanship,” he explains. “I could create a persona that audiences would react to” – but there were deeper implications to Johnson’s reinvention in the world of wrestling.
Like his father and grandfather before him, as well as his beloved grandmother, Lia Maivia, the star is considered part of the Anoa‘i Family – a highly respected group of American-Samoan wrestlers who have been at the forefront of the sport’s development for generations. Just as Johnson’s Christian faith forms a large part of his life, so too his Polynesian heritage, which he was given the chance to delve into as part of Disney’s critically acclaimed Moana last year. Indeed, it has left an indelible mark on him both spiritually and physically.
“I’m a high chief in Samoa,” he smiles. “That’s the highest title you can have bestowed on you by the king. It was a very big day for me, the most meaningful moment in my life, second to the birth of my daughter. Fifty thousand people were gathered for the ceremony, which was very long and very spiritual. It was an amazing day and experience for me.
“My tattoos also hold spiritual meaning. One is a partialpe’a, which are very meaningful in Polynesian culture. Tattooing is a rite of passage. It’s spiritual and it tells a story. Symbolically these are stories that have been around for thousands of years. They tell a story of one’s life, and my tattoos tell the story of who I am and my journey in life.”
Such a physical expression of his personal story is typical of Johnson’s open and easy-going character. With his dazzling smile and connection with his fans – be it his propensity to hang around at premieres taking selfies or the near-constant stream of inspiration that flows from his social media pages – Johnson has remained apart from the conceited elite of the film industry; simultaneously making an effortless segue from musclebound action hunk (The Scorpion King, Hercules) to capable comic (Central Intelligence) and bona fide franchise heavyweight (The Fast and the Furious).
“I try to never take myself too seriously.” he laughs. “I mean come on, we’re playing dress-up and running around doing stunts, taking down bad guys, making jokes, getting to do red carpets and premieres. It’s a privileged life.”
While some Hollywood heavyweights seem happy enough being elevated above the rest of us, Johnson’s Christian values – to treat every man and woman as an equal – shine through. “One thing I always look for in people is humility and graciousness – because this isn’t a business known for it,” he nods emphatically. “I want to see a huge star be as gracious and open and giving the same respect to the catering staff as they do to the director. And when I don’t see that, it upsets me. I really hate it.”
It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that Johnson’s strong ethical and moral backbone have led to his enduring appeal to Hollywood producers and casting directors. This year sees him take the lead in two modern reincarnations of American classics with Baywatch and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The idea that a half-Samoan bodybuilder is now treading in the footsteps left by screen legends such as David Hasselhoff and Robin Williams is not lost on Johnson, who will always have those times of hardship to keep him grounded among the bright lights and camera flashes of the film industry.
“I’ve always held on to the dark times in my life,” he agrees. “I think about them every day in some shape or other; I know what it’s like to struggle and have no money whatsoever – to live pay cheque to pay cheque, and that worry and anxiety and how it can rule your life, and dreaming big but worrying that you’re never going to get there. I’ll never forget what that was like.
“I like to keep those times close to my heart, and that helps me to not so much achieve success but to appreciate it and never take it for granted. That’s a mistake that a lot of people make, not just in Hollywood but in life, and your past is who you are; it made you into the person sitting here right now and as long as you never forget that, you’re on the right track.”
Who can tell what the future holds for Johnson? He’s still revered among the great and the good of the wrestling industry, and directors are clamouring to bag the man who is universally adored by fans and co-stars in their films. Off-screen, there have even been murmurs that one day Johnson could run for President. It’s an idea he’s never actively ruled out when quizzed on the subject, and unlike his hero Arnold Schwarzenegger – another bodybuilding Hollywood hero who stood for office – his American birthplace deems him eligible for the top job in the White House.
If you’re inclined to scoff at the idea of a man who once traded blows with Hulk Hogan taking on the mantle of commander-in-chief, you’d do well to look at the current occupant of that post. And consider that since that moment in 1996 when Johnson first coined his wrestling alter ego in its lasting form, this is one Rock that’s been on quite a roll.
“When you’re not afraid of your feelings and worries and being able to express yourself to the people you love, it just transforms you in so many great ways,” he enthuses. “You begin to enjoy your own spirit and everything about yourself that allows you to connect with the people you love – that I can be just as vulnerable and loving as I can be tough.”
The lasting feeling Johnson’s unstoppable rise leaves is that beneath that winning smile and Adonis-like physique, there’s a quietly understated but insurmountable power that goes far beyond the (no less unbelievable) amount the star can deadlift. Unlike many of his predecessors who tended to appear unapproachable by virtue of their celebrity, however, Johnson is ready to connect with anyone and everyone who wants to listen and improve their own life.
“You must always, always have faith – it’s one of the vital qualities in life, and it’s irreplaceable,” he concludes. “When I grew up it was always the same: when one door closed, there was no window opening. All I was given was cracks, and I did everything – bite, scratch, claw or bleed – to get through them. I never lost my faith that I would get through, though. Now I have all the opportunity I could ever have imagined. That door has opened at last – and it’s huge.”
5 Ways to Boost Your Brain Health with Dr Hilary Jones
Memory blips are natural as we get older, but keeping your mind active and challenged will help to keep your brain younger than your years. Ensure you’re firing on all cylinders with my top tips for looking after your brain health.
1 Lights out
Night owls take note. Research shows that sleeping less than seven hours a night is linked to poor brain health and memory loss, with studies showing that chemicals released during the deeper stages of sleep are vital for repairing the whole of the body, including the brain. Make sure you’re getting plenty of shut-eye by starting your bed time routine an hour earlier and leaving your phone and tablets out of the bedroom to avoid distractions that will hinder sleep.
2 Take a challenge
Whenever we do something for the first time our brain builds new connections that keep it active and stimulated. A study with London cab drivers found that as they learnt The Knowledge – the huge task of learning the 25,000 streets and landmarks in central London from memory - they found that the cabbies had significant increase in the area of the brain that looks after memory and learning called the hippocampus. Taking up a new hobby could boost your brain health so why not learn a new language or take up a game like chess to keep your brain challenged.
3 Hearing is believing
Did you know your hearing is not just down to your ears, it’s everything in between your ears too. Our hearing naturally declines over time, and studies show that straining to hear forces the brain to work harder. Overtime, this effort can take its toll and lead to an increased risk of dementia. Hearing loss can also stop your brain hearing the sounds it needs to hear, causing changes to the part of the brain which looks after language and memory. Going for regular hearing checks is therefore crucial to ensuring your hearing is taken care of and you enjoy the pleasure of sound for a lifetime. The new Oticon Opn™ hearing aid features the latest Brain Hearing™ technology proven to improve speech clarity and reduce listening effort even in demanding listening environments like restaurants and bars. For more info on Oticon Opn™ and to book your free hearing test visit your local Hidden Hearing centre or go to HiddenHearing.co.uk tel. 0800 037 2060.
The UK’s hearing in numbers:
1. 6.7 million people could benefit from a hearing aid but aren’t wearing one
2. Over half of people over 40 claim their hearing is not as good as it used to be
3. On average, it takes 7-10 years for someone to seek help for a hearing problem
4. 2/3 of people aren’t aware that untreated hearing loss increases a person’s risk of dementia
4. Healthy heart, healthy brain
Exercise affects the brain in lots of positive ways – increasing the brain’s oxygen levels and supporting the release of hormones that help to create a healthy environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also helps to maintain the brain’s “plasticity” - its ability to change and reorganise itself throughout life by forming new connections between brain cells. Boost your activity levels by looking for an exercise that incorporates coordination along with getting your heart rate up, such as a dance class. Or if you prefer the gym, go for a circuits class which will not only give you a good cardiovascular work-out but keep your brain processing the next challenge too.
5. Food for thought
We all know that a good, clean diet rich in fruit and vegetables will improve all areas of your health, but eating healthily is also linked to slowing mental health decline too. Topping the list of brain-boosting foods are avocados which are packed with vitamin K and folate, a type of vitamin B which helps to prevent blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke) as well as helping to improve cognitive function, especially memory and concentration. Beetroot, blueberries, leafy green vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and salmon are all brimming with powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that not only improve learning and memory, but also reverse the age- and disease-related changes.
From Healing Minds to Minister
David Hall was once a chronic, paranoid schizophrenic. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital on many occasions. Then one day in church he was prayed for and a miracle happened.
David is now nearly 60 years old. He grew up in and has spent most of his life in south-east London and he currently lives in Anerley with his wife, Katie, and one of their two children.
David grew up with ten brothers and sisters. David’s mum was a Catholic and he was brought up in this faith, being baptised and attending a Catholic school.
At the age of 15, David’s mum suddenly gave up her Catholic faith and stopped attending church, and David and his siblings no longer had to either.
Within a short time David suddenly went off the rails, smoking cannabis and getting into petty crime, lying, and sleeping around. He started getting arrested a lot and at one point got sent to a remand home for the short, sharp, shock treatment.
When David was 18 he was kicked out of the family home by his mum and dad. He then went to live in the Lake District with his brother. David got a job, but couldn’t really afford to live there, and he broke into the electricity meter in his bedsit and stole the money. He then fled back to London. It was 1974.
Because he was worried about the police hunting him for the meter theft, he then fled again, to Guildford. He arrived with no money in his pocket and in the pouring rain, so he went into a church. In those days churches were always open.
He then knocked on the door of the vicar’s house. David told him that he needed help and was in trouble. The vicar said, “Don’t worry, we’ll sort it all out.” The vicar gave David a meal. The vicar’s name was David Pawson, who later became a very successful author.
The vicar took David to a house on the edge of Guildford, where he could stay with five Christian students. The students immediately started to tell David the gospel, and he said the salvation commitment prayer.
Later that night when David was in bed in the room he’d been given, the room was suddenly filled with light. David started praying in tongues for the first time, and the students ran into his room, excited. They switched on the electric light, unaware of the godly light David had seen, and they told David that praying in tongues meant he’d been baptised in the Holy Spirit. For David it was a wonderful and amazing experience, as he’d felt enveloped in God’s love, and he’d never experienced anything like that before.
David stayed in the house for a while and the Christians there helped him out and found a bedsit in Guildford for him. One of the guys he’d stayed with gave him a loan of £200, which was a lot of money in those days. David also found a job as a chef.
He started going to church in the area, and gave himself up to the police for breaking into the electric meter. He was taken back up to the Lake District in handcuffs. He told the magistrate in court that he’d become a Christian and the magistrate let him off.
He continued attending the very large church in Guildford which had a congregation of 1,000 people, but he started to feel dissatisfied as the Christians there couldn’t answer his challenging questions about God.
David then ‘made friends’ with his mum and dad again and they invited him to come back home, and he started going to a very small church his dad attended in Penge, south-east London, which had a congregation of about 30 to 40 people. David didn’t find the church to be very spiritual and started mixing with members on the edge of the church community – people who attended church but didn’t live as committed, spiritual Christians, and who were more into the hippy scene. David started taken drugs with them and sleeping around again, and soon he just stopped attending church.
David then started getting back into petty crime and went back to live in the Lake District. He got a girl pregnant, not knowing that she was only 15. They both then moved to Essex and started living in squats. David married his pregnant girlfriend when she was 16. David said living in squats was crazy and a bit like the comedy programme The Young Ones. He lived with a mixture of hippies, skinheads, punks and Hells Angels who were into all sorts of things.
At that time, someone told him that if he got a job in Durham, they would give him a free house. David and his wife moved there; he got a job and then a house.
When David’s first son was 18 months old, he accidently pulled a boiling hot pot of tea over himself, had serious burns and nearly died. When David’s son was three, David and his wife broke up. By now they also had another child who was a year old. David was heartbroken that they’d split, and shortly after, he had a nervous breakdown. David had lost his wife, his kids, was taking drugs, drinking, could no longer hold a job down, and his wife wouldn’t let him see his children. He’d reached rock-bottom.
When David became ill he began hallucinating and seeing and imagining things. His behaviour became very bizarre. He’d do things like eat watch batteries, thinking they’d give him power. He climbed electricity pylons and ran across motorways at night with his eyes closed. There were times when he ‘went walkabout’ and he’d wake up naked in the countryside, not knowing what he’d done or how he’d got there. And he heard voices.
This went on for about three or four years before his parents realised that he was acting more and more oddly. They had him sectioned and taken into Cane Hill mental hospital. He was in hospital seven times in three years, twice on a section. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
David was seriously ill for a long time, until 1989. He’d been released from hospital and given a bedsit. He was on massive amounts of medication and was still also taking street drugs. He felt like he didn’t want to live anymore, and was contemplating suicide. David’s bedsit was high up, and one Sunday he’d been thinking about killing himself by stepping out of his window. He then watched Songs of Praise on TV and he decided he’d either kill himself or go to church and see if God would take him back. He then went to his local church, Christ Church Anerley.
For six months David attended the church and would sit at the back, and at the end of the service he would quickly leave so that he didn’t have to talk to anyone. Then the pastor preached about faith and called people to come forward if they wanted prayer, and David suddenly felt as if he had a calling on his life. When the pastor asked David what he wanted prayer for, David felt embarrassed to say that he had schizophrenia and that he wanted to be healed of it. The pastor laid hands on David and prayed. In an instant, David just knew he’d been healed. He then left the church on cloud nine and he never took medication for schizophrenia again. He still got the medication on prescription, though, as he was partly scared to tell the psychiatrist that he weren’t taking the medication. He feared they’d put him back in hospital. But after a year his psychiatrist said to him, “You seem so much better now, I think we’ll lower you dose.”
David then told him that he hadn’t taken medication for a year, and the baffled psychiatrist couldn’t do anything, because he could see David was well. By now David had a cupboard full of medication. Antipsychotics, antidepressants and tranquillisers – he just threw them all away.
After David was healed, Christians had given David the scripture, Joel 2:25, which states, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (KJV). David was a bit sceptical, though, and questioned God, asking him how God was going to do this. David felt sad that he’d had a wife, two children and had lost them and so many other things, and he couldn’t see how God would restore these things back to him. However, David met Katie in 1995. He married her and they have two children, a son, Isaac, who’s now a young adult and has left home, and a daughter, Rebecca, who is now a teenager.
After David was healed he started to attend Cornerstone church in Bromley. He began serving as a steward, becoming head of the stewarding team. Then he was asked to start preaching sermons. He did that for ten years at Cornerstone. The minister, Hugh Osgood, recommended David to a Bible College that was looking for a teacher. David spent more than five years teaching there.
He then taught at another Bible College for a while, but stopped. He continued preaching regularly at a number of different churches, which he’d been doing for many years anyway, not just at Cornerstone. Over the years he’d also led retreats, gave counselling to people, wrote some books, started a charity for the mentally ill, and created a lot of art.
From when David got healed in 1989, until 2001, he was fine, but then he developed the physical illness ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. He was 45. It was five years, though, before doctors diagnosed David with ME, and during this time, at its worst, David was sometimes so weak that he couldn’t even put his trousers on by himself or lift a cup of tea to drink. He was also in physical pain and rarely got much sleep.
David doesn’t know why God healed him of one illness, the schizophrenia, but hasn’t yet healed him of ME, even though he’s prayed about it countless times over the years, and also had many other people praying for him. David has learned to live with the ME and has still been able to give lectures and preach, even though it often made him exhausted afterwards, and he would have to come home and go straight to bed.
David is philosophical about the ME, and glad that God still uses him, even though the illness has limited his life in lots of ways. He relates to the Bible scripture 1 Corinthians 1:27: “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (NIV). Another scripture that people have given him and which he also relates to and takes comfort in is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (NIV).
David also relates to Paul the apostle who referred to his suffering as having a thorn in the flesh, which he begged God to take away, but God didn’t (see 2 Corinthians 12:7).
David has adjusted to living with ME. And even though it’s a debilitating and frustrating illness to have, David feels that God has been kind to him, and the fact is, he definitely isn’t crazy anymore. That’s something he is still very grateful for. Even though he’s got ME, he still feels very much loved by God.
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