Adversity Breeds Success

Nicholas A. Koumalatsos

Full Sail University




I want to utilize this research paper to make the correlation between adversity and success. Highlighting the similarities of the Wright Brothers and their eventual success with their flying machine and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his rise to being one of the biggest Hollywood Celebrities of this time. Utilizing research from articles and books via the internet we will make a coloration that there is no success without adversity. This paper will examine Robert Green’s 2012 Mastery. (Greene, 2012) and several articles about Dwayne Johnson one of which being Alan Shipnuck’s Dwayne Johnson ALMIGHTY BALLER. cover story in sports illustrated 2016. (Sports Illustrated, 2016). This paper will prove how one cannot arrive to a successful are of mastery without adversity and failure.

Keywords:  The Wright Brothers, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, Success, Failure, Adversity.


Finding Comparisons

When addressing a topic such as mastery I have to reflect on the people I look to as individuals who have not just mastered their careers but have also mastered the art of overcoming adversity. However, when looking at it more in depth I feel there is no such thing as mastering anything with out having to persevere a good dose of adversity. There are a lot of amazing figures in our history that have overcame so much to come out on top. But for me one shines a bit more than all of them, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (DJ). Much like myself (DJ) did not have the most stable upbringing. I grew up moving all over the country and being raised by single mother. She did her best to take care of my brother and I but due to her working two jobs we were left to our own devices much of the time. Growing up in poverties’ areas, always ready to move to another, not knowing our food situation, and struggling to put clothes on our backs. I was not athletic, I was not a child prodigy of anything at all really but, I did have one thing, tenacity, grit, and perseverance. I’m not sure where it came from but that is all I had. Even though DJ came from a land of nothing he was always known as “The hardest working man in the room” (Sports Illustrated, 2016). I believe there are not great inventions, people, or new ideas without those individuals going through an immense amount of adversity. That is the difference between the people we know and hear about verses the ones we will never know their names. That person who faced adversity and quit when they hit the wall could have been the person to cure cancer if they just would have persevered a little bit longer.


The Path

As I previously mentioned DJ grew up not having much. Family was constantly moving and getting evicted, he obviously did not have much money, and this left a six-foot three large mixed male a bit angry. So, He did what most young men in is position do, they get bitter, angry at their situation and use their brawn/attitude to handle their problems instead of figuring out an alternative solution. DJ did just that. He used his size and fists to handle situations for him. I believe this was a coping mechanism for his frustration for his current life’s predicament. While one can quickly judge someone based off this initial interaction many times there is something much deeper happening in these situations. As a child I was on the receiving end of young men like him. Looking back now, I see that these young men where essentially coping with their situation as well and I just happened to be an outlet for that frustration. It was not until DJ had a run in with a teacher at his school that made him find the first path to one of the greatest disappointments in his life. He found football.

He had a run in with a teacher because he decided to use the faculty bathroom instead of the student. He said that he acted like a punk but then went back to apologized after some thought about how he acted. (Sports Illustrated, 2016) It was that teacher that set him on his current path by asking him to play football for the school. Now, DJ would not be a huge success with this, in fact he would fail miserably, but it is because of that first negative interaction with a teacher in a high school faculty bathroom that put him on the path to make him the highest paid actor in Hollywood.

Emotional Pitfalls

Now as I said, success does not come without failure. DJ was not going to be the next big football star, even though that was his plan. He had it all planned out, the teams he was going to play for, the money he was going to make, the Superbowl ring he was going to have, even the wife and house he was going to have. Dreams and plans can be a scary thing when we are young. Not because we are over reaching but what happens to us when we don’t reach them. What happens to us when we fail? We tend to go into what I named the “Bowl of Bad Emotions” (Koumalatsos, 2018). This is where we hit that wall and our reality comes crashing down around us.

DJ’s coach in High School expressed to him that football was his way out of his situation. It would be the stepping stone to get to the next level. He was able to get a scholarship that put him playing in Miami with the Hurricanes. One would think this is where it would take off and the road to success would be easy, that is not the case. DJ hurt his shoulder in practice just a few weeks in that required shoulder surgery. Then with a new player on the field, future hall of famer Warren Sapp, DJ’s playing time was getting shorter and shorter. Not to mention over the course of his collegiate career he had 4 different knee surgeries leaving his playing and practice time even more limited. But, this was his path, his dream, his future and he demanded it to go his way. Because of his high work ethic and how mentally tough he was he felt he should get more playing time. He made it known that he felt he was not getting the respect that he deserved. Even other players would rib him about not getting the field time that he wanted. He kept driving on as hard as fast as he could but after college he did not get the offer to the NFL that he had planned. Instead, he got an offer to play for a Canadian Football League in Calgary. In just two months of being there he was cut from the team. Sent home to live with his parents, with no job, no hopefuls, and only 7 bucks to his name.

We must Fail

 In 1892 the Wright brothers found a challenge for the restless spirt. They wanted to take on the challenge to invent the safety bicycle, which is what we know now as the common bicycle, before the Wright brothers bicycles had two different size wheels. Now, one might look at it from the macro and say “oh, they had an idea, made it, sold it, and that is that. Success!” For anyone that knows anything about creating something, building something, or working on anything in general is there is a lot of failure before getting to the final product. The Wright brothers worked for months figuring out what they needed to do to make it work. They even invented different machines and tools in order to help them make their bicycle. But, with anyone who has truly found their calling or journey once you accomplish something there has to be something more. This is when Orville Wright found out about the one thing that would light a fire in the Wright brothers for years to come. The race to take flight in a motorized aircraft.

But, before they would ever succeed in being the first to take flight they had a ton of adversity to overcome. People ridiculed them, called them crazy, and dumb. Even prominent engineers, and scientist said that it was a pipe dream and would never happen. One of my favorite quotes from this story is “Most people would have packed up and gone home. But the brothers' never-give-up attitude was perhaps the most important key to their success. For years, the Wright brothers persisted through lack of sleep, complicated calculations, mangled gliders, and broken ribs—working and failing, working and failing—until they finally succeeded.” (Wilson, L. 2019). Just imagine if they would have quit during one of those times, what kind of 2nd and 3rd order effects we would have had. I’m not saying would not have flight today but how much more time would it have been? Would we had planes in WWI? How much longer would it have taken? How many lives would have been lost due to nothing having that capabilities? It frightens me to think if they had not endured the weather, the monetary set backs, the mosquitos, them being ridiculed about what they are doing, what could have happened. What if they had quit the flight right before the one they made?


Just like DJ, the actual thing path they are supposed to follow is the one down the road. But the only way to find that path is to go down the path of disappointment and failure. If DJ would not have failed at football in College, he would not have gone to play for Canada, if he would not have been cut two months in, he would not have gotten the opportunity to become The Rock with the World Wrestling Federation, which kicked off the path that he was supposed to be on. Well, actually he was on the correct path the entire time, he just did not know.   

If we allow failure to become part of our identity, then we own it and wear that failure. But, if failure is just part of the journey, if it is just a thing that happens along the road, then it’s power over us is taken away. If the Wright brothers quit every time they made a machine, Would we have the bicycle as we know it? What about their printing press? Would it have taken another 50 years to fly? Think about the progress we have made due to them having a never quit, never surrender, always forward mindset. If DJ succumb to “Bowl of Bad Emotions” (Koumalatsos, 2019) after getting cut from the Canadian Football league, he would not be the highest paid actor in Hollywood, he would not have built the entire empire that he has, and he would not have had the ability to have the positive impact that he now has on the world.

“You show me one man who is successful and I’ll show you the same man who has failed 15 times to have that one success.” (Koumalatsos, 2019)


Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York: Penguin.

Shipnuck, A. (2016). Dwayne Johnson ALMIGHTY BALLER. (Cover story). Sports Illustrated125(18), 28–34. Retrieved from

Koumalatsos, Nick. Excommunicated Warrior: the 7 Stages of Transition. Alexander Industries, 2018.

Wilson, L. (2019). How the Wright Brothers Took Off. Highlights74(5), 28. Retrieved from