First, a correction.
Last week I hastily told you, my loyal readers, that this column would be the final Rock Report. In retrospect, this was foolish of me. ShortList is indeed closing but I have since received information that there will be dedicated staff – or absolute legends, as I shall refer to them – able to upload The Rock Report content until December 21. This thrilling development means that I will rush to write weeks 48, 49, 50, 51 and 52 before the end of the year, as intended. It means, in other words, that just because ShortList is ending prematurely doesn’t mean that The Rock Report has to.
On the subject of ShortList’s impending closure, I thought I’d say a few words and funnel them through The Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson. As you are probably aware, knowing that you will be redundant imminently forces you to confront some difficult emotions. What will the future hold? Will you be OK? What will you write about, now that no one is employing you to write about The Rock? These are dilemmas we all face.
With these existential questions hanging over my head, I thought I’d reach into the bucket of motivational quotes that The Rock has gifted the world, scoop up a few specimens, and sniff them for wisdom.
“Blood, sweat and respect – first two you give, last one you earn.”
I can’t see this quote serving me all that well in the world of journalism.
“So Ralph, you worked at ShortList. That’s cool. Big fans of ShortList. What made you want to work with us?”
“Blood, sweat and respect – first two you give…last one you earn.”
“…Aha, yep. What were you particularly proud of achieving while you were there?”
“BLOOD, SWEAT AND RESPECT – FIRST TWO YOU GIVE…LAST ONE…YOU EEEEEAAAARN!!!”
“We’ll be in touch.”
I understand the sentiment, I do, but it’s a bit clumsily worded. First of all, I know he means that you have to spill blood – i.e. crash around so much at the gym that you sustain a serious injury – in order to achieve anything worthwhile. But the phrasing makes you think of ‘giving blood’, which conjures up the image of The Rock sitting in a hospital chair passively donating blood – not his intention, I imagine. We’ll skip past ‘giving sweat’ – sort of similarly nonsensical, similarly problematic – and jump onto respect being something you don’t give, but earn. If I were composing a motivational quote – and believe me, I intend to – I’d try to ensure that the message lingering in the listener’s mind wasn’t that you don’t give anybody any respect. But interpreting The Rock’s words might be akin to translating the scriptures – its author’s original words may have been somewhat mangled. Perhaps The Rock actually said, “Respect people; donate blood; and don’t sweat on my sofa.”
“When you walk up to opportunity’s door: don’t knock it. Kick that bitch in, smile and introduce yourself.”
Again, I’m just trying to apply this maxim to my hunt for a job post-ShortList. I get an interview at a reputable magazine. I see the interview time – 3pm. I look up the address. OK, got it. I get the Tube down there. Bit nervous. Should be all right. I round the final corner and see the door to the building. Right, here I go. Instead of knocking on the door, I remember the advice and I just kick it – hard. I absolutely launch into it, booting it as hard as I physically can with my smart shoes. I realise as soon as I’ve made contact with it that it’s actually a revolving door. So what happens is the following: I kick the revolving door; the force, and the give that the door obviously provides, causes me to stagger forward, cracking my nose on the bottom of the door. Then, just as I’ve registered what’s happened, the door continues to revolve and crashes into my feet from behind, sending me sprawling across the floor. After this is over, I stagger to my feet, smile, and say, “Hi, I’m Ralph Jones.” Three of my teeth are missing.
“Let actions do your talkin’ for you (unless you’re telling a good dirty joke).”
Really quite odd, this one. Again, let’s see how well it will serve me in my quest for employment. I’m at a different interview now, and they’ve asked me to do a quick writing job. And – action!
“Right, so it’s basically just a short writing task. Not expecting it to be perfect, obviously – but we’ll give you 20 minutes, just see what you can do.”
“Mm. let me ask you – why does Dr Pepper come in a bottle?”
“Why does Dr Pepper…come in a bottle?”
“Why does who come in a bottle?”
“Dr Pepper. Why – does Dr Pepper…come in a bottle?”
“Are you asking us? Is this a set-up to a joke?”
“Because his wife died.”
“Why does Dr Pepper come in a bottle? Because his wife died.”
“Are you gonna do the task or not?”
“Yeah, I’ll do the task.”
So what I’m trying to say is: I love The Rock; I respect The Rock; I think he is capable of imparting valuable advice. But not all of it is relevant to me, a man looking for employment in the increasingly uncertain world of journalism. Most of it is just advice for getting big at the gym. If you follow all of The Rock’s advice, you’ll realise – you’re suddenly huge, weighed down by your own muscle mass, and you’ve shaved all your hair off. This may not be the path down which everyone wants to walk.
Stay hungry, stay humble.
(Illustration: Dan Evans)