What is the secret of success? And I always tell them what the short version is, you got to have a 22 inch biceps and you’ve got to be able to kill the predators with your bare hands, and of course you’ve got to have this charming Austrian accent. That’s a given. The long version is that I actually always had 5 rules. You don’t need to be a body building champion; you don’t need to want to be an action hero or anything like that. If you want to excel in whatever you do, those rules are for you.
- Find your vision and follow it: if you don’t have a goal, and if you don’t have a vision, you just drift around and you’re not going to be happy. I grew up after the Second World War. Austria right along with Germany lost the Second World War. There was of course depression; there was a terrible economic situation. I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to escape. And luckily, one day in school, I watched a documentary about America. I knew exactly that is where I wanted to end up. The question was just, how do I get there? How do I get to America? No one had the money to travel or anything. But one day, I was fortunate enough to see a body building magazine. And on the cover was this very muscular guy. “Mr. universe become Hercules star.” His name was Reg Park. I read the article as fast as I could, learning about how he grew up in leads, in England, poor and how he trained 5 hours a day, every single day, and trained and trained and trained, and then he finally became Mr. Great Britain. And then became Mr. Universe. Then he won a second Mr. Universe title and a third Mr. Universe title and then all of a sudden, he landed in Rome in Cinecitta, doing Hercules movies. And as I read, I became more and more certain; I had that vision very clearly laid out. To be a champion on that same stage where he won the Mr. Universe, and then he move to America, then get into movies. From that moment on, everything that I did, no matter how hard I had work or how much I had to struggle, it didn’t matter, because I knew what the purpose was and I found my passion. Always discover your vision and the rest will follow.
- Never ever think small: you have to go and shoot for the stars. I didn’t just think about being in a movies, no, I wanted to be a movie star. I wanted to have above-the-title billing. I wanted to become the highest paid entertainer. I basically wanted to be another John Wayne, what’s wrong with that? Never think small, think big.
- Ignore the naysayers: I think it is natural that when you have a big vision and big dreams and you have big goals, that people are going to say around you, “I don’t think it can be done. I think it’s impossible.” I mean it started right away when I was 15years old, and I became a body builder. Right off the top, when I said “I want to be a world champion in body building, I want to be Mr. universe.” They immediately said. “Are you crazy? Body building is an American sport, forget about it. That’s nuts.” And then, when I wanted to go into show business, after I won 13 world championship titles in bodybuilding, I said “I want to be like Reg Park. I want to be a Hercules. I want to get into movies.” Well, I tell you, when I met those agents and managers, their reaction was haha… “Oh Arnold, that is so funny. You want to be what? A leading man? Oh, come on. I mean, look, first of all, let’s start with your body. You are gigantic. You are like a monster. And the your accent, Oh it gives me the chills just listening to your German bullsh*t. Come on now. Have you ever seen an international movie star with a German accent? It doesn’t happen. Forget about that. And then your name, what is it, Schwarzen-Schnitzel or something like that? People are going to storm the theater and the movie houses because Schwarzen- Schnitzel is starring in a movie. Oh yeah, I can see that already.” Imagine that. Everywhere I turned, they said, “No, it won’t happen. It’s not going to happen, and forget about it.” Luckily, I did not listen. I started taking acting classes, English classes, even accent-removal classes. I ran ground all day saying lines alike, “A fine wine grow on a vine.” All of a sudden, I got a little break. All of a sudden, I got a TV show, a little part. Then another little part, and then pumping iron and stay hungry, and then, of course, I landed the big role as conan the Barbarian. So finally I got the big, big break. And you know that what was so interesting about it was? The director said at the press conference, “if we wouldn’t have had Schwarzenegger with those muscles, we would have had to build one.” And then, when I did Terminator, James Cameron said, the “I’ll be back” line became one of the most famous movies lines in history, because of Arnold’s Crazy accent, because he sounded like a machine. So as you see, everything that the naysayers said was a liability became an asset. Ignore the naysayers.
- Work your ass off: you never want to fail because you didn’t work hard enough. It doesn’t matter what area you’re in. No pain, No gain. Listen, when I came to the United States, I remember that I trained five hours a day every day, and I was managing a construction business, and I was a bricklayer, and went to college, also, and I took acting classes from 8:00 at night to 12:00 midnight. Every day I did that. Work your butt off. That’s what I always believe. No matter what you do, work, work, work.
Fifth and last rule:
- Don’t just take, give something back: tear down that mirror that makes you always look at yourself, and you will be able to look beyond that mirror, and you will see the millions and millions of people that need your help. And this is why I tried to take every opportunity that I could, to give something back. I started training special Olympians, I started after-school programs for the most vulnerable children, for inner city children, to make them be able to say no to drugs, no to gangs, and no violence. We all can create change, whether it is in our neighborhood or in our local schools. Cause the button line is, it is up to us.
Have a vision.
Ignore the naysayers.
Working your ass off.
And give back and change the world.
Because if not us, who?
If not now, when?…Arnold Schwarzenegger.