Arnold Had To Succeed

I recently finished listening to the audiobook Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography. I’ve been a fan of Arnold for quite some time now, and due to his accomplishments consider him almost a super-hero. For those of you unaware, outside of being one of the worlds biggest actors, Arnold also won Mr. Olympia 7 times, served as Governor of California for two terms, and earned millions in real estate.

Listening to this book, I wasn’t surprised by these achievements since I already knew about most of them ahead of time. Instead, what I found remarkable were the seemingly mundane processes that manifested them.  The book goes into a lot of detail outlining different stages of Arnold’s life, including his routines and decision-making. Each stage seems to follow a similar pattern, almost as if Arnold found a formula for success.

Whether in bodybuilding, acting, or politics, the major breakthroughs only happened after applying a ton of effort for long periods of time. Making progress in any of these areas was slow, and often produced no significant material rewards until years later.

Without the insight into Arnold’s life, one might assume that he was born extremely gifted and that his successes happened overnight. Afterall, all you’d get to witness was the end products of his work ethic, whether it was him on stage posing or playing the terminator. I myself just a couple of years ago(Before I started reading) attributed his success to luck, talent, and the right network of people.

The truth is though that outside of talent, which Arnold definitely possessed, he had an extreme work ethic. I’d imagine that 99% of people would be unable to perform intense weight training for longer than 2 hours without either physically or mentally being unable continue. Arnold is known for spending more than 3 hours in the gym and then working as bricklayer afterward. Sure, maybe you’d be able to pull this off for a day or two, but could you do it for months?

Titles such as Mr. Olympia, or playing the terminator sounds very enticing, after all, they provide status, wealth, and legacy. We spend a couple of hours watching the competition or movie and wish that we’d be able to take Arnold’s place. I think though, that a lot of people don’t consider that what’s being seen is only the tip of the iceberg. That Mr. Olympia competition that Arnold won took not months, but years of daily training, intense diet, and social sacrifices.

When you realize the amount of effort put into everything which he achieved, you begin to realize that the accomplishments weren’t so unlikely after all. Sure, Arnold had great genetics for bodybuilding and probably carried traits that helped him in acting(although I can’t think of any), but with the amount of work and planning invested it was inevitable that he had some form of success.

Understanding this I realized a couple of things, firstly, that planned work ethic will eventually produce results no matter what. Sure, you might not become an action-star, but some form of success will manifest itself.

Second, that being able to enjoy the work you’re doing is just as important as the goal you’re working towards. You will certainly not spend hours doing something out of your own will, possibly tired after work, if you dread doing it.

Lastly, that consistency is key, Arnold sparingly altered his goals, or “visions”. There’s no instance in the book where he switches between focusing on acting, bodybuilding, politics, or anything else on a short term basis. All of his goal decisions were concrete and required daily action for years at a time.

I imagine it like this: A million identical Arnolds are spawned, each put in a different universe. Each Arnold experiences a varying amount of luck in his life. Some die due to cancer, others lose a limb, but all exercise the same level of effort. I believe that any Arnold which did not die an early death will achieve success. 



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Karol Zdebel

Recent Computer Science graduate, and current Android developer.

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