How to excel in different careers during a lifetime
On a morning of winter in 1958, in the picturesque valley of Graz, Austria, in Central Europe, a little boy was getting ready for school.
The valley was full of mist. The boy was feeling lethargic and didn’t have the eagerness to attend school. However, something forgotten just popped into his head. The Head Master had announced the previous day that he was organising a film to show to the students the next day. The film was on America. It brought the boy back to a mood, and he was suddenly rushing things up to go to school. The boy was Arnold, Arnold Schwarzenegger; the man who excelled in many walks of life later in his career. Most of us know him due to his famous catchphrase; “I will be back”; which made him famous in the 1984 science fiction film ‘The Terminator’.
Having watched the documentary on America that day, he realised that was where he should be excelling. He was inspired; by the American skyscrapers, high-risers, six-lane highways, and dashing big cars. He was only 11 years old then. He was highly excited. As a young boy, Arnold had started to develop a vision based on what he saw on the screen. That was a challenging task filled with many future explorations. His ‘vision’ was non-other than being rich and famous. He knew the old fashioned charming lifestyle in Austria was not his passion. He created his life plan when he was 14, having analysed the pros and cons which were to be faced. However, his parents were looking at his future from a different perception.
Arnold’s father was the local chief of police. He was a member of the Nazi Party. In World War II, he served as a military policeman in the invasions of Poland, France, and the Soviet Union. He had wanted Arnold to be a police officer like him. His mother wanted him to go to trade school. Arnold wanted something bigger in life than that.
Arnold was born on 30 July 1947; his childhood was far from ideal. Money was a problem in their household. He recalled that one of the highlights of his youth was when the family bought a refrigerator home. At school, Arnold was academically average. Nevertheless, he stood out for his cheerful, good-natured, and high-spirited character. Influenced by his father, Arnold played several sports as a boy. He served in the Austrian Army in 1965 to fulfil the one year of service required, by all 18-year-old Austrian males.
Following his role model
Arnold – the bodybuilder
One day when Arnold was returning home from school, he found a bodybuilding magazine in a store. The cover story of the magazine was about Reg Park. Reg Park was an English bodybuilder, businessman, and actor. His first title was Mr. Britain in 1949. He then won the Mr. Universe in 1951, 1958, and 1965. He also starred in five films; four featured as Hercules, Mr. Universal became Hercules. Arnold read the magazine over and over. The story of Reg Park became the blueprint of Arnold’s life. He wanted to be a bodybuilder, actor, and businessman like Reg Park. That was the day that created his vision to be rich and famous. He was relieved. He knew where he was heading now. In 1968, Arnold moved to America to fulfil his dream.
He started training, five-six hours a day in the gym. During his military days, he won the Junior Mr. Europe contest. At 20, he won Mr. Universe in London, the youngest man ever to win the title. He won Mr. Olympia six times (1971 to 1975 and 1980), Mr. Universe five times (1967, 1968, 1969 amateur & professional, 1970), Mr. World (1970), and Mr. International (1968), totalling 13 world titles during his career as a bodybuilder. In 1970 at the NABBA Mr. Universe professional competition in London, Arnold defeated his idol Reg Park; to become the winner.
Arnold – the action movie star
With his achievements in bodybuilding, it was only a matter of time before Arnold moved into the big screen, another step forward in his blueprint. In 1976 Arnold was awarded the Best Newcomer for his role in the film Stay Hungry. With his physical strength and size, Arnold was a natural for action films. He became a leading figure in several popular 1980s box-office movies. The first two were Conan the Barbarian (1982) and its sequel, Conan the Destroyer (1984). Arnold also starred as a deadly machine from the future in The Terminator (1984); and later reprised the role for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). Another two box-office action movies he featured were Commando (1985) and Predator (1987).
Additional action flicks from the actor’s heyday include The Running Man (1987), Total Recall (1990), and True Lies (1994). He also used his oversized physique to comedic effect in Twins (1988) and Kindergarten Cop (1990).
Arnold – the politician
Arnold took the world by storm when he announced his decision to run for the Governor of California during an appearance on Jay Leno’s show in 2003. Having contested the elections in the same year, he won the California governor’s seat in a special recall election from the Republican camp. He was elected as the 38th Governor of California and held the position until 2011. If California had been a country, it would be the 37th most populated country and the fifth-largest economy. California has had a population of over 39.5 million over a square area of 423,970 km2. It had issues such as financial instability, fewer business opportunities, and environmental concerns. Arnold’s challenges were confronting them. In 2006, he was re-elected: for a second term which was an endorsement for his credentials.
Arnold – the businessman
In September 1968, at the age of 21, Arnold moved to America with $ 27,000, money he saved by winning bodybuilding competitions. Soon after arriving in Hollywood, Arnold began making small investments in real estate. He bought a small plot of land in Palmdale, California. Though this first investment collapsed due to inaccurate information, Arnold was strong-minded. He was not afraid to fall. Arnold was following his blueprint.
He took his remaining funds and borrowed the balance from his trainer at Gold’s Gym in Venice, California, to buy an apartment building. A year later, Arnold sold the building. He then traded up to a 12-unit building, followed by a 36-unit building, and followed by a 100-unit building. Each time Arnold sold a building, the profits, had been transferred to the next venture to be on par with tax concessions and increased his potential future returns. Arnold was a millionaire in America long before he was a world-famous actor or the Governor of California.
Today, Arnold owns a vast real estate portfolio made up of commercial properties primarily in Southern California. Excluding his private homes, his real-estate portfolio is worth $ 100 million. Arnold, who was excited when a refrigerator was bought home back in Austria during his youth, claimed to be having a net worth of around $ 400 million at present.
The formula Arnold used
1. Having a vision
He knew where he was going. He was confident of his moves. Like a medical student who knew his destination of being a doctor, Arnold knew his destination. Every rep at the gym was not just a repetition it; was a step towards his goal. When he lifted weights: he felt as if he was lifting a trophy. After lifting 500 lb. squat and bench press, he couldn’t wait to do the next 2,000 sit-ups as he was chasing a dream, a big dream.
When Conan the Barbarian was filmed, Arnold was bleeding from knees and elbows having, crawled 10 times for the same scene. Nevertheless, he crawled one more time willingly to give the scene a better perfection. He was looking at his final destination and not at bleeding elbows and knees.
A strong vision makes all other aspects irrelevant. It brings an eye of the tiger attitude. The best aircraft should be steered by competent pilots, so careers should be driven by great visions.
2. Thinking big (and not having a Plan B)
Arnold was shooting for the stars. He didn’t believe in fallback options. He gave maximum when chasing his big goals. He didn’t settle for less. He was not afraid to fall. He tried, tried, and tried till he succeeded in the end. When he failed, he re-emerged. That was the core trait of his personality. He did that with his bodybuilding fantasy, American dream, acting career, and finally with politics. In bodybuilding, he won 13 world titles. He fulfilled his American dream by obtaining his United States citizenship in 1983, having waited for 15 long years. In the film industry, he was one of the highest-paid actors of all time. In politics, he reached the pinnacle not once but twice as the Governor of California. (Though he wanted to run for the US presidency, the constitution didn’t have provisions for him to do so as he was not born in America).
Stay committed to the decisions, but be flexible in approach. With any significant decision already made, be confident; because the second a doubt arises, it’s all over. Move forward by overlooking escape alternatives. Don’t be afraid to fall. Think big and brave as if there are no other options available to succeed.
During the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1519 AD, Hernan Cortes, the Spanish commander, destroyed his ships; so that his men would have to conquer or die. Another such incident was just before the Battle of San Jacinto, 1836 Texan soldiers were informed the Vince’s Bridge which they passed, was set on fire. Here also, the invaders would have to conquer or die.
3. Not listening to the naysayers
When Arnold started his bodybuilding career: many said that was an American sport and not for Austrians. But, he ended up winning 13 world titles. When he wanted to enter the film industry, his agents discouraged him saying, that his body size was too large and his German accent was not for films in Hollywood. But, Arnold wanted to be the next Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson and ended up on top of them: being one of the highest-paid actors of all time. When he wanted to run for Governorship, his colleagues said he was losing $ 20-30 million per year on his films. But, Arnold was not interested. He succeeded not once but twice. He was focused. He was fulfilling his big dream.
Nelson Mandela once said everything is impossible until someone does it. Be the brave one who does it. When someone says it’s impossible, take that as possible. When someone says, you can’t, take that as you can. Analyse the mechanism of accomplishing the impossible by not listening to naysayers.
4. Working hard (but be smart)
He believed in the motto, ‘no pain, no gain’. He trained five-six hours in the gym, attended English classes, accent removal classes, and acting classes in the night, managed his real-estate business, and got through his degree. Arnold used to measure his abilities, strengths, and also weakness before a change. When he moved from bodybuilding to acting: he reduced his body weight, attended acting classes, and applied other necessary changes to his personality. When he crossed over from acting to politics, he leveraged his popularity as an actor; to win elections.
He synchronised characteristics of respective fields logically and applied them as appropriate. Though Arnold claimed his success was purely on his hard work, it was clear: that he was smart, too. Had it not been for his smartness: he wouldn’t have mastered the art of synchronisation from one field to another. His good looks definitely would have helped him right-throughout his career irrespective of the field in which he was engaged.
James Cameron once said, without the machine-like accent of Arnold, the blockbuster movie Terminator wouldn’t have been a success. His voice was a better fit for the Terminator movies because the role of the futuristic robot gave much more creative freedom. The entire world eventually fell in love with his quirky accent.
Conan the Barbarian Director John Milius said, if he didn’t have Arnold: we had to build one.
He made his liabilities into assets by using his smartness. The body and the accent which deprived him of getting to movies became an asset finally.
There is no success without working hard and smart. Working hard is having many sleepless nights, long hours, and sweating, while: working smart is focusing on one’s core competencies to achieve the end goal by using the most effective, shortest, easiest, and quickest way. Both characteristics (hard and smart) are needed; for success.
5. Give something back (to society)
Arnold believed giving back something to society was a duty of a successful man. He was helped by many people at the inception when he arrived in America. Had it not for them, he wouldn’t have achieved what he had achieved. His friends and colleagues have helped him generously.
He became the Presidential Counsellor of America’s Health and Fitness Association and started visiting all states across America promoting health and fitness. He started helping special Olympic athletes. He was a national and international trainer in Special-Olympics. He initiated programs for kids who were idling after school and waiting to be picked by their working parents in the evening. Homework assistance, tutoring, artwork, music, and sports training have been a few of them.
He firmly believed he should give something back to America because America has given him many opportunities to be rich and famous. ‘The Schwarzenegger Climate Initiative’ project was another initiative organised by Arnold. He has been fighting pollution and climate change for nearly 20 years. From humble beginnings to the world stage, Arnold has changed many lives. His hometown of Thal celebrated his legacy by opening a museum dedicated to him. It’s housed in his childhood home, where he first started dreaming big.
The joy of giving is fantastic. There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found: in helping others.
Having a vision, thinking big, not listening to naysayers, working hard, and contributing something back to society have been the main characteristics of Arnold’s journey. He moved from one profession to another and excelled. He was shooting for the stars; he didn’t fear failing. He believed failing was natural, a great philosophy that fearless men and women can apply; nowadays. Fearlessness was the hallmark of Arnold’s character that paved the way for him to excel in many careers during his life. As the Terminator catchphrase: Arnold was back, at his best, always.