Arnold Schwarzenegger and Me (Part II)

[PART II – This is the second of two blog posts]
There are a number of interesting entrepreneurial lessons in Schwarzenegger’s life story. 
  • When he was a bodybuilder, he soon discovered ways to leverage his fame—albeit within a niche market. He began a mail order business sending out instructional manuals and supplements. He also did coaching and training. Other bodybuilders simply focused on their training.
  • He began a stone masonry and brick laying business with his friend and fellow bodybuilder, Franco Columbu. They hired their bodybuilding buddies. He became an “expert” in marble and stone. Schwarzenegger was amazed how easily he could set up a business. “In America, unlike Europe, there weren’t a million obstacles to starting a business. All I had to do was go down to city hall and pay $3.75 for a permit, and then rent a post office box to receive the orders.” (116). As a typical immigrant, he saw opportunities.
  • He soon realized that there was money to be made investing in real estate. Not all ventures worked out, but he did invest heavily in Santa Monica and it paid off. Schwarzenegger was prepared to take risks. 
  • When he was in the movies, he did a unique deal with the Twins comedy movie with Danny DeVito that paid off handsomely. He negotiated 20% of the income (363). “Counting international sales, video rights, and so on, Twins has been worth more than $35 million to me alone—and counting, because the DVDs keep selling and it keeps being shown on TV.” (374) 
  • He was relentless in his pursuit of excellence. “To be successful, however, you must be brutal with yourself and focus on the flaws. That’s when your eye, your honesty, and your ability to listen to others come in. Bodybuilders who are blind to themselves or deaf to others usually fall behind.” (93)
  • He worked hard at being knowledgeable in business. “I saw myself as a businessperson first. Too many actors, writers, and artists think that marketing is beneath them. But no matter what you do in life, selling is part of it. You can’t make movies without money.” (279)
His focus on his goals—and essentially on himself—is legendary among his friends and foes. He states it candidly throughout the book. “Nothing was going to distract me from my goal [to be a bodybuilding champion and get into the movies]. No offer [managing and growing a chain of gyms], no relationship,
nothing.” (142).
He talks about an early three-year common law relationship: “But she was a normal person who wanted normal things, and there was nothing normal about me. My drive was not normal. My vision of where I wanted to go in life was not normal. The whole idea of a conventional existence was like Kryptonite to me.”
He had some serious obstacles to overcome. Movie agents told him: you have an accent that scares people; you have a body that’s too big for the movies; and you have a name that wouldn’t fit on a movie poster. “Everything about you is too strange.” (192)
When he got into movies his previous business success was an asset. He explains that, ”I was very glad I could afford to say no. With the income from my businesses, I didn’t need money from acting. I never wanted to be in a financially vulnerable position, where I had to take a part I didn’t like.” (200) He had a clear strategy with respect to succeeding in Hollywood: “But for a man of my size and with my looks and accent, bad-guy roles seemed like a dead end.” (203)
He didn’t want to be part of the list of entertainers who ended up bankrupt. “My goal was to get rich and stay rich…..I wanted to know the details.” (424) He proudly recounts that, “By the time Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981 and the economy slowed, I’d achieved another piece of the immigrant dream. I’d made my first million.” (233)
Throughout his life he has been goal oriented. “I’d always advanced by starting with a clear vision and working as hard as possible to achieve it.” (250)
He always pursued his passion. “Everything I did could have been my hobby. It was my hobby, in a way. I was passionate about all of it. My definition of living is to have excitement always; that’s the difference between living and existing.” (291)
There is no excuse for not working hard. In terms of improving as an actor: “I’m a big believer in hard work, grinding it out, and not stopping until it’s done….” (308)
He has an interesting take on being a person well-known for infidelity: “I always wanted to be an inspiration for people, but I never set out to be a role model in everything.” (603)
Schwarzenegger lists four principles of success that have worked for him: Turn your liabilities into assets; When someone tells you no, you should hear yes; Never follow the crowd. Go where it’s empty; and no matter what you do in life, selling is part of it (605-6). 
He concludes the book with “Arnold’s Rules” for success:
  1. Never let pride get in your way
  2. Don’t overthink – “The more you know, the more you hesitate, which is why even the smartest people blow it big-time.” (607)
  3. Forget Plan B
  4. You can use outrageous humor to settle a score
  5. The day has twenty-four hours
  6. Reps, reps, reps.
  7. Don’t blame your parents
  8. Change takes big balls
  9. Take care of your body and your mind – “I realized that the brain is a muscle and we should train it too.” (617)
  10. Stay hungry (606-618) – “So many accomplished people just coast.” (618)
In short, this hefty 646-page book is a fascinating read and well worth it. There’s a lot of detail, which is good in some parts where the subject matter is of particular interested. For example, someone might be intrigued when Schwarzenegger describes the financial arrangement of various movie deals), but then bored when he talks about his political career.
Total Recall tells a great entrepreneurial tale of an immigrant success story, and success in many different arena: bodybuilding, entertainment, politics, business and entrepreneurship. It’s intriguing and gives you a good glimpse into the mind of a unique personality as only an autobiography can do.
As I could tell when I spent time with him, he was content that he was living the American Dream, reaching his goals, a long way from Thal, Austria—and that many people along with his hard work and focus on goals had got him there. He went from pursuing the American Dream to being a modern-day embodiment. As he finished off his breakfast, it was written all over his face.