By reading autobiographies, you can get up close and personal with people that you may never meet in real life. A biography of someone’s life can help you not to make the same mistakes that they did. Sometimes you have to see the same life lesson in different ways before you truly understand it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most iconic celebrities globally and whether you like him or not, his book can teach you so many things (although I skipped through the political career part mostly because I hate politics).
This article will save you many hours of reading and focus on the points that Arnold brings up multiple times in his life. There are certain themes of success that become apparent after reading his book.
Here are the 14 life lessons you can learn from his book and apply yourself:
1. Forget competing
Losing to Chet Yorton in a bodybuilding competition taught Arnold a valuable lesson. It taught him that you must go into a battle to win and not to compete. Arnold would often visualise himself winning a competition, and his thoughts were full of nothing other than a clear focus to achieve his goal. Nothing was going to stop him from being the best, and he insisted on aiming high.
Don’t settle for second best in your life and back yourself the way Arnold did. Know that you have to believe you can win first before you can actually win.
2. Your mind is what is holding you back
There is a story in the book about how Arnold thinks he has hit his limit in calf raises when a man named Reg does more than twice what he can lift. Arnold is forced to rethink his limitations, and he talks about how this happened in the four-minute mile that was previously thought to be impossible.
His friend Franco demonstrates the mental limitations of the mind perfectly. He thinks he can’t do as many reps in squats as Arnold until Arnold makes up that some beautiful girls believe he can. Instantly, with the thoughts of the pretty ladies in his head, he breaks through his barrier.
The way we train our brains is what is holding us back. Sometimes it’s the smallest form of outside motivation that makes us change a limiting belief and crush our goals. Once you believe in yourself, all you need is a second person to believe in you, and you can achieve amazing feats.
3. Life is reps
Arnold worked out five hours a day, six days a week. Most of us train 45 mins, and we’re exhausted.
All at the same time he was working on his mail order business, on his acting classes, going to college, training for three hours a day and doing construction.
The psychology of success that Arnold learned as a bodybuilder was something he used in everything else he went on to do in his career. Bodybuilding is about building muscle by doing repetitions (known as reps) of a certain exercise.
It’s bodybuilding 101 to track every set of reps that you do. Pretty quickly Arnold figured out that if he wanted to make a certain muscle bigger, all he had to do was increase the numbers of reps he did and then slowly increase the resistance by adding more weight.
As he went into acting and then politics, later on, he used the reps concept to learn lines of a script and prepare for his political speeches. What was funny was that one of the photos in the book was of a speech he was learning and he had penciled lines along the top that stood for how many sets of reps he had done of the speech, just like he used to do when he would mark down sets of an exercise.
He wasn’t necessarily smarter than his competitors; he just did more reps than anybody else. In your own life, do you think you could do more reps of the tasks that lead to your dream?
4. Staying on top of the hill is harder than climbing it
Once Arnold reached the top in bodybuilding, he found himself at one point where he got lazy, complacent and distracted by study because he had already achieved his big goal. For him, it was harder to stay on top of the hill than climb it.
Having an enormous hill to climb to reach your dreams gives you motivation, but once you achieve your dream, it’s much harder to sustain the success long term because the motivation is now gone. Using lessons from Arnold’s life, you always need to have a goal that motivates you and is different than your previous pursuits. This is how you stay on top of the hill.
“Every rep and every set is getting me closer to my goal” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
5. Smile no matter what
Even when Arnold was lifting huge amounts of weight, he always had a smile on his face. The pain he must have been enduring in order to push such heavy weights should have made him look angry or frustrated. The reason he wasn’t angry or frustrated was because he had something on the other side of his goal to smile about.
He had a dream of going to America and achieving the impossible. That’s how he was always able to smile. Why can’t you focus on the happy feelings at the other end of the rainbow with a smile on your face while you endure the struggle in the present?
6. Passion hides the audience
The first time Arnold did a proper TV interview he told the pre-interviewer that he doesn’t see the audience because he’s so passionate about what he’s talking about. By having the audience blocked out in his mind, he is able to minimise the nerves and stay focused.
He lets his passion drive him rather than his fear. We can all use this strategy to help us do those audacious and crazy tasks that keep us awake at night.
7. When they say no you hear yes
Hollywood is full of knockbacks and disappointment. Like Arnold, you have to be almost bulletproof when it comes to rejection. One of Arnold’s mentors Lucy told him that when he hears no, he should really hear yes and act accordingly.
This could seem quite stupid, but it allows you to act in a way that is humble, brave, and unwavering in your pursuit. In a way, Arnold was lying to himself. He did this often, and these lies to himself are what allowed him only to see what he could do rather than what he couldn’t.
I’ve mentioned before about how important it is to trick your mind. Tricking your mind is a fantastic life hack, and you can be made to believe anything. Use this malfunction in your genetic makeup to kick ass and crush your goals!
8. Think beyond your own career
What was unique about Arnold’s bodybuilding career was that he felt it was his responsibility not just to make himself successful, but to use his success as a way to elevate and promote fitness. This is one of the primary reasons why he took part and became the star of the “Pumping Iron” documentary.
Your motivation will multiply when you add a broader audience to your mission. Arnold believed that every competition he won helped more than just himself. We’re wired to connect with one another and take the human race to the next level.
9. Make your peculiarities into assets
Just like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold shouldn’t have been successful based on the typical Hollywood mold that existed at the time. What he did differently that made him successful was use his unusual muscley body, accent, and funny name to make himself memorable.
Instead of being embarrassed by his peculiarities he embraced and acknowledged them. He was vulnerable enough to trust his own abilities and to stay focused on how he could achieve his vision. The aspects that make you different can be utilised in the same way.
10. You get harder and more durable the more you struggle
We spend our whole lives trying to avoid pain and minimise struggle. We want the modern day dream of the big house and nice car in return for the least amount of pain as possible. We have a reference though that shatters this myth to pieces.
That reference is exercise and working out. On a conscious level, we all know that muscles and fitness are never achieved unless we break through our previous results and push harder. So if the struggle is crucial in the gym, then why isn’t it just as important in life?
The answer to this question is something that Arnold discovered for himself and he treated every opportunity like it was an exercise to be executed at the gym. He knew that just like his muscles couldn’t grow without the struggle, neither could his mind or his life.
This way of thinking is where we all need to aim to get to. It’s this idea that will propel the world forward and help us to fix the problems that we’ve created like poverty and pollution.
11. The whole world is not focused on your failure
Arnold’s movie “Last Action Hero” was a flop and in the book he described what that’s like. He says, “You tend to assume that the whole world is focused on your failure.”
Upon reflection, Arnold realises that most of the time people have no idea of your failures nor do they care. They’re probably not reading up in detail about you online or watching YouTube video’s 24/7 about you. This is an illusion we have, and people have their own problems to worry about.
Your failure will consume you if you spend every waking minute thinking about how people are reacting to your pitfalls in life. Instead, focus on your next win and don’t dwell on the past.
12. We need to look less at ourself and more at each other
In a moment of triumphant glory in the book, Arnold says that as a society we are too self-absorbed. He explains that he has gotten more satisfaction from improving a state, country or neighborhood than he has from improving himself alone through movies and bodybuilding.
As I always say, it’s not about you. Entrepreneurship and life is not about you. This is why Arnold has been able to have so much success, and the people that have followed his footsteps have done the same. It’s one of the only secrets to success you need to understand to mirror his achievements.
“Have a vision, trust yourself, break some rules, ignore the naysayers, don’t be afraid to fail” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
13. Be part of a cause that will outlive you
Leaders have a way with words. They typically describe visions that are so much bigger than themselves. A cause that goes beyond us is how we can bring meaning and joy to our life. It’s what we’re all chasing, and this is predominantly all we need to do.
Find your cause, exploit it to your full potential, and serve the greater good.
14. Celebrate the circumstances that traumatized you
Our struggle defines us. In Arnold’s life, his father always put him down and physically hit him. When he was a kid this upset him, but as he grew older, he figured out that this pain and struggle is what motivated him to leave Austria and become world famous.
If Arnold hadn’t had a rough childhood, would we have ever discovered his brilliance in movies like The Terminator? Probably not. The man that taught us to respect our bodies and make them stronger may never have come into the limelight.
We may never have had all the millions of gyms globally if Arnold didn’t reframe the circumstances that traumatized him and turn them into what defined him as a human being and one of the greatest public figures of all time.