5 Rules to Being Successful

As Arnold Schwarzenegger enters the spotlight with the presence of a heavyweight champion, he is met with the rhythmic applause normally befitting a rock star. Whatever he is about to say the guy definitely looks like a winner. And not just because he is built like a Sherman Tank but because being successful is what he does.

As the wave of star fever flooding the room begins to subside, the audience settles down to hear Schwarzenegger’s 5 rules to being successful.

Rule no.1 – Find your vision.

If you have a vision then everything you do brings you one step closer to making it a reality.

You will never get anywhere in life if you don’t have a vision; you will be a boat that never reaches its destination sailing around the ocean aimlessly. Arnold tells us that even though he got lucky with his vision, he always knew he didn’t want to live in occupied Austria post second world war. “Everybody was pissed off because we’d lost the war – I felt small and restricted there, I couldn’t wait to get out.” He knew he wanted to go to America, the land of opportunity. Then he saw the ‘blueprint’ for what he wanted to do with his life. Reg Park, the bodybuilder and successful businessman became his inspiration. Becoming a movie star became his galactic ambition.

Like the rest of the audience I am totally engrossed as Arnold delivers some inspiring rhetoric: “If you don’t have a vision, if you don’t have a goal, if you don’t see your future laid out in front of you – every day will be a struggle.” It’s simple, I say to myself, but it makes so much sense. We create a vision for our companies and our organisations, but how often do we do it for ourselves? With his booming voice and iconic Austrian accent Arnold exclaims that, “74% of people in America don’t like what they are doing.” It was a statistic that shocked me, but as I listened more I realised that if you have a vision and a long-term goal, even doing something you hate will become bearable if it takes you to that goal.

Rule no.2 – Think big.

The biggest obstacle people face is small thinking.

I think to myself, yeah, that’s me – and I know I’m not the only one. We think we are being humble and mindful of our limitations but actually we’re just restricting ourselves, putting up unnecessary boundaries. We need to tear down the walls we have created in our minds. Arnold embodies this philosophy. As he tells us, he didn’t just want to be in movies, he wanted to be the star. He didn’t just want to go into politics to be a city councillor or mayor. No! He wanted to be Governor – and not just any governor but governor of the 8th largest economy in the world. Laughter turns to applause, which then turns to a standing ovation. The whole room acknowledges this wonderful determination and ambition. “Wennschon dennschon!” – Hey, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. As he points out, it takes the same amount of energy to have small goals as it does to have big dreams.

Rule no.3 – Ignore the naysayers.

To illustrate his point Arnold quotes Nelson Mandela: “People always seem to think it is impossible until someone does it.” As I listen I start to think about how envy is a powerful emotion. People don’t like to imagine someone with the courage to do what they can’t, or won’t. People don’t like extreme confidence either. They see it as arrogance or naivety.

Arnold, on the other hand, feels like a boxing coach firing up our adrenaline before a big fight. His pep-talk to the audience is that, if you are going to have the big dream people are naturally going to think you’re crazy or stupid. Don’t listen to them. “Just think how many times my career would have ended if I had listened to the naysayers.” Bodybuilding champion? No Arnold, try being a ski champion. Movie star? Arnold, come on! Are you kidding? Look at your body – you’re overdeveloped! And your accent. No one has ever made it big with an accent.The audience erupts with laughter, but as the noise dies down his words continue to resonate. I think to myself how proving everybody wrong must be the best feeling in the world. Arnold points to the irony that not only did his body become an iconic symbol of the action movie industry, the words “I’ll be back” became ingrained on the lips of movie-goers forever because his accent made him sound like a machine.

Rule no.4 – Work your ass off!

You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.

None of my rules will help you if you don’t work hard.” No excuses – get to work. Arnold told us the only thing he was scared of was losing a bodybuilding competition or an election because he didn’t work hard enough. Lack of time? There’s 24 hours in a day. In that time Arnold ran a brick laying business, went to the gym, took acting classes and went to business school in the evenings, and then still had time for 6 hours of sleep. Need more sleep? You know what Arnold’s response is – sleep faster! Arnold recalls a favourite quote from Ted Turner of CNN that goes – “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.

Rule no.5 – Don’t just take! Give back to change the world.

We all know at the end we will be judged not by what we have made but by what we have given.

Like a true American patriot Arnold proudly reminds us that everything he has achieved he has achieved because of America. An immigrant with big dreams working hard against the odds and climbing to the very top. As I write I think this could be the movie trailer slogan for the film about his life. In his speech he remarks about the great work achieved by his father in law, Robert Sargent Shriver, and quotes the Yale commencement speech, “Tear down that mirror in front of you and see the millions of people who need your help.” This was his inspiration to make a difference with philanthropic work such as promoting health and fitness throughout America alongside the George Bush Snr administration. Then there are the after-school programs and work with the Special Olympics – all of which he continues to champion. However, in 2003 he wanted to do more so he abandoned his movie career and ran for Governor of California. “Those 7 years were the most exciting, the most rewarding and the most gratifying of my life,” he reminisces.

Arnold believes that, “we must serve a cause that is greater than ourselves.” You might ask how does this make you more successful? Well, it doesn’t. From what I understood of Arnold’s speech, that’s not the point. If you are lucky enough to be successful then you are lucky enough to leave a legacy and decide what that legacy should be. Take Arnold’s green initiatives, some of the biggest achievements of his life, but certainly during his term as Governor of California. Like his other causes this is one he refuses to let go and is continuing to fight the good fight through the Regions20 organization and the Schwarzenegger Institute at the University of Southern California. Arnold signs off with the audience in raptures as he sums up the motivation behind his environmental and social crusades with the inspiring words from Mikhail Gorbachev: “If not me, who? If not now, when?

5 rules to success.
5 rules to a better, more fulfilling life.
5 rules to change the world.

So what are you waiting for?


The Q&A session included some great insight that backs up Arnold’s advice…

…on safety nets and having a plan B.

“So many times people say to me, ‘Well if this doesn’t work, what are you falling back to, do you have a plan laid out for failure?’” When you read the words, doesn’t it seem odd? Who would plan to fail? As Arnold points out, if there is no plan B then plan A must work. If there is no safety net then you better not bloody fall. If failure is not an option then all your focus will be on succeeding.

“The climb in life and the struggle to get there is really the most important thing. There will always be a winner and loser in things but the difference between the two is that the winner always gets up.”

…on monetising opportunities and the real-estate business.

After making money working hard in the construction business he invested $37,000 in a 6-unit apartment house, trading it in for bigger and bigger units until he had several 100-unit apartment buildings.

“I wanted to go and build a career and be a leading man and for that I really needed to say no to a lot of parts that were offered to me. I could have only done this because I was financially independent and I had made money in real estate.”

So it was all part of the vision, he just happened to become a millionaire before he got there. Nice.

…on finding people to share your vision.

If acting agents brought him roles that were too small or insignificant he would just say no. He is greeted with laughter and a round of applause from the audience when he says, “It was the word ‘Starring’, I wanted people to get used to that word, ‘Starring’.” However, there is a serious point here. If you promote yourself as a teacher that is what people will think you are. If you tell people you are shy they will treat you as such. Arnold told people he wanted the starring role because he wanted to be the leading man. The message – brand yourself positively.

…on becoming the President of the USA.

“I would never work on changing the constitution because it would be self-serving and that doesn’t go down well in America.” The constitution will probably be changed at some point in the future because it is very old. “It’s not something I will dwell on because you have to understand that everything that I have accomplished in life is because of America, because America gave me the opportunities, so I’m not going to complain about the one thing that I can’t do.”

Mr Universe. Mr Olympia. The Terminator. The Last Action Hero. Governor Schwarzenegger. Arnie! Arnold Schwarzenegger goes by many names and has played many roles: bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, philanthropist and politician. As well as being a multiple champion bodybuilder, Governor of the 8th largest economy in the world and the most well known movie star on the planet, Governor Schwarzenegger has created The Schwarzenegger Institute at USC to find solutions to global environmental issues.



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