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#141 Arnold Schwarzenegger (My Unbelievably True Life Story)
August 23rd, 2020 | E141

What I learned from reading Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger.


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I decided that the best course for independence was to mind my own business and make my own money.

I never felt that I was good enough, strong enough, smart enough. He let me know that there was always room for improvement. A lot of sons would have been crippled by his demands, but instead, the discipline rubbed off on me. I turned it into drive.

I became absolutely convinced that I was special and meant for bigger things. I knew I would be the best at something - although I didn’t know what - and that it would make me famous. 

I never went to a competition to compete. I went to win. Even though I didn’t win every time, that was my mindset. I became a total animal. If you tuned into my thoughts before a competition, you would hear something like: “I deserve that pedestal, I own it, and the sea ought to part for me. Just get out of the fucking way, I’m on a mission. So just step aside and gimme the trophy.” I pictured myself high up on the pedestal, trophy in hand. Everyone else would be standing below. And I would look down.

When you grow up in that kind of harsh environment, you never forget how to withstand physical punishment, even long after the hard times end

I find joy in the gym because every rep and every set is getting me one step closer to my goal

It gave Reg Park’s whole life story, from growing up poor in Leeds, England, to becoming Mr. Universe, getting invited to America as a champion bodybuilder, getting sent to Rome to star as Hercules, and marrying a beauty from South Africa. This story crystallized a new vision for me. I could become another Reg Park. All my dreams suddenly came together and made sense. I refined this vision until it was very specific. I was going to go for the Mr. Universe title; I was going to break records in powerlifting; I was going to Hollywood; I was going to be like Reg Park. The vision became so clear in my mind that I felt like it had to happen. There was no alternative; it was this or nothing.

Lucille Ball gave me advice about Hollywood. “Just remember, when they say, ‘No,’ you hear ‘Yes,’ and act accordingly. Someone says to you, ‘We can’t do this movie,’ you hug him and say, ‘Thank you for believing in me.’ 

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.

It was the fact that I had failed—not my body, but my vision and my drive. I hadn’t done everything in my power to prepare. Thinking this made me furious. “You are still a fucking amateur,” I told myself. I decided I wouldn’t be an amateur ever again. 

That night, despair came crashing in. I was in a foreign country, away from my family, away from my friends, surrounded by strange people in a place where I didn’t speak the language. I ended up crying quietly in the dark for hours. 

I always wrote down my goals. I had to make it very specific so that all those fine intentions were not just floating around. It might seem like I was handcuffing myself by setting such specific goals, but it was the opposite: I found it liberating. Knowing exactly where I wanted to end up freed me totally to improvise how to get there. 

I came away fascinated that a man could be both smart and powerful. 

Going to school, training five hours a day at the gym, working in the construction and mail-order businesses, making appearances, and going to exhibitions—all of it was happening at the same time. Some days stretched from six in the morning until midnight.

Nothing was going to distract me from my goal. No offer, no relationship, nothing

People were always talking about how few performers there are at the top of the ladder, but I was convinced there was room for one more. I felt that, because there was so little room, people got intimidated and felt more comfortable staying on the bottom of the ladder. But, in fact, the more people that think that, the more crowded the bottom of the ladder becomes! Don’t go where it’s crowded. Go where it’s empty. Even though it’s harder to get there, that’s where you belong and where there’s less competition.

Very few actors like to sell. I’d seen the same thing with authors in the book business. The typical attitude seemed to be, “I don’t want to be a whore. I create; I don’t want to shill.” It was a real change when I showed up saying, “Let’s go everywhere because this is good not only for me financially but also good for the public; they get to see a good movie!”

Whenever I finished filming a movie, I felt my job was only half done. Every film had to be nurtured in the marketplace. You can have the greatest movie in the world, but if you don’t get it out there, if people don’t know about it, you have nothing. It’s the same with poetry, with painting, with writing, with inventions. It always blew my mind that some of the greatest artists, from Michelangelo to van Gogh, never sold much because they didn’t know-how. They had to rely on some schmuck - some agent or manager or gallery owner - to do it for them.That wasn’t going to happen to my movies. Same with bodybuilding, same with politics - no matter what I did in life, I was aware that you had to sell it. 

They couldn’t handle working every day. Lazy bastards. I wanted to be rich very quickly

No matter what you do in life, it’s either reps or mileage. If you want to be good at skiing, you have to get out on the slopes all the time. If you play chess, you have to play tens of thousands of games. On the movie set, the only way to act together is to do the reps. If you’ve done the reps, you don’t have to worry.

I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

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