“If I had listened to the naysayers, I would still be in the Austrian Alps yodeling.”
When you have the courage to follow your dreams, you’re going to attract a lot of attention—and criticism. Yet, champions in any industry know how to block out the mindless chatter and tap into the success frequency. In doing so, they ensure their actions align with their goals—regardless of how unlikely those goals seem—and inch ever closer to victory.
Enter Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Born in Austria, a country not known for its film stars, teenage Schwarzenegger set his sights on becoming the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived—a lofty goal in itself. While people offered their judgement and criticism, the aspiring bodybuilder put in the work … day-in, day-out. There was only one opinion that mattered: his own.
At 15 years old, Schwarzenegger first started weight training. Using visualization techniques, he imagined himself on stage lifting the trophy over his head as he won the competition year after year, feeling every associated emotion. Sure enough, just five years later, the 20-year-old Austrian was crowned Mr Universe—the youngest ever winner in the competition’s history. He would go on to win the title five times, and the Mr Olympia title a record seven times.
He then turned his attention to acting. “I wanted to be a film star, but everyone told me it couldn’t be done,” Schwarzenegger reflects. “They said I had a huge, monstrous body that was too developed, and had a strange accent that didn’t fit into the movies.”
But the important lesson from his bodybuilding career was that he could do whatever he set his mind to, regardless of other people thought and no matter how difficult the odds. Someone else’s ill-informed opinion of his success did not need to be his reality.
To give his new dream the best chance of success, Schwarzenegger worked harder than ever. He used the resources at his disposal—unwavering self-belief, a ferocious work ethic and extraordinary personal sacrifice—to give himself the best chance of success, leaving no stone unturned in his preparation. “I didn’t listen to other people,” Schwarzenegger remembers. “I was convinced I could do it, which is all that mattered.”
Contrary to his intimidating physical presence, the Schwarzenegger difference is mastery of the mental game. He didn’t fear hard work; he relished it.
When his big break arrived in the form of Conan the Barbarian, the bodybuilder-turned-aspiring-actor was a perfect fit. Not only did he have the physical appearance, but his lack of acting experience was actually considered an advantage by director John Milius who didn’t want the cast bringing any preconceived notions to filming. In fact, Milius was even quoted as saying, “If we didn’t have Schwarzenegger, we would have to build one.”
The success of Conan led other film roles, including The Terminator, a 1984 film by emerging director James Cameron who said, “Somehow, even his accent worked … It had a strange synthesized quality, like they hadn't gotten the voice thing quite worked out.”
The line “I’ll be back” became one of the most famous lines in movie history, all because of his foreign accent.
Today, Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most recognized people on the planet. He parlayed a successful bodybuilding career to prominence in entertainment, philanthropy, business, and even as a two-term Governor of California.
“If I had listened to the naysayers, I would still be in the Austrian Alps yodeling,” Schwarzenegger says of the power of self-belief. “Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks. Believe in yourself and your vision, and success will come. Never listen if someone says you can’t do something.”
Another important lesson from Schwarzenegger is the importance of thought before action. Regardless of the goal—whether it’s fitness, investing, or reading business books—think about why you’re doing it and what success looks like. Use that goal as motivation—place vivid reminders around your home, your office and anywhere else you spend a lot of time to give you that focus and urgency.
“I had posters all over my bedroom wall so that every night when I got to sleep and every day when I wake up they motivated me. You need that motivation. I always smiled when I was in the gym because I knew exactly what I was chasing. I looked forward to another thousand reps because every rep I did brought me one step closer to turning that vision into reality.”
Now think about your own life—how big have you dared to dream?
Onwards and upwards always,
In case you missed it:
How to Get Rid of Regret
“Everything you seek to achieve, build a believable plan."
In episode two of Win the Day, we spoke about how the right plan is far better than the right promise. After all, you can promise yourself anything you like, but you’ll continue to bounce from failure to failure until you’ve got a detailed plan for success. Purposeful action always trumps talk.
Importantly, the right plan encapsulates remedies for just about every adversity and obstacle you’ll face along the way, keeping you resilient, focused, and giving you the best overall chance of success.
As author of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, I was tasked with interviewing an incredible mix of people from all over the world to tell their stories from hopelessness to success. If you’ve read the book, you’ll notice that a bulletproof plan was a common thread. It got:
A bulletproof plan creates relentless action, bringing superhuman levels of resourcefulness and resilience.
One of the most interesting people I’ve interviewed is Rob Dyrdek. Admittedly, I hadn’t really heard of him before the Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy project, but he’s amassed more than 12 million followers on Facebook and Instagram and appears on major television networks around the world every day. As I researched his extraordinary career, I was amazed at his eclectic cache of achievements and wondered what could possibly be left on his bucket list.
Two years ago, I drove to his penthouse office in Beverly Hills for our interview and could immediately feel the energy of the place. The elevator walls were adorned with his ’99 truths of business’ and the windows offered 360-degree views of one of the most glamorous cities on Earth.
Dyrdek greeted me like an old friend. He walked me into his office and, for the next two-and-a-half hours, shared his remarkable philosophy for life, success and business.
I was blown away, not just by how generous he was with his time and how candidly he shared his story with me, but how intelligent and insightful he was—a contrast to how many would perceive him, I’m sure.
It’s safe to say that I’m a fan.
Growing up in Ohio as an ordinary kid, it was a chance encounter that changed Dyrdek’s life forever. It happened at a skateboard tournament, where the 11-year-old followed around one of the pro skaters, Neil Blender, who was walking to his limousine. As Neil opened the door to hop in, Rob blurted out, “Hey, I don’t think there’s enough room for you and that board.”
“You know what? You’re right!” the pro skater replied, handing his board to the young fan.
At the time, Dyrdek had never even been on a skateboard, but this extraordinary course of events taught him one of the universe’s most valuable lessons: Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.
He became completely enamored with his new craft, practicing for hours on end while harboring dreams of turning pro. Dyrdek eventually moved to California and began shaping the culture of the burgeoning sport, both on the board and as a clothing designer.
But he wasn’t satisfied.
Fearless, he tried his hand at all he could, raking in millions of dollars, but the lofty highs were tempered by deep lows. To restore balance and stay focused on the bigger picture, Dyrdek began reading books like Think and Grow Rich and resumed asking for what he wanted, as he had done as a kid.
“What’s grounded me is the relentless pursuit of growth and having a bigger picture for what I’m meant to accomplish,” Dyrdek told me during our interview. “It’s knowing that these stages are just part of the process, and not a final destination.”
A lot of the unhappiness and frustration in our own lives stems from the contradiction between where we are now and where we think we should be, but Dyrdek reminds us that there’s lessons to be learnt in every situation and that your current circumstances never have to be your final destination. Trust the process.
Being crystal clear on what he wanted gave Dyrdek the fuel and inspiration to keep moving forward, even after his athletic shelf life was expiring. “As I’ve continued to level-up, I stop and decide what the answer is, and then build my life backwards from there,” Dyrdek noted.
That level-up came in the form of an unlikely career in entertainment, where he controls the full gamut: producing and hosting television shows, planning their distribution, and showcasing brands. To turbocharge promotion, he took the reins (quite literally in this case)—putting his body on the line and setting 21 Guinness World Records.
However, for all his success, Dyrdek’s crowning glory is the Dyrdek Machine, a venture capital company that invests in exciting startups with high growth potential. Aside from fulfilling the 99 truths that adorn the elevator well of his penthouse office in Beverly Hills, the people who most catch his attention are those who embody two simple attributes: zest for life and a bulletproof plan.
Many would argue that Rob Dyrdek has no right to be a major player in the entertainment world. After all, how many former skateboarders—or professional athletes in general—can you name who forged careers at that level of success after calling time on their sporting pursuits?
Despite what the haters say, being dedicated to a detailed growth plan has been the foundation of Dyrdek’s long-term success and why it would be unwise to bet against anything he does. Today, he owns companies in seemingly every industry, from virtual reality and luxury goods to clothing and plant-based foods.
To maintain harmony in his life, the 44-year-old focuses on three things: working on ventures he believes in, committing to mastery of the business world, and creating a platform of love for his young family. It’s this life plan—what he calls his ‘rhythm of existence playbook’—that maintains Dyrdek’s infinite well of energy and is what he regards as his greatest accomplishment:
“It’s creating your entire universe about you being at your best, living with energy each day, and just being happy. That’s the ultimate freedom. I have a clear vision for literally everything in my life and I think about it every day.”
Interestingly, Rob Dyrdek reads Think and Grow Rich every year because he recognizes that each time you read it, and have more life experience to bring, you don’t notice something new in the book—you notice something new in yourself:
“The foundational principles of achievement, you can only digest based off experience. When you begin to manifest based off applying these principles, and you begin to hone that, you read it [Think and Grow Rich] again and it’s like, “Wow, this really is what I’m doing!” I think self-help books should be read every year just to remind yourself. There’s no way to fully apply something that complex until you’ve had achievements to help you believe it.”
To conclude, let’s revisit his quote at the top of this newsletter: “Everything you seek to achieve, build a believable plan.” Think about the most important goals in your life and make sure you’ve prepared detailed plans to make them a reality. (Unsure of how to do that? Watch this issue’s video episode.)
Onwards and upwards always,
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”
The two most defining self-help books of the last century are, arguably, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Remarkably, they were released within one year of each other: Carnegie’s in 1936 and Hill’s in 1937. Both dominate ‘best book’ lists and continue to forge lasting legacies around the world, guiding innovators and changemakers from generation to generation.
These two books reinforce the timeless principles of success, complementing each other with practical tips and strategies that can be applied by anyone, irrespective of circumstances, such as:
Carnegie understood, better than most, how powerful the knowledge of high performers strategies can be in one’s own self-development. Through thousands of hours of purposeful practice, he became a revered orator and began teaching others how they could learn people skills that would create enormous success in business. His lessons catapulted aimless but ambitious people into titans of industry.
Two crucial components of his philosophy were that:
“In my office, you will not see the degree I have from the University of Nebraska, or the master’s degree I have from Columbia University, but you’ll see the certificate I got from the Dale Carnegie course.”
Despite passing away in 1955, Dale Carnegie is regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on personal development, leadership and communication. On 24 November, Carnegie would’ve been 130 years old—you can enjoy some of his most famous quotes below.
May his legacy live on through the ongoing pursuit of our potential and thinking the best of others.
Onwards and upwards always,
In case you missed it: ‘The Greatest Lessons and Best Quotes from Napoleon Hill.’
“Failure is not trying.”
Simply continuing is one of the surest paths to success, just as quitting is one of the surest paths to permanent defeat. Winners look for any reason to advance and in doing so bring themselves ever closer to glory.
An excerpt from the ethos of one of the world’s preeminent special forces teams, the US Navy SEALs, embodies the principle of persistence:
“If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
On the battlefield—where stakes are highest—well-constructed plans are carried out by people obsessed with mission success and who refuse to give in, no matter what circumstances arise. There are no valid excuses for permanent defeat, and the best performing individuals on the planet embody this to perfection. Enter Sara Blakely.
Before she became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world, the fashion icon was accustomed to failure. One of her early jobs was playing a Chipmunk character at Disney World, but she threw in the towel after three months. “Perhaps I should be a lawyer like my father,” she thought, but failed the LSAT—twice. Blakely then started selling fax machines during the day, while performing standup comedy shows at night.
Two years in, she abandoned the comedy routine, but persisted with the sales job. Selling fax machines for seven years—and dealing with rejection on a daily basis—proved an uncanny battleground for what would happen later in her career, not that she could ever have imagined what was possible. As Steve Jobs says, “You can only connect the dots looking back.”
One day, on a whim, Blakely cut the feet off a regular pair of pantyhose to provide some respite from the unbearable heat and humidity of a Florida summer. Looking to buy a professional version, she explored the market and found that nothing like she wanted existed. Instead, she decided to do it herself. Blakely began researching fabrics and designing products herself, coming up with the cheeky business name Spanks (now Spanx). Her slogan: Don’t worry, we’ve got your butt covered.
Without any background in fashion, manufacturing or business, aside from selling telecommunications equipment, Blakely burned the ships and went all-in to bring her dream to life. Starting an entire business from scratch meant there was a lot that needed to be done, with the most pressing task being tracking down a manufacturer who could turn the prototype of her unique shapewear garment into something for the mass market.
Through her research, the 29-year-old realized that the bulk of hosiery mills in the US are in North Carolina. She called and called and called, but was rejected time and time again, often not even being able to get the right person at the company on the phone. Dejected but not beaten, she persisted. Blakely decided to take a week off from her full-time job and drive to North Carolina, reasoning that it would be easier to convince them in person. Yet, throughout the entire week, she was again rejected from every mill she approached.
“They always asked the same three questions,” Blakely reflects. “Who are you? Who are you representing? And who are you backed by?”
Her answer to all three questions, ‘Sara Blakely,’ did little to convince the mills she was about to take the fashion world by storm. Despite the short-term failure, she remained obsessed with mission success, and returned home to come up with a different plan to make her dream a reality.
Two weeks later, one of the mill owners phoned to say he had shown the concept to his three daughters who had raved about it. Blakely, without any financial backing, had not only secured a manufacturer but found someone who believed in her idea.
The aspiring entrepreneur continued to work on her business, ignoring all the doubts and excuses, instead choosing to focus on a single reason why she could succeed. A single idea, backed with persistence, made Sara Blakely the youngest self-made female billionaire in history.
Today, the incredible story is taught in business schools around the world. When temporary failure or rejection enters your life, most people quit. But winners—whether special forces, entrepreneurs, athletes or business titans—know how to calibrate their plans and continue toward their goal.
Through the power of persistence, they are able to turn temporary failure into enduring victory.
Onwards and upwards always,
In case you missed it:
“The Greatest Lessons and 65 Best Quotes from Napoleon Hill.”