“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,
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