1. TRUST YOURSELF
What is most important is that you have to dig deep down and ask yourself: Who do you want to be? Something burned inside me. I wanted to be different; I was determined to be unique. I was driven to think big and to dream big. Everyone else thought that I was crazy. But I didn’t care. I wanted to be the greatest bodybuilder—not just win one competition, but be the greatest bodybuilder of all time. And use that to come to America, and use that to go into the movies and make millions of dollars. I wanted to become a champion; I was on a mission.
I had total trust and confidence in that decision, and I went after it. Have trust in yourself, craft your own vision, and go after it, no matter what anyone else thinks. Once you have a strong enough vision, you can work like hell to achieve it.
2. BREAK SOME RULES
We have so many rules in life about everything. I say break the rules. Not the law, but break the rules. It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules. You have to think outside the box. That’s what I believe. After all, what is the point of being on this earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble?
The only way that I ever got anyplace was by breaking some of the rules. After all, I remember that, after I was finished with my bodybuilding career, I wanted to get into acting, and I wanted to be a star in films. You can imagine what the agents said when I went to meet them. Everyone had the same line, that it can’t be done, the rules are different here. But I studied acting, and I got acting roles, and when I got Conan the Barbarian, the director said, “If we wouldn’t have Schwarzenegger, we would have to build one.”
Now, think about it. The things that the agents said would be totally a detriment and would make it impossible for me to get a job all of a sudden became an asset for me, all of those things, my accent, my body, and everything.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL
When you fail, you can always get back up. You have to take risks. Without taking risks, you can never break a record. If you have a 400-pound bench press and want to bench 420, but you’re afraid to fail, then you’ll never even try the 420. Relax! Don’t be afraid.
A failure is someone who falls and never gets back up. A winner falls, gets up, dusts himself off, and keeps moving. Don’t be afraid to fail! Everyone around the world fails. Don’t be afraid to attack that goal. You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure, or you will never push yourself. Keep pushing because you believe in yourself and in your vision and you know that it is the right thing to do, and success will come.
4. IGNORE THE NAYSAYERS
How many times have you heard that you can’t do this and you can’t do that and it’s never been done before? I hear this all the time. As a matter of fact, I love it when someone says that no one has ever done this before, because then when I do it that means that I’m the first one that has done it. Pay no attention to the people that say it can’t be done.
If I had listened to these people, I would still be in Austria, up in the Alps, yodeling. When I was 15 years old and told people I wanted to be a champion bodybuilder, right away they told me it wouldn’t happen. “It’s impossible,” they said. “It’s an American sport. In Austria, you can be a skiing, cycling, or maybe track and field champion, but you cannot be a bodybuilding champion.” I didn’t listen to them. The rest is history.
5. WORK LIKE HELL
Mohammed Ali, one of my great heroes, had a great line in the ’70s when he was asked, “How many sit-ups do you do?” He said, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.”
That’s what makes you a champion. And that’s the way it is with everything. No pain, no gain. So many of those lessons that I apply in life I have learned from sports, let me tell you, and especially that one. And let me tell you, it is important to have fun in life, of course. But when you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that.
Now, if you want to coast through life, don’t pay attention to any of those rules. But if you want to win, there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work. None of my rules of success will work unless you do.
6. GIVE SOMETHING BACK
We are not where we are today without any help. We all get help along the way. We’ve never done it by ourselves. Everything I have done—show business, politics, money I made, success in business and bodybuilding, my foundation, environmental organizations—it’s always with a lot of help from a lot of people.
Since they helped me, I should now help others. This is why I have after-school programs, why I help with Special Olympics, and why I care about environmental issues. I want to clean up the environment and create a green-energy future so our world is a better place than when we inherited it.
We have to help people. There are millions of children who need help, who come from families that don’t have enough money or don’t read well. Help them learn to read! Encourage people to exercise! Join an organization where you can give a kid a hug, hang a medal around their neck and say, “You’re a winner! We believe in you. We love you. We care for you.” Do something for your community, your state, your country. Give something back.
(Opening photo: Venice, California / Big Cities. Big Lights.)