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The Empire Building of A Young Schwarzenegger

I am currently reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story,” a book with a title as big as the man himself. I’m still in the first part of it, where Schwarzenegger is still establishing his career. I am enjoying it very much, particularly Schwarzenegger’s focus and positivity as he goes about building his empire. He always seems to be in the zone, confidently expecting mountains to move that will help him accomplish his goals.

Here are some passages that I especially like, with some commentary:

  • (42) At age nineteen, Schwarzenegger’s in the Austrian army, but “by spring of 1966, I was beginning to think the army wasn’t necessarily practical for me.” He is already winning bodybuilding competitions, and he sets his sights on bigger things. So he requests a discharge from the army. After months, he get the discharge, incidentally, after a tank accident that he unwittingly caused: (45) “‘Well,’ the officer said with a smile, ‘due to the fact that you are somewhat unsafe around here, we will approve your discharge.'” So he gets what he wants, through a peculiar and funny fashion. It’s interesting to see how he doesn’t let a little thing like being in the army interfere with achieving his goals!
  • (63) While in Munich building up the business at a gym, Arnold interacts with wrestlers, and they “wanted in the worst way to make me a wrestler too, but of course that was not my agenda.” I am struck by how doesn’t let himself get distracted: if someone else wants something for him that he doesn’t, he seems completely clear and uncompromising.
  • (71-2) The strength of his personal vision for himself: “To get to America, first I would have to dominate the European body building scene […] I made sure nothing else interfered. Not recreation, not my job, not travel, not girls, not organizing the Mr. Europe contest. I took time for all these things, of course, but my first priority remained working out a hard four or five hours per day, six days per week.” FYI He is also honest about taking steroids at this point, before they became controversial. You can’t fault honesty.
  • (110) Another example of designing his life around his goals: “Then I planned to go over to London and win the NABBA Mr. Universe again. That would give me, at age twenty-two, four Mr. Universe titles on both sides of the Atlantic, more than anyone ever in the sport […] It would broadcast that the only two bodybuilding champions the world should be looking at were Sergio Oliva and me. That was my goal.” I just love his clear and daring envisioning of his goals.
  • (142) Yet another example of his clarity about his goals, and that he is evidently comfortable saying NO to others, even those who help him: “Weider wanted me to get to the point where I could[…] eventually take over the business. But that was not my goal… Nothing was going to distract me from my goal.”
  • (142) While traveling and getting press, he is envisioning much bigger things happening: “I always saw myself as a citizen of the world […] I figured if the local press was covering me now as a bodybuilder, eventually I would be back as a movie start.”
  • (145) At competitions, Arnold goes up to judges afterwards and asks them to tell him his strengths and weaknesses. This seems very wise, and courageous. It is also a sign of a competitor committed to being the best.
  • (168) He is about to do the TV show with Lucille ball, and he mentions daydreaming about being on TV. I get the feeling that he does this a lot, always envisioning his goals happening in present moment reality and enjoying them. Confident, clear, and eager.
  • (168) I love his interaction with Lucille Ball, who shows him kindness and gives him a big TV show break. She sees his star potential, and says, “I take full credit for this man. He’s going to become a big star.” Clearly this is no accident: he seems to have always seen himself as a future star.

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