“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100%.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
A few days ago I started reading Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder and I wasn’t able to put it down. This is one of those books that I had been meaning to read for years, but never really got around to it. I wish I had read it sooner.
The book is split into 2 parts. The first half is a biography of his life up until right before his movie career started and the second half is a training and diet program that he created. I’m only going to be focusing on the first half of the book in this article.
Growing up, Arnold was one of my childhood heroes. I always thought his story of conquering the bodybuilding world and then coming to America and conquering Hollywood was very inspiring. I didn’t know the half of the the story though, until now.
His story really is incredible and I’m going to share some of the major takeaway messages that stood out to me in his book.
Positive Mental Attitude
The one thing that Arnold mentions over and over and over from cover to cover is the importance of positive mental attitude.
By now, we’ve all heard this a million times. However, he doesn’t see it as a tired cliche – he credits his success to his positive mindset.
Arnold stresses the necessity of avoiding negative people and environments to keep yourself in a consistent positive mental state.
When he moved from his small hometown in Austria to Munich he noticed that along with a bigger city came bigger dreams and bigger ideas. Everyone wasn’t content with being average.
Positive thinking played a huge role in Arnold’s training and competing. As soon as a negative thought about lifting a heavy weight or winning a competition enters the mind, you have already admitted defeat. For every competition he lost he recalls the exact moment where he admitted defeat in his mind.
This is something I’ve noticed in my own life. Whenever I have truly believed in myself, 100%, in any given situation I have always succeeded. However, I have rarely ever doubted myself and still succeeded. This goes for everything such as lifting weights, getting a girl I wanted, earning money, etc.
While I have always been a positive person overall, I let doubt creep into my mind way too often when I was younger. One of the best things about Arnold is that he realized at a very young age the importance of controlling your mental state and how that translates to real life success.
Taking the positive attitude even further, Arnold is very adamant about the value of having a life vision.
Not only is having a clear vision important, but Arnold is a big proponent of visualization. He would always prepare for each workout by visualizing himself completing his lifts successfully. He did this same practice before bodybuilding competitions as well. He pictured himself beating all of the competition and winning over the crowd.
To have a clear vision you need to be explicit about what it is you want and where you see yourself going. Arnold wanted to be the best built man in the world. He didn’t want to be in the top 10 or the best in Europe – the best in the world.
Of course, having a vision is only the start. You still have to put in the work, which he did, but I’ll get to that later.
Do What You Enjoy
Arnold put his goals first, but he still had fun.
When your life is devoted to something you really enjoy, you can always find ways to have fun.
He told stories of going to the lake with his friends with his friends and bringing along some weights and beer. They would drink and lift until finally they were too drunk to lift anymore. Then they would cook out and crack jokes. Sure this isn’t the best way to train, but the point is that he found a way to have fun every now and then to break the monotony.
Arnold was addicted to the feeling of training. People always like to quote his infamous line in Pumping Iron where he compares the feeling of the pump from lifting to sex:
“It’s as satisfying to me as, uh, cuming is, you know? As, ah, having sex with a woman and cuming. And so can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like, uh, getting the feeling of cuming in a gym, I’m getting the feeling of cuming at home, I’m getting the feeling of cuming backstage when I pump up, when I pose in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling, so I am cuming day and night. I mean, it’s terrific. Right? So you know, I am in heaven.”
Those are the words of a man who enjoys his craft. Does your job make you feel that way?
Put in the Work
I know steroids don’t do all the work and bodybuilders have to work very hard for their physiques, but I had no idea what it really took.
Training was a full time job for Arnold when he was building his body. He would train 4-6 hours a day for 6 days a week. He developed a split routine that was copied many times over where he trained twice a day.
That kind of training puts most workouts to shame. I’m typically only in the gym for an hour to hour and a half at the most.
One of the biggest problems Arnold faced early on was finding ways to afford to live, since he wasn’t getting paid to train all of those hours.
Another thing about Arnold was that he wanted to work hard. When he decided he wanted to accomplish something, he would look at how he could spend the next year doing so. Most people want quick results and give up too soon. Arnold always planned to put in a lot of time and hard work. The ironic part about that is that he was able to achieve results significantly quicker than the other bodybuilders in the world at his time, despite always looking to work hard over a longer period of time.
He had some help along the way, no doubt, but he never shy’d away from putting the work in.
Always Be Learning
One of my favorite qualities in any person is the attitude that you should never stop learning.
This is something I’ve always believed myself and ALL of the extremely successful people I’ve personally met have said this.
Life is going to hand over everything to you. You have to earn it. You have to find a way to earn a living, to attract women (or men), to find friends and business partners, and to take advantage of every opportunity that shows up along the way. Since you are the common denominator in all of those scenarios, it makes sense that investing in yourself is the best investment you could possibly make, hands down.
Arnold was constantly trying to learn more. He wanted to travel to America to train with the best bodybuilders in the world so he could learn from them. He analyzed how he felt after every workout to decide which exercises worked best and which didn’t. He asked for criticism from judges, competitors and friends on how he could improve his physique and posing routine. He even worked with a ballet instructor to learn how to be more graceful and improve his showmanship on stage.
Putting in the work is one thing, but you can’t ever let yourself get satisfied with a certain level of skill or knowledge. There is always more to attain.
Be Honest With Yourself
One quality that gets overlooked too much in personal development communities is brutal self honesty. I think people see it as a negative thing, but I disagree.
In fact, this is one of the 10 Habits of Self Mastery that I wrote about. That’s how important I feel it is.
Arnold agrees with me, retroactively. He felt that many bodybuilders would avoid their weak points or have a hard time admitting their weaknesses to themselves. He always wanted to know his weaknesses and was brutally honest with himself about them. He felt that this was the best way to motivate himself to improve them.
This is how I feel about brutal self honesty as well. No one is perfect, of course. That doesn’t mean we can’t strive for perfection. Even though we will always fall short of perfection, that doesn’t mean the end result won’t be GREAT.
The way I look at is like this:
- Our weaknesses hold us back
- We might deny them, but everyone else notices
- Eventually we will decide to improve them (unless we just don’t care to improve)
- We might as well not waste any more time and address them now
It’s not a negative quality, it’s an empowering quality. It shows that you respect yourself enough to be honest with yourself, despite maybe getting your poor wittle feelings hurt.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has lived a life worth studying.
His story is inspiring and there are lessons we can all learn, even if you’ve never stepped foot into a gym. The ideas that Arnold promotes carryover to any career or hobby.
Turns out all that cheesy positive thinking and visualization practice works after all, when applied with hard work of course.
“The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Until Next Time,
P.S. You can buy the book here if you’re interested.
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What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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