He dived into everything head first
He knew there was no time to waste dwindling on success or pondering what to do next. As soon as he was doing something he enjoyed and could see himself succeeding in, he took action immediately:
‘I make decisions very quickly, I don’t ask many people for opinions, and I don’t want to think too many times about the same thing. I want to move on.’
This urgency to do took him into many different fields, all of which he rose to the top in, thanks to his work ethic. In fact, he explained why he always dived into anything he did.
‘You can’t overthink anything. There are always negatives. The more you know, the less you tend to do something. If I had known everything about real estate, movies, and bodybuilding, I wouldn’t have gone into them.’
You see, pondering and analyzing are a waste of time – they only cause confusion and stress. It’s better to take a leap of faith and go all in, than to go in half-heartedly.
He found the top dogs in the industry
Each time he dove into a new field of interest, he magnetized towards the top people in that industry. When he started bodybuilding, he moved to Graz where Kurt Manzel and other top Austrian bodybuilders were located, and he trained with them.
When he took an interest in real estate, he found a real estate mogul names Olga Asat who took him under her wing, showing him every building in town, informing him of all the local real estate deals, and introducing him to bankers and landlords.
When he wanted to learn about acting, business and politics, he ‘got to know as many people as I could who were really good at it.’ He started going to a place called the Regency club, a retreat for LA’s business elite. Describing his early encounters with famous comedy actors such as Milton Berle, he explained they’d ‘smoke stogies while I asked him a thousand questions about comedy.’
This eagerness to learn from the top professionals fast tracked his progress in every field he went into. He wouldn’t just learn from them; he would study and copy them. On Reg Park, he explained ‘I studied Reg at a bunch of shows… I said to myself “this is what you’ve got to do.”’ He went on to win the title of Mr Universe that Park had previously held just a year after meeting him.
Turning liabilities into assets
Most people, especially in the gym, focus on their strong points and ignore their weaknesses, due to fear of harming their ego. Arnie, however, has always been relentless with exposing his weaknesses and turning them into strengths:
‘I’d isolate a body part that I thought was weak and give it 30-40 minutes of my full attention.’ – He even went as far as covering up his strong points like his biceps and exposing his weaknesses such as his calves when out in public, to drive him further to work on them.
He did the same in all walks of life: ‘I made it a rule to only date American girls’ – this was to improve his English speaking. His ability to face and endure his fears makes him unstoppable in whatever he does.
Finding opportunity in seemingly negative situations
Every situation that most people would deem negative, Arnie found positives in. This way, he was always progressing. During his army days, when training to drive tanks, he says ‘I was always soaked with sweat; it was a great way to lose fat.’ When he was forced to climb through his tank fifty times after almost crashing it, he said ‘the guy could have thrown me in jail for a week, but I must admit this was a more effective punishment.’
He did the same in business terms, too. When an earthquake hit in 1971, he and Franco Columbo took it as an opportunity to get tons of new jobs with their construction business.
Even when he became more of a celebrity, he turned his funny name, accent and body size into assets. Rather than being shunned as a freak, he became positively known for his quirks.
He went overkill on everything he did. And I mean that in a good way. To build his weak points in the gym, he would do hundreds of reps every single day of that particular muscle: he did twenty sets of calve raises daily when he first went to America and hundreds upon hundreds of sit ups to catch up with his competitors.
When promoting his first book, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, he shocked his publisher by exclaiming ‘we’re going to go to thirty cities, and we’re going to do it in thirty days.’
Perhaps this 10X work ethic came from a paradime shift he had with Reg Park: ‘He trained his calves every day, not just three times a week, and with a mind-blowing amount of weight. I was proud that I’d worked up to calf raises with three hundred pounds, but Reg had a cable system that let him apply one thousand.’ From that day on, he knew that 100% effort had to be applied to anything otherwise it would be a waste of time. No more half measures.
Here’s a few bonus tips related to his work ethic.
- NO EXCUSES: He did what he had to do no matter what the circumstance. For example, he would break into the gym in Graz on the weekends when it was shut and work out in the freezing cold so he didn’t miss a single day. Furthermore, for his first bodybuilding competition, he broke out of his army base.
- Toughened up from an early age: to build upon the self-discipline instilled by his father, the army taught him even more. ‘It taught me that something that seems impossible at the start can be achieved.’ ‘Found out that nights without sleep don’t mean you can’t perform at a high level the next day and that days without food don’t mean you’ll starve.’
- He turned pain/discomfort into joy by visualizing getting closer to his goals as he did every rep and every set. He grew to love the pain and love the hustle: “I literally hated having to sleep.’
- If someone else can do it, so can he. On the Pope: ‘He was known for getting up at five in the morning and reading newspapers in six different languages and doing two hundred push-ups and three hundred sit-ups…If that guy can do it, I’ve got to get up even earlier!’ – This rationalisation of seemingly impossible feats seems to fuel his fire whenever he sets out on a new mission.
‘You’ll have plenty of time to rest when you’re in the grave. Live a risky and spicy life and like Eleanor Roosevelt said, every day so something that scares you. We should all stay hungry!’ – Arnold Schwarzenegger