Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography has been a revelation to read. I picked it up from our local library as something of a lottery choice, feeling (strangely) uninspired at what was on the shelves at the time. I was aware that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was on order for me and felt somewhat daunted at the impending reading of it. So, I thought I was entitled to some light reading ahead of tackling Ayn Rand's rather dystopian magnum opus …
"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." ~ Ayn Rand.
Schwarzenegger's autobiography is itself also a rather substantial body of work (no pun intended). However, it is utterly compelling reading and dozens of pages whizzed by at every sitting.
Like many of you I am sure, I have read many (soon forgotten) books on management, business, self-help, etc; most are - at best - anodyne and (in truth) detached from reality. Sterile, formulaic, awash with cliches and template-driven, they leave one feeling empty afterwards. To waste one’s time watching a dumb TV show is one thing, but to waste one’s time reading a book that is ultimately disappointing (namely, that doesn’t entertain and/or inform) seems especially cruel.
However, you won’t have this feeling if you read Total Recall. Schwarzenegger’s story is a remarkable one: sure, I expected it to be interesting (how the hell does someone from a rural part of Austria become Mr Universe, a part of the Kennedy dynasty, a global film superstar, and Governor of California?).
"The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me." ~ Ayn Rand.
Truth be told, the way he describes his remarkable life and his mental-approach, it’s pretty easy: focus, and lots of self-belief. Remarkable levels of it, admittedly, along with a total dedication to whatever phase of his life he was in at that time. If one wishes to better understand the mind of someone with utter commitment to a plan succeeding, read this book - in this case the business plan was his own personal development: reaching his own goals and being the best at whatever he participated in. To combine such a mental (the physical element was a given) strength but retain a sense of humility and self-depraction is very rare and Arnie carries this off perfectly. It’s clearly a sincere memoir (this is not an affected charm) - it’s also very funny, on many occasions.
"What’s fascinating is, people in Washington would rather spend time in Hollywood, and people in Hollywood would rather spend time in Washington." ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger.
His voice and personality comes across on every page (there are many wonderful anecdotes) whether it’s describing the intense training regime of bodybuilding and the surreal world of such competitions, learning the acting profession and how the Hollywood system works, or his early forays into business/politics, his focus and curiosity/desire (passion!) to learn - and be the very best - is utterly captivating. Whatever he accomplishes is not (one feels) achieved in a cynical, calculated way - it’s been done with transparency and commitment, driven by a desire to learn and be the best at what he’s involved with at that time. Being British I am agnostic to USA politics and whilst some of you may be very partisan regarding this, I wouldn’t let that put you off. He’s a man, not a politician.
"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future." ~ John F. Kennedy.
It’s a very human story of someone so successful, across so many disciplines. More engaging than, for example, the story of someone like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Of course, we are all different, but people who achieve such levels of success do have the common denominators of all-consuming determination, focus and self-belief that most of us lack, if we soul-search hard enough.
"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." ~ Winston Churchill.
Additionally, as an example of nature versus nurture dictating who we are and what we can be it is certainly thought-provoking.
"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength." ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So, I recommend you put aside your management/business/self-help books and read this wonderful autobiography. It’s that rare thing: inspirational.