The Surprising Truth Behind Arnold’s Success and The 5 things He Taught Me

During the fall of my eight grade year, I looked at my skinny body in the mirror and realized something needed to change. Like many people I was not happy with my appearance and wanted to do something about it.

I confessed to my mom and she offered to get a book from the library about “building muscle”. A day later she returned with a book that changed the course of my life The Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

In retrospect, she could not have chosen a better book (thanks Mom!).

I was hooked within the first few pages. A new vision of bodily perfection materialized in my mind.

I told myself: “THIS is what I’m going to look like!

This is what I wanted to look like.

My copy of the book.

In that moment, I vowed to myself that I would do whatever it takes to get there. The goal was set in my mind and I went off to work.

Growing Up and Learning from the Best

Over the years I have followed Arnold’s career and watched him go from Bodybuilder, to movie star, to Governator and back to movie star. Regardless of your political stance you have to respect what the man has achieved.

Following his career has taught me many things about what is required to achieve success.

Here’s what Arnold taught me about success:

1. The Power of Visualization:

Growing up in a lower middle class Austrian village where most people were content to become blue collar workers working in the police force or military, Arnold dreamed bigger.

In his mind, his path to success involved coming to America, being the most muscular man in the world and eventually becoming an actor.

Think about it… A boy from a small village dreams of becoming the best in the world and everyone tells him he’s crazy. He visualizes his achievements to the point where they become a reality. He then executes and achieves more success than anyone could imagine.

Ask Yourself: Where have you been setting your sights too low and how can you use visualization to achieve your big dreams?

Visualization Resource: Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life

2. Seek Out Great Mentors

In his early 20’s Arnold had a massive upper body and a relatively weak lower body. His calf muscles needed a lot of development if he was going to compete on the Olympia stage. It was the one thing holding him back from achieving the perfect physique.

Arnold needed help.

So, he visited his idol Reg Park, living in South Africa. Reg had the life Arnold wanted. He was an actor, model, Olympia bodybuilder and most importantly he had developed extremely impressive legs.

His first day while visiting Reg, they woke up at 5:00 AM and starting doing calf raises with 1,000 lbs (Arnold had previously only done 300 lbs).

1,000 lbs!

The sheer stress of 1,000 lb calf raises created the stimulus that he needed to continue to grow. Every day for a year Arnold did calf raises (sometimes as many as 10-15 sets each day). Within a year he added over 1″ to his calves.

This was achieved by seeking out the best and learning from them. If you want great mentors in your life, seek them out and become the type of person that you would want to mentor.

Ask Yourself: How can I surround myself with people 10, 20, 30 and 40 years ahead of where I am at today?


Reg and Arnold back in the day. Image from

3. Rewire Your Brain to Love hard work

In his book Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story we learn that before breakfast as a child, Arnold’s dad had him do push-ups and sit-ups in order to “earn” his breakfast. If you know anything about habit formation you understand that his dad was wiring Arnold’s brain to push through the temporary pain and love hard work.

This work ethic followed him during his entire career in bodybuilding, acting, business and politics. While most people would have burned out, he kept going.

For more information about wiring your CNS to love hard work, check out: Tony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within.

4. It’s All Reps and Sets

Arnold taught me that success comes from staying present to the moment and focusing on the task in front of you. From there, it’s all Reps and Sets.

Bodybuilding workouts can be brutal, your goal when bodybuilding is to break down as much muscle tissue as possible and then rebuild it bigger and stronger. These workouts can last 2-3 hours and can cause deep intense pain. You have to learn to push through the pain barrier and stay focused on each rep.

It’s the only way you get through it.

Arnold understood that success in any arena required thousands of hours of thankless and tireless work. He stayed patient, present and focused.

Apply this same mentality to master any area of your life.

arnold-schwarzenegger-Ben Austin Blog

5. Go Big and Aim for the Top

In 2004 Arnold became the governor of California despite having never held any political office before. Think about it… How many other elected went straight from no experience to governor of a major state like California?

That takes major balls.

Ask yourself: Where have you been aiming too low? and what will happen if I set my sights higher?

Recommended Resource: Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World


Who Are You Going To Follow?

Arnold jump-started his success by following the framework laid out his mentor Reg Park. Copying what Reg did launched Arnold into super-stardom and took years off his learning curve.

Ask Yourself: Who can I model my success story after?

Find people way smarter, more experienced, more accomplished and better than you. Read their stories, listen to them talk, watch their videos and download their knowledge into your head.

Doing so is the only way to get ahead.

In the comment’s section below… Who are you going to model your success story after?

About Ben Austin

My friends call me the illegitimate love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Nye. I’m a bodybuilding-yogi-science loving-foodie bringing an engineering approach to lifestyle design. Join me as I analyze the systems that go into optimal mental and physical performance and explore the stories and tactics of people who set the standard for the rest of us.
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