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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Five Rules for A Successful Life

7x Mr. Olympia, A-list actor, 2x governor of California, and a living legend


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Neeramitra Reddy

2 years ago | 7 min read

Arnold Schwarzenegger is arguably one of the most successful humans on the planet. He’s also one of my biggest inspirations in life.

Despite hailing from a small Austrian village and growing up in a poor orthodox family, Arnold would go on to achieve unimaginable success in not one, but multiple fields.

People always ask me, what’s the secret to success?

He would become one of the most successful bodybuilders of all time winning Mr.

Olympia 7 consecutive times, cement his name in Hollywood as one of the most popular action heroes of all time, and not only call a foreign country home but also become the governor of one of its states.

In a clip of his 2009 commencement speech to USC, Arnold says, “People always ask me, what’s the secret to success?” and his response is the following five rules of life.

#1—Trust Yourself and Ignore the Naysayers

Who would’ve thought that an Austrian village boy would go on to achieve unimaginable success, not in one but multiple fields?

He was told by Hollywood that he would never make it big due to his accent, “overly” developed body and “strange” name.

Nobody did, except for the boy himself. It was this trust that made him move to a foreign country without any contacts or money, endure hardships, achieve stellar success, come to call that country his home, and even end up governing a part of it.

And at every point, he was dissuaded.

He was told by Hollywood that he would never make it big due to his accent, “overly” developed body and “strange” name. When he ran for office in California, he was told that he didn’t have any experience and that no one would vote for a foreigner.

But he achieved everything that the naysayers said he couldn’t as he trusted himself. To quote him,

“I knew I was a winner back in the late sixties. I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way — I hope it never will.”

Image by Mathieu Thouvenin on Flickr licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

We have no freaking idea as to what we are truly capable of and the first step to realizing our full potential is trusting ourselves.

A couple of years ago, when I started working out as a skinny fat teenager, I was mocked and dissuaded. But I trusted myself and the process.

Now, the same people ask me for fitness advice and I’ve achieved a physique that I couldn’t have dreamt of even in my wildest dreams back then. As Arnold says,

“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 percent.”

When you start something new, there will always be people that’ll dissuade and mock you. Don’t heed them. Trust yourself and plow ahead.

We have no freaking idea as to what we are truly capable of.

#2 — Break Some Rules

Growing up in a devout and orthodox Catholic family, Arnold was surrounded by a web of strict rules. And he broke these rules from time to time despite his parents never sparing the rod. To quote him,

“My hair was pulled. I was hit with belts. So was the kid next door. It was just the way it was. Many of the children I’ve seen were broken by their parents, which was the German-Austrian mentality.

They didn’t want to create an individual. It was all about conforming. I was one who did not conform, and whose will could not be broken.”

This was not only as a child. After he took bodybuilding seriously, he once went AWOL during mandatory military training to compete and ended up facing a week of imprisonment.

Since our births, rules are imposed upon us and it’s these rules that end up determining most people’s paths in life

Success goes hand in hand with risk-taking. The majority that follows the rules and basks in their safe havens unsuccessful while the few that dare to break rules and take risks are successful.

Since our births, rules are imposed upon us and it’s these rules that end up determining most people’s paths in life — go to school, get good grades, get into a good college, get good grades again, get a high paying job, marry, have kids, work till 60, retire, and repeat the same for your kids.

I’m not saying that such a life is bad. If you love your job, your family, and have ample time for the things you enjoy, it’s a great life. But this is sadly not the case for most as a US survey has found — more than 86% of employees are unhappy with their jobs and lives.

Clearly, following the rules isn’t the path to happiness or success. So break some. Dare to take risks and forge your own path in life.

#3 — Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Arnold has lost many bodybuilding competitions, been rejected in auditions multiple times, and told he’d never make it in Hollywood but he strove on and ended up becoming 7X Mr. Olympia and an A-lister.

Image by TNS Sofres on Flickr licensed with CC BY 2.0

The fear of failure is the fear of success as well.

His success didn’t happen overnight. No success does. It’s just that when we see wild successes, we fail to notice the failures and struggles that paved the way. As basketball legend Michael Jordan said,

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

The fear of failure is real. It’s called Atychiphobia and most of us suffer from it. But overcoming this fear is the key to success. In a sense, the fear of failure is the fear of success as well!

Every failure brings you closer to success but by not trying out of the fear of failure, you stay stagnant. Your dream life is within reach, all it takes is to start and keep moving — trying, failing, and repeating.

Inching closer and closer with every failure.

#4— Work Your Butt Off

One of the major things I’ve realized in life is that — nothing worth having comes easy and anything that comes easy is not worth having.

It’s taken thousands of hours of working out to attain a physique that I am beginning to feel proud of and hundreds of thousands of words to become a 4x top writer here.

Smart work is hard work albeit in an efficient way.

Arnold believed the same and he even says that this rule is the most important one. In and outside the weight room, Arnold was always known to be a hard worker — he would work out five hours a day six days a week, all the while taking acting classes, doing construction work, and going to college.

Image by Duncan C on Flickr licensed with CC BY-NC 2.0

We tend to look for shortcuts or quick “fixes” in life but there aren’t any. As Arnie says,

“It is going to be tough if you look for the easy way out because very rarely is there an easy way out. There is nothing that replaces hard work.”

To lose weight and keep it off, you need to diet and cultivate the right mindset. To build the body of your dreams, you need to work out regularly, day in day out for years. To become a good writer, you need to write and learn how to get better at writing consistently.

Smart work is treated as the opposite of hard work but this couldn’t be further from the truth — smart work is hard work albeit in an efficient way.

Nothing worth having comes easy and anything that comes easy is not worth having.

#5 — Give Something Back

When I am curling the 50 lb dumbbells with ease and I see a skinny dude gawking in shock while struggling with the 5 lb ones, I see my past self.

I remember the guys that I used to gawk at back then and how instead of making fun of me, they’d offered advice and patiently fixed my form. Now, I do the same.

Life isn’t a zero-sum game… It’s not you win, I lose but rather you win, I win.

Without the guidance and help of those above us, achieving success is impossible. So just like how the ones above us pull us up, we need to reach down and offer a helping hand to the ones below us.

To the sport of bodybuilding that’s given Arnie everything, he’s more than given back. He brought mainstream fame to it, inspired millions around the globe to pursue it, and created his own show to bring more talent to the spotlight. As he says,

“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”

The Arnold Classic Show. Source: Wikimedia Commons licensed with CC BY 2.0

Moreover, since the universe works in a cause-effect fashion, everything you do has a good chance of coming back at you. Life isn’t a zero-sum game and there’s enough for everyone to go around.

It’s not you win, I lose but rather you win, I win.

Just like how the ones above us pull us up, we need to reach down and offer a helping hand to the ones below us.

Final Words

Success means different things to different people but the process to achieve it remains the same. This is evident by how people that have achieved success in vastly different ways offer similar advice. To summarize, here are Arnie’s five rules:

  • Have a vision, focus on it, trust yourself and ignore the naysayers.
  • Break some rules, take risks, and forge your own path to success.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure as it is not an impediment but rather a necessity for success.
  • Work your butt off as nothing worth having in life comes easy.
  • Give something back. Life isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s not you win, I lose but rather you win, I win.
Success means different things to different people but the process to achieve it remains the same.


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Created by

Neeramitra Reddy

Top Writer on Medium

11x Top Writer | Thinker | Bookworm | Gymrat | Personal Growth Addict | Open to gigs: neeramitra.writes@gmail.com | Join my newsletter: abetterlife.substack.com


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