I always wanted to be very intense, I always wanted to be number one. I took it very seriously, my career. So this was the same when I started with bodybuilding.
I didn’t want to just be a bodybuilding champion, I wanted to be the best bodybuilder of all times. The same was in the movies. I didn’t want to just be a movie star; I wanted to be a great movie star that is the highest paid movie star and have above-the-title billing.
And so this intensity always paid off for me, this commitment always paid off for me. So here are some of the rules.
RULE 1: TRUST YOURSELF
The first rule is: Trust yourself.
And what I mean by that is, so many young people are getting so much advice from their parents and from their teachers and from everyone. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves, who do you want to be? Not what, but who.
And I’m talking about not what your parents and teachers want you to be, but you. I’m talking about figuring out for yourselves what makes you happy, no matter how crazy it may sound to other people.
I was lucky growing up because I did not have television or didn’t have telephones, I didn’t have the computers and the iPods. And, of course, Twitter was then something that birds did outside the window. I didn’t have all these distractions and all this.
I spent a lot of time by myself, so I could figure out and listen to what is inside my heart and inside my head.
And I recognized very quickly that inside my head and heart were a burning desire to leave my small village in Austria — not that there was something wrong with Austria, it’s a beautiful country.
But I wanted to leave that little place and I wanted to be part of something big, the United States of America, a powerful nation, the place where dreams can come true.
I knew when I came over here I could realize my dreams. And I decided that the best way for me to come to America was to become a bodybuilding champion, because I knew that was my ticket the instant that I saw a magazine cover of my idol, Reg Park. He was Mr. Universe, he was starring in Hercules movies, he looked strong and powerful, he was so confident.
So when I found out how he got that way I became obsessed, and I went home and I said to my family, “I want to be a bodybuilding champion.”
Now, you can imagine how that went over in my home in Austria. My parents, they couldn’t believe it. They would have been just happy if I would have become a police officer like my father, or married someone like Heidi, had a bunch of kids and ran around like the von Trapp family in Sound of Music.
That’s what my family had in mind for me, but something else burned inside me.
Something burned inside me. I wanted to be different; I was determined to be unique. I was driven to think big and to dream big. Everyone else thought that I was crazy. My friends said, “If you want to be a champion in a sport, why don’t you go and become a bicycle champion or a skiing champion or a soccer champion? Those are the Austrian sports.”
But I didn’t care. I wanted to be a bodybuilding champion and use that to come to America, and use that to go into the movies and make millions of dollars.
So, of course, for extra motivation I read books on strongmen and on bodybuilding and looked at magazines. And one of the things I did was, I decorated my bedroom wall.
Right next to my bed there was this big wall that I decorated all with pictures. I hung up pictures of strongmen and bodybuilders and wrestlers and boxers and so on. And I was so excited about this great decoration that I took my mother to the bedroom and I showed her.
And she shook her head. She was absolutely in shock and tears started running down her eyes. And she called the doctor, she called our house doctor and she brought him in and she explained to him, “There’s something wrong here.”
She looked at the wall with the doctor and she said, “Where did I go wrong? I mean, all of Arnold’s friends have pictures on the wall of girls, and Arnold has all these men. But it’s not just men, they’re half naked and they’re oiled up with baby oil. What is going on here? Where did I go wrong?”
So you can imagine, the doctor shook his head and he said, “There’s nothing wrong. At this age you have idols and you go and have those — this is just quite normal.”
So this is rule number one. I wanted to become a champion; I was on a mission. So rule number one is, of course, trust yourself, no matter how and what anyone else thinks.