A Man of Muscle and Grit

total recall coverArnold Schwarzenegger took a 6,132-mile leap from the obscurity of Thal, Austria to the riches and glamour of Hollywood, California in pursuit of his childhood dream to strike it rich and famous in the bodybuilding world of America. Remarkably, fulfilling that childhood dream became a stepping stone to even greater accomplishments.

Simon & Shuster, New York, published his autobiography in 2012. Arnold recounts his life from birth on July 30, 1947 to the time after his two-terms as Governor of California when the scandal broke in 2011 that led to the breakup of his marriage and family.

Arnold grew up in a small, rural town in a home without inside plumbing, but with plenty of cats. His mother had scrounged and begged for food in the hardest of Austria’s economic times. His father, a policeman, wanted Arnold to pursue a military career. But the young boy became obsessed with bodybuilding after reading magazines with stories and photos of the muscle-bound heroes he would eventually meet and beat in competitions worldwide.

The story is sometimes funny, often fascinating and always entertaining of Arnold’s relentless focus on making his dreams a reality and how, [as Paul Coelho would say,] the universe conspired to help him do so.

Arnold was not content for people to perceive him as a muscle-bound intellectual lightweight. He took his training seriously, worked hard in his own construction business at the same time he worked at a gym, but he played hard as well (i.e., there were women).

While in a title competition in Miami, Schwarzenegger was invited to California under internship with Joe Weider, from whom while body-building, he also learned the how-to’s of business, marketing and entrepreneurship.

He made some early missteps before becoming a successful real estate investor. He partnered with Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis to establish the Planet Hollywood brand that grew through other celebrity investments both nationally and internationally.

Total Recall’s thirty chapters and numerous photographs are thorough in telling about Arnold’s early life as well as how and when he was introduced to the Kennedy family, including Maria Shriver whom he later married.

Politically, Schwarzenegger was Republican in a proud family of Democrats. Not a conservative by any means – he affirmed his pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-lesbian, pro-green agenda. That may have made it easier for Ted Kennedy, and Arnold’s wife’s parents, Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, to encourage and advise him to campaign for public office.

It was Ted Kennedy, he wrote, who told Arnold never to answer a question on a political hot topic directly; rather, redirect the conversation by making a broad policy statement on the way to solve some campaign-related problem.

The interesting and entertaining way Schwarzenegger’s life unfolds holds readers’ attention, yet there are also important underlying themes: the power of a passionate focus on a clear goal; of setting precise goals and of the disciplined and persistent mind-and-body stressing action required to achieve them.

Noteworthy is that Arnold talked about how so many people crowd around the bottom of the ladder – a leader should aim for the top where there is more room and less competition!

  • Could or can or would a poor boy of any color or ethnicity born in the USA do as well as Arnold, the Austrian farm boy with the heavy accent did, to capitalize on the opportunities America offers?
  • How many poor boys, or girls for that matter, or even rich boys or girls in America have such passionate desires as Arnold had, and will attain to a level of success relative to their particular focus?
  • Does Arnold’s success have anything to do with the fact that he had two parents who were strong on discipline, despite the fact that they did not encourage him early on?
  • Does Arnold’s story inspire others to follow their own desires and dreams, or is he just another celebrity with an interesting story to sell?
  • After the scandal broke, did Schwarzenegger lose credibility and the prestige from his more glorious past, or did he retain them despite his human failings?
  •  Schwarzenegger visualized and planned his career starting point, but several other roles opened to him along the way. First a bodybuilder, then Mr. Universe, he became a a business owner and real estate investor, a movie star and then politician and Governor of California!

Understandably, and wisely, he did not reveal many details about the circumstances leading to the affair that broke up his marriage and family. It is uncomfortable and unpleasant to see a strong man embarrassed publicly, even when he deserves to be.

Young men and women need the witness of someone who can “act” like a hero, and actually be one in real life. Arnold Schwarzenegger comes close, and time could be on his side.

This entry was posted in Autobiographies, Book reviews, Success stories and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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