Total recall - by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold stands as an exemplary figure for first-generation immigrants to America, demonstrating what can be achieved with a clear vision and hard work. His struggle to master English is something I can personally relate to. Additionally, his eagerness to learn and his dedication to public service are truly inspiring.
Here are some text that I highlighted in the book:
His answer to life was discipline. We had a strict routine that nothing could change: we’d get up at six, and it would be my job or Meinhard’s to get milk from the farm next door. When we were a little older and starting to play sports, exercises were added to the chores, and we had to earn our breakfast by doing sit-ups. In the afternoon, we’d finish our homework and chores, and my father would make us practice soccer no matter how bad the weather was. If we messed up on a play, we knew we’d get yelled at. My father believed just as strongly in training our brains.
Eventually my ice-cream earnings ran out, and being broke did not sit well with me. The solution I came up with that fall was panhandling. I would slip out of school and wander along Graz’s main street, looking for a sympathetic face. It could be a middle-aged man or a student. Or maybe a farm lady who was in town for the day. I’d come up and say to her, “Excuse me, but I lost my money and my bus pass, and I need to go home.” Sometimes she would chase me away, but most often she would say something like “Du bist so dumm!” or “How stupid can you be to do that?” That’s when I knew I had her, because then she’d sigh and ask, “So, how much is it?”
And a lot of people in Graz knew my father. Inevitably, somebody said to him, “I saw your son on the street in town today, asking a woman for money.” This led to a huge uproar at home, with tremendous physical punishment, and that put an end to my panhandling career.
We realized that if you wanted a girl, you had to make an effort to have a conversation, not just drool like a horny dog. You had to establish a comfort level. I
Along with my new interest in girls, I was more conscious of my body. I was beginning to pay close attention to sports: looking at athletes, how they worked out, how they used their bodies. A year before, it meant nothing; now it meant everything.
I’d tried a lot of other sports, but the way my body responded to weight training made it instantly clear that this was where I had the greatest potential and I could go all out. I couldn’t articulate what drove me. But training seemed something I was born for, and I sensed that it would become my ticket out of Thal. “Kurt Marnul can win Mr. Austria,” I thought, “and he’s already told me that I could too if I train hard, so that’s what I’m going to do.” This thought made the hours of lifting tons of steel and iron actually a joy. Every painful set, every extra rep, was a step toward my goal of winning Mr. Austria and entering the Mr. Europe competition.
The most important skill I acquired was selling. A cardinal rule was never to let a customer walk out the door without a purchase.
The applause had an effect like I’d never imagined. I could barely wait for my next turn in the rotation. This time, to my amazement, I lifted 185 pounds—35 pounds more than I ever had before. Some people perform better in front of an audience, some worse. A guy from the other team who was a better lifter than me found the audience distracting and failed to complete his last lift. He told me afterward that he couldn’t concentrate as well as in the gym. For me, it was the opposite. The audience gave me strength and motivation, and my ego kicked in more. I discovered that I performed much, much better in front of others.
My boss turned out to be a bigger threat to my Mr. Universe prospects than any beer hall drunk swinging a stein. With just a few weeks to go, I still hadn’t heard back about my application to the contest. Finally, Albert called London, and the organizers said they’d never gotten anything from me. Finally, Albert confronted Putziger, who admitted that he’d found my application in the outgoing mail and thrown it away. He was jealous that I would get discovered and move to England or America before he could make money off me. I’d have been sunk except for Albert’s command of English and his desire to stick up for me. He called London again and persuaded the organizers to consider my application, even though the deadline had passed. They agreed. Just days before the contest, the papers came through, and I was added to the list.
Being Mr. Universe brought me a lifestyle beyond a young man’s wildest dreams. In warm weather, the bodybuilders would pile into our old cars and head for the countryside and do the gladiator thing—grill fresh meat and drink wine and occupy ourselves with girls. At night I was hanging out with an international crowd of bar owners, musicians, bar girls—one of my girlfriends was a stripper and one was a gypsy. But I was wild only when I was wild. When it was time to train, I never missed a session.
I was sharing the room with Roy Callender, a black bodybuilder based in England who had also been in the London competition. He was very sweet, talking to me about my loss. He was much more mature than I was and was talking about things I did not quite understand. He was talking about feelings. “Yeah, it’s hard to lose after such a big victory in London,” he said. “But remember that next year you will win again, and everyone will forget about this loss.” This was the first time that a man had ever been that nurturing with me. I knew that women were nurturing: my mother was nurturing, other women were nurturing. But to get real empathy from a guy was overwhelming. Up till then, I’d thought that only girls cry, but I ended up crying quietly in the dark for hours. It was a great relief.
Staying in America, I decided, had to mean that I wouldn’t be an amateur ever again. Now the real game would begin. There was a lot of work ahead. And I had to start as a professional. I didn’t ever want to go away from a bodybuilding competition like I had in Miami. If I was going to beat guys like Sergio Oliva, that could never happen again. From now on if I lost, I would be able to walk away with a big smile because I had done everything I could to prepare.
I have to train my calves totally differently and not give them even a chance of not growing.” When I got to California, I made a point of cutting off all my sweatpants at the knees. I would keep my strongpoints covered—my biceps, my chest, my back, my thighs—but I made sure that my calves were exposed so everyone could see. I was relentless and did fifteen sets, sometimes twenty sets, of calf raises every single day.
I was determined to win the IFBB Mr. Universe title that I’d failed to get in Miami. That loss to Frank Zane still stung so much that I didn’t want to just win the contest; I wanted to win it so decisively that people would forget I’d ever lost.
As soon as Sergio woke up, he amazed me by doing all kinds of push-ups and exercises. He was such a fanatic. Even the day after competition, he was pumping up in the hotel! I have to admit that then I felt sorry that he’d lost. He was a great champion and an idol for many people. For years my mind had been fixed on wanting to destroy him, take him out, make him second, make him the loser. But the morning after beating him, I woke up and saw him next to me and felt sad. It was too bad he had to lose to make way for me.
Becoming fluent in English was still the hardest thing on my to-do list. I envied my photographer friend Artie Zeller, who was the kind of person who could visit Italy for a week with Franco and come back speaking Italian. Not me. I couldn’t believe how difficult learning a new language could be.
It might seem like I was handcuffing myself by setting such specific goals, but it was actually just the opposite: I found it liberating. Knowing exactly where I wanted to end up freed me totally to improvise how to get there. Take that twelve more college credits I needed, for example. It didn’t matter which college they would come from; I would figure that out. I’d look at which courses were available and what the credits cost and whether they fit my schedule and the rules of my visa. I didn’t need to worry about the exact details now, because I already knew I was going to get those dozen credits.
They gave me a mantra and taught me to use a twenty-minute meditation session to get to a place where you don’t think. They taught how to disconnect the mind, so that you don’t hear the clock ticking in the background or people talking. If you can do this for even a few seconds, it already has a positive effect. The more you can prolong that period, the better it is.
They both said the same thing: there were too many obstacles. “Look, you have an accent that scares people,” said the guy from ICM. “You have a body that’s too big for movies. You have a name that wouldn’t even fit on a movie poster. Everything about you is too strange.”
I understand it better today that there’s so much talent all over the world that these big agencies don’t really have the time or the desire to groom someone and nurture him to the top. They’re not in the business of doing that. It has to happen or not happen. But at the time, I felt stung. I knew I had a strange body. I knew my name was hard to spell—but so was Gina Lollobrigida’s! Why should I give up my goal because a couple of Hollywood agents turned me down?
Ali was always willing to say and do memorable and outrageous things. But outrageousness means nothing unless you have the substance to back it up—you can’t get away with it if you’re a loser. It was being a champion combined with outrageousness that made Ali’s whole thing work.
I was very glad I could afford to say no. With the income from my businesses, I didn’t need money from acting. I never wanted to be in a financially vulnerable position, where I had to take a part I didn’t like. I saw this happen all the time to the actors and musicians who worked out at the gym.
You could argue that, no matter what the part, being in front of a camera was always good practice. But I felt that I was born to be a leading man. I had to be on the posters, I had to be the one carrying the movie. Of course I realized that this sounded crazy to everybody but me. But I believed that the only way you become a leading man is by treating yourself like a leading man and working your ass off. If you don’t believe in yourself, then how will anyone else believe in you?
All of this was fun, and it was also a good investment in my future. By promoting Pumping Iron and bodybuilding, I was also promoting myself. Every time I was on the radio or TV, people became a little more familiar with my accent, the Arnold way of talking, and a little more comfortable and at ease with me. The effect was the opposite of what the Hollywood agents had warned. I was making my size, accent, and funny name into assets instead of peculiarities that put people off. Before long people were able to recognize me without seeing me, just by name or by the sound of my voice.
For months it seemed like the only action for me in LA was in real estate. Partly because of inflation and partly because of growth, Santa Monica property values were going through the roof. My apartment building wasn’t even on the market, but around the time that Pumping Iron came out, a buyer offered me almost double what I’d paid for it in 1974. The profit on my $37,000 investment was $150,000—I’d quadrupled my money in three years. I rolled the whole amount into a building twice the size, with twelve apartments rather than six, with the help of my friend Olga, who, as always, had found just the place to buy.
“All the points,” I repeated, “take it. Take it all.” I was thinking, “You can take it and shove it because that’s not what I’m doing the movie for.” I understood the reality. The situation was lopsided. Dino had the money, and I needed the career, so it made no sense to argue. It was just supply and demand. But, I also thought, the day will come when the tables will turn, and Dino will have to pay.
I saw myself as a businessman first. Too many actors, writers, and artists think that marketing is beneath them. But no matter what you do in life, selling is part of it.
I paid them fairly and drew on my Austrian upbringing to make myself a good employer. A pension plan and great medical insurance were automatic—nobody had to ask for that. And I paid fourteen months of salary per year rather than twelve—the thirteenth month was your summer vacation pay, and the fourteenth was your holiday bonus so that you could take care of your family at Christmas. That was the tradition in Austria, and my office was not on a tight budget, so I could afford it.
I kept quiet about politics when I visited Austria, too. The media there lionized me as a native son made good, and I never wanted to be perceived as some wise guy coming back and telling people what to do. Once or twice a year, when I visited, I’d hang out with my friends and catch up on the latest political debates and developments.
On September 16, 1983, I stood proudly among two thousand other immigrants in the Shrine Auditorium across from the University of Southern California campus and swore my allegiance to the United States.
Afterward, photographers tracked me down and took pictures of me showing off my naturalization certificate, with Maria beside me, both of us grinning. I told the reporters, “I always believed in shooting for the top, and to become an American is like becoming a member of the winning team.”
Who were the Conan comic-book fanatics? They’d made it clear that they loved Conan the Barbarian. So if you wanted to make them love the sequel even more, you should improve the plot, make the story spicier, and make the action scenes even more amazing. Focusing on ratings was the wrong approach.
From the bodybuilding days on, I learned that everything is reps and mileage. The more miles you ski, the better a skier you become; the more reps you do, the better your body. I’m a big believer in hard work, grinding it out, and not stopping until it’s done, so the challenge appealed to me.
We didn’t have the money to get permission from the city and to properly set up the scene of the Terminator jacking a car, so that’s how we did it instead. It made me feel like I was part of Jim’s creativity, sneaking around the permit process to bring in the movie on budget.
Why are you battling to get the establishment to acknowledge post-traumatic stress syndrome and help these young men and women when they come back?” The answer was simple: America wouldn’t be the land of the free if it wasn’t the home of the brave. When you see the work they do and the risks they take, you realize what we owe our military.
I found the fund-raising part hard at first. The reason I wanted to be wealthy was that I never wanted to ask anyone for money. It was so against my grain. When I made the first solicitation, I was literally sweating. I told myself it wasn’t really me asking, it was the cause.
I was going to be the governor of California! It is the place where everyone in the world wants to go. You never hear anyone from abroad say, “Oh, I love America! I can’t wait to get to Iowa!” Or “Gosh, can you tell me about Utah?” Or “I hear Delaware is a great place.” California was wrapped in problems, but it was also heaven.
Teddy continued, “Right away, from the top, all you say is, ‘I’m here to fix the problem.’ Make that your approach. In California, you need to say, ‘I know we have major problems—we have blackouts, we have unemployment, we have companies leaving the state, we have people who need help—and I will fix it.’ ” Hearing this made a big impression on me. Without Teddy’s advice, I would probably always have felt intimidated when a reporter asked, “When are we hearing the specifics?” It was Matt Lauer demanding specifics that had embarrassed me on Today. But Teddy showed me that instead of responding to that question, I could say confidently, “Let me give you a clear vision for California.”
I’d been nervous about this event, because this was the serious media, not the entertainment media. So I was wondering, “Should I change the tone? Should I sound more governor-ly?” But Mike Murphy, who had just signed on as my campaign manager, said, “Show that you’re having a good time. That you love what you’re doing. Be likeable, be yourself, be humorous, have fun. Don’t worry about saying something wrong, just be ready to make a joke about it right away. People don’t remember what you say, only whether they like you or not.”
We rented a studio and practiced, sitting in a V formation facing where the audience would be. It was reps, reps, reps for three days. I reminded myself: don’t get caught up on detail. Be likable, be humorous. Let the others hang themselves. Lure them into saying stupid things.
Even Maria agreed that the challenge had been worth it. Speaking at a wellness conference in 2010, she said, “I’d like to admit today that I was wrong to try to talk Arnold out of running for governor seven years ago, and he was right not to listen to me. The fact is, I didn’t want Arnold to run because I myself didn’t like growing up in a political family. I was afraid something bad would happen. I was afraid of the unknown. It turns out Arnold was right to follow his dream and run. He’s loved this governor’s job more than anything he’s ever done in his life. It ended up being a perfect match for his intellect, his love of people, his passion for public policy, and his competitive streak. I’ve never seen him happier or more fulfilled. Even with all the ups and downs of the last seven years, he says if he had to do it over again, he would in a heartbeat, and I believe him. I never thought I’d say this, but I thank him for not listening to me.”
I asked myself what had motivated me to be unfaithful, and how I could have failed to tell Maria about Joseph for so many years. A lot of people, no matter how successful or unsuccessful they are in life, make stupid choices involving sex. You feel you’ll get away with ignoring the rules, but in reality your actions can have lasting consequences. Probably my background, and having left home at an early age, also had an effect. It hardened me emotionally and shaped my behavior so that I was less careful about intimate things.
I ALWAYS WANTED TO be an inspiration for people, but I never set out to be a role model in everything. How could I be when I have so many contradictions and crosscurrents in my life? I’m a European who became an American leader; a Republican who loves Democrats; a businessman who makes his living as an action hero; a tremendously disciplined superachiever who hasn’t always been disciplined enough; a fitness expert who loves cigars; an environmentalist who loves Hummers; a fun-loving guy with kid-like enthusiasm who is most famous for terminating people.
Never follow the crowd. Go where it’s empty. As they say in LA, avoid the freeway at rush hour—take the streets. Avoid the movie theater on a Saturday night—go to the matinee. If you know the restaurant will be impossible to get into at nine, why not have an early dinner? People apply this kind of common sense all the time, and yet they forget when it comes to their careers. When every immigrant I knew was saving up to buy a house, I bought an apartment building instead. When every aspiring actor was trying to land bit parts in movies, I held out to be a leading man. When every politician tries to work his or her way up from local office, I went straight for the governorship. It’s easier to stand out when you aim straight for the top.
Don’t blame your parents. They’ve done their best for you, and if they’ve left you with problems, those problems are now yours to solve. Maybe your parents were too supportive and protective and now you feel needy and vulnerable in the world—don’t blame them for that. Or maybe they were too harsh.