By the way, as I write this in June, 2007, the Terminator…er…Mr. Governor of California, erstwhile “Conan the Barbarian”, is going to turn 60 in one month. I’ve never really looked into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s history before, but it fascinates me. Not so much because of WHAT has happened to Arnold Schwarzenegger over the years, as THE WAY it happened. You see, to me, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the kid from Austria, exemplifies what the term “American Dream” can mean. He also demonstrates in a living way all those things the motivational specialists talk about. He’s almost a walking, talking textbook on goal setting, motivation, and achievement. Despite the title of this article, however, I don’t really intend to go into the history of Arnold Schwarzenegger as much as his dream. The way things turned out, the history of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the history of America are now tied together…and it all started with a dream…and part of it was an American dream.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947, in the small Austrian town of Thal. Had he not had a dream, he might have followed in his father’s footsteps and eventually become the chief of police in Graz, Austria. Fortunately, he was encouraged by his father, Gustav, to participate in sports, and his older brother, Meinhard, gave him a playmate and role model. When you consider that his brother, Meinhard, was more gifted athletically than Arnold, things could have turned out differently. What made everything else fall into place, however, was that it was Arnold who had the dream.
Had you seen him in back then, the six foot tall, 150 pound Austrian teenager would not have seemed likely to become the future “Commando”, John Matrix. On the other hand, his commando raid on the gym at Graz’s soccer stadium, where he and his friends broke windows so that they could get in and work out, might have been a clue. In movies like Predator and Commando, he endured suffering and hardship, but he started getting his taste of that when he had to exercise in a gym sometimes so cold that he still recalls his hands sticking to the chinning bar.
For a kid from a small Austrian town in the middle of nowhere to stay with the dream of beding the world’s best bodybuilder takes a lot of dedication and courage…and an actor…and the Governor of California…but he did.
As with many successful lives, a lot of luck figured into Arnold’s success, but through it all runs a common thread. He knew what he wanted, and he was willing to do what was necessary to get it. In another commando-like move, the 20 year-old tank driver even deserted from the Austrian army for a few days and slipped into Germany so that he could compete in, and win, the Junior Mr. Europe event in Stuttgart. Oh, by the way; upon his return to Austria, he was caught and spent 7 days in jail, but when the word of his win got around, he became a hero to the Austrian army and was held up as a model of courage and tenacity.
In an interview in 2006, Tom Venuto, natural bodybuilder, fitness coach, author of “Burn the Fat. Feed the Muscle”, and co-author of “Fit Over 40”, was asked what he thought was “the one thing most needed to change a person’s lifestyle and improve their health.”
“A committed decision to reach a predetermined specific goal, combined with burning desire, followed by immediate, massive action repeated consistently for as long as it takes until your goal is reached.”
Looks like the mantra that Arnold Schwarzenegger might have chanted on his way to becoming Mr. Olympia (7 times), a Hollywood actor (43 movies), the husband of Maria Shriver (Kennedys – lots of ’em), and current occupant of the California Governor’s mansion, doesn’t it?
Well, if you could look at the Arnold Schwarzenegger history story with glasses that allowed you to see behind the scenes, you would regularly see one “predetermined specific goal, combined with a burning desire” after another. You would see a man who realized that to reach each goal, he would have to take “immediate, massive action repeated consistently for as long as it takes” to reach each goal.
Sounds like perseverance is a major issue of success once you have set your goal!
Even good ol’ P. T. Barnum, another, slightly different proponent of the American Dream, and perhaps best known for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, had this to say in his classic essay, “The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money”:
“How many have almost reached the goal of their ambition, but, losing faith in themselves, have relaxed their energies, and the golden prize has been lost forever.”
Time and again, people like Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich”, have extolled the virtue of being willing to stick to the path through thick and thin, once you know what the goal is.
It’s not dates and events that make up the Arnold Schwarzenegger history, or his version of the American dream. It has been the willingness and fortitude of the man to pursue his personal dreams and goals despite a range of obstacles, and in spite of many who were willing to tell him it couldn’t be done, that has taken him to the spot in history that Arnold Schwarzenegger occupies today. In earlier eras, the willingness to wholeheartedly pursue the American Dream was the subject or underlying theme of fiction and non-fiction works.
Today, there is a vast market in self-help and self-improvement products. All sorts of programs and processes are offered for consideration of those wanting a piece of the American Dream. Having stripped away the overlay of word and technique, however, the setting of a goal and the unrelenting effort to achieve that goal, is the factor of most true success stories.
Maybe it takes a one-time hick from a small town in Austria to remind us of what we keep saying we have, or want, or wish was still available to an ordinary person in America. Maybe, as at least one article has stated, “Arnold Schwarzenegger is the definition of the American Dream.”