Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Advice from the Governator

Yesterday was a great day. Any day can be a great day with a determined optimistic mind, but some days just stick out.

I had the rare privilege of not only hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger speak; I got to meet him, shake his hand and get a photo with him (still waiting for it or trust me, that would be the attached image!)

I refer to my list of Goals Before I Die a lot. It's one of the most important pieces of the vision I set for life. Meeting Arnie has been on that list 10 years before I actually wrote that list 6 years ago. It started as boyhood idolism, but grew as I watched the most famous bodybuilder of our time reinvent himself into one of the most famous actors of all time, and reinvent himself once more into an influential and successful politician.

Hearing him speak however, was the best part. As he appears on TV and film, he is as quick-witted and funny as he appears to be. Though he did take a jab at the Calgary Mayor ("you must be really busy if you had time to come here today") and at the traditional Calgary White Hat ceremony ("when you travel around the world you get a lot of gifts, but this is by far the most... recent.") - he was a pleasure to listen to.

He began his speech by saying, "people always ask me if there is a secret to my success" - how many times do speeches begin that way? As you will see below, there are none. Arnold explained he lived by 5 simple rules.

RULE 1: Have a clear personal vision you stick to relentlessly. When he was 15 years old in Austria, he picked up a copy of a body building magazine with Reg Park on the cover. Reg, who went from a successful bodybuilding career into acting, was Arnie's early idol. He had posters of bodybuilders on his wall, and knew he wanted to move to the US to become a successful bodybuilder. Later, he knew he wanted to not only become an actor, but a leading man in Hollywood blockbusters. He said he feels sorry for kids today whose parents, teachers & coaches often impose goals on them; and also because of iPads, Facebook, TV and everything else - kids are so distracted they often don't know what they want. This leads to coasting through life. You need a vision, and a key part of that vision, he said, is loving what you do. Otherwise there's no point.

RULE 2: Break the rules. As a bodybuilding goal, Schwarzenegger was told "Austrians are supposed to be skiers or cyclists", but he didn't listen. As an actor, he was told his body looked like a monster, and the trend of the day was more Dustin Hoffman or Woody Allen. Not to mention, his accent would only work as a bit part as a robot Nazi. According to the Terminator director James Cameron, Arnie was perfect as the Terminator BECAUSE he sounded like a robot. According to the director of Conan the Barbarian, "if we didn't have Arnold Schwarzenegger, we would have had to build one".

RULE 3: Don't be afraid to fail. One of his more successful bills as the 38th Governor of California passed on it's 6th attempt. He finally bench pressed 500 pounds on his 10th separate attempt at doing so. We all fail. Corny as he sounded, he said "you aren't a girlie man for failing. You aren't a girlie man for losing. You are girlie man if you are afraid to fail. What's important is that you tried"

RULE 4: Work like hell. Arnold trained for and won bodybuilding competitions as he worked as a brick layer to pay the bills as he took acting and speech classes while trying to crack the line-up of Hollywood lead actors. He used to say, when people told him they couldn't function on his 6 hours of sleep, "learn to sleep faster". He recanted there are no short cuts in life and the only way to get ahead is to work for everything you have and everything you want.

RULE 5: Give back. He mentioned as an immigrant how appreciative he was. Everything that was amazing in his life he owed to the people of and nation of America. Volunteering, donating money - everyone has something to give and we need to do so. His mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started the Special Olympics. Arnold met with Nelson Mandala in South Africa to help promote the Special Olympics and they actually lit the torch in his old prison cell!

5 simple rules. Principles (each on of which) you have read about in your favorite leadership book, here on swim upstream/ Innovative Thinking, you name it. There are no secrets. There is only walking the talk instead of just talking. Consistently, over time, for your whole life. That's how you become great.

I will take these simple rules away with gratitude, but more importantly was knowing how important the 6th rule was that Arnold didn't say, but didn't have to. They aren't rules if you don't live by them. Get busy living everyone, have a great day.

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