Success can be described in many ways, but it would be hard to argue that a 21-year old immigrant from Austria transforming himself into a champion bodybuilder, Hollywood action star, and governor of the state of California is not the epitome of the word. Arnold Schwarzenegger emigrated to the United States with little knowledge of English or the culture and yet has become an influential figure in American society. In May 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger delivered a commencement address at the University of Southern California during which he outlined his “Six Rules of Success” summarized below:
- Trust yourself – Look inside yourself to find out what you really want. Schwarzenegger urges people to “dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves, who do you want to be? Not what, but who?” Arnold recalls as a young boy wanting to go to America to make something big out of his life. His family initially dismissed his ideas, but Arnold held true to his strong inner desires and succeeded beyond his dreams.
- Break the rules – We all know Schwarzenegger’s famous line from Terminator: “I’ll be back.” Now imagine that line being spoken without his trademark accent or by someone else. It just would not be the same. Well, many agents initially felt Arnold would not make it in the movies because of his thick, Austrian accent and his freakishly large bodybuilder physique. He did not fit the mold of the traditional movie star. Arnold refused to follow the rules and through determination, perseverance, and a little luck, became a huge Hollywood action star.
- Do not be afraid to fail – Schwarzenegger freely describes some of the failures he has encountered, including certain box office flops. He has conditioned himself to not be afraid of failure because of the limitations it places on the possibilities. If you are paralyzed to the point of inaction because you are not guaranteed success, you will never push yourself to your limits and realize your ultimate potential. Do not be paralyzed by the fear of failure. It will hold you back!
- Do not listen to naysayers – There will always be people who will tell you that you will not succeed. There are many ways to react to these types of comments. Schwarzenegger responds by being proactive when people tell him that something cannot be done. He has developed the ability to channel the negative messages of the naysayers into positive internal energy. He uses the desire to prove the naysayers wrong as additional motivation to accomplish the improbable. His life story is a great lesson in how wrong people can be about what is possible.
- Work your butt off – There is no way around hard work. Even with his impressive inner strength and no-fear attitude toward failure and naysayers, none of Schwarzenegger’s major accomplishments would have been possible without hard work. Most things in life that are worthwhile require great effort. Of course, there are those fortunate few people that seem to bumble into great success. However, we should not let these isolate cases deceive us into believing that great rewards will magically fall into our laps. A little elbow grease is a necessary ingredient in the formula for success. As Arnold says, “you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.”
- Give back – In pursuing success, in whatever form you desire, Schwarzenegger urges you to give back. Whether your cause is your local community, poverty, or abused animals, remember to think beyond yourself and lend a helping hand. Success is not only measured by what is best for the person in the mirror. As Arnold reminds us, “Tear down that mirror. Tear down that mirror that makes you always look at yourself, and you will be able to look beyond that mirror and you will see the millions of people that need your help.”
Link to text of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commencement address: