Lessons From Total Recall – Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Arnold takes you through his unbelievable life story, from the worlds greatest ever bodybuilder to the highest paid actor of his time to the senator of California. This is an amazing book by an amazingly successful man, learning from him is an inspiration. The main recipes for his success seem to be extraordinarily high goals, commitment, dedication and hard work.

Tough Beginnings

Arnold came from an extremely poor and tough background, his main male role models were depressed after the war and it was not unusual for him to get a beating from them. But this was the norm, he had a loving family that encouraged education and a strong work ethic. He had to collect water from a well that was a mile away and do sit ups before meals. This philosophy of reward as a result of effort has stayed with him through his life. He was also highly encouraged into sports and was very competitive with his brother. This was probably the reason for his bodybuilding career.

Become Inspired By Successful People

From a young age he knew the importance of getting inspiration from other people’s success, looking at people and thinking that’s what I want so I’m going to get it. He was particularly inspired by Kurt Marnul who was the current bench press record holder. When he looked at people he would not feel inadequate, he knew that one day he will be just as good or better than the people he admired. Once he saw something that he wanted he would become obsessed, sticking pictures of his role models all over his wall and dedicating every spare minute to perusing his goal. He did not believe in failure and I don’t believe that it ever even crossed his mind.

Don’t Ignore Your Weaknesses

He knew his weaknesses and didn’t attempt to hide them, but he didn’t stand for them. If any muscle was lacking behind then he would dedicate a training session to solely that muscle until it became his strong point. This is a mentality that you need to adopt in life. It is easy to forget about your weaknesses, cover them up and pretend that they are not there, but your life will not be well-rounded. You have to face you own failings and fix them before they become your downfall, fix them with constant and intense effort. Take a lesson from Arnold Schwarzenegger, expose your weakness and hide your strengths not only will you be force to develop your weaknesses, people will underestimate you.

If you’re Going To Do It Win It

Every competition that Arnold goes into he goes into to win. He had an experience where he underestimated his chances of winning Mr Olympia and so didn’t put 100% effort in. He ended up coming second and regretted not putting in the extra work. His underestimation of himself lost him the title of Mr Olympia, he learnt from this and no longer does things in half measures. You too should always strive for the best and never accept anything less than perfection or you face he risk of under achieving.

Push Beyond Your psychological Limits

Don’t set yourself psychological limits, don’t limit yourself to the achievements of others. If you truly want to be successful you have to be doing far more than the people around you not just a bit more. Arnold experience this with his calf muscle training: he was doing calf raises with 300lbs, more than any other bodybuilder he knew and he thought this was at the limit of human capacity. But then he found out someone was lifting 1000lbs. More than three times as much. Once that psychological boundary was broken the results he received were amazing. He eventually got up to 1000lbs. The only limit you have is the one placed upon you by your own brain.


Innovating was the key to him making money, he hasn’t always been a hollywood actor but he has always needed money. He got an allowance every month from his bodybuilding agent but that wasn’t enough to satisfy him. He’d been getting tonnes of fan mail asking him about his training so he thought why don’t I sell it to them? He made series of bodybuilding books and sold them by mail order. Whilst everyone else was struggling in vain to get a job as a builder he decided to start-up his own building company. Don’t follow the path of everyone else, invent your own and stand above the rest.

Don’t Believe What People Say

From the very first time he attempted to be an actor he had people telling him he couldn’t do it, his accent was too strong, his body was intimidating, his name was too long and he was too unusual to play any character. People came up with more reasons as to why he would fail than how he could succeed. If he’d have believed them and stopped pursuing his career he would never have become the highest paid actor of all time. People will always underestimate you so don’t take advice from people who say you can’t succeed, believe in your goals and strive for them anyway.

Aim Straight For The Top

Don’t waste your time working up to the top, getting small promotion after small promotion. Take a tip from Arnold and skip that step, leap to the top without looking back. He refused to take minor acting roles in his career, he only took the lead. He was so confident in his ability he believed it was his right to be the best and most highly paid actor. Believe in your ability and become the best in your profession without having to work your way up. If you believe you can then other people will to.

Have Great Confidence In Yourself

In whatever Arnold did in life he believed he could succeed, failure was never an option. He believed that he could move to Hollywood and become a famous actor despite everyone around him believing it was impossible even to get to america. You need to believe that you can achieve unbelievable things, there is always the first person to do something and that should be you. Arnold said he loved it when people said things couldn’t be done, it made it an even greater achievement when he did it.

Never Stop Progressing

In his book Arnold said that after winning mr Olympia he didn’t even stop to celebrate, apparently his first thought was: whats next? To him the success didn’t lie in the reward, he was successful if he was progressing. I believe in that, it is the successful person that continues to grow not the person who stops half way because they’ve done ‘enough’.

Related Post: If you’re not progressing your regressing

More Reps, More Reward

Arnold’s determination to hammer out reps after reps didn’t just help him out in the gym, his constant effort was the key to all of his success. The more cities he went to promote his films the more views the movie would get, the more hours he put into acting classes the better actor he became. If you want to be successful you have to do things over and over again, don’t stop after a few goes, the more you do the more you will achieve.

Don’t Over think Things

Apparently Arnold never wanted to know everything about what he was doing, he said that a certain level of ignorance gave him an advantage. He didn’t know how things were supposed to be done in the movie industry or the real estate industry but he became hugely successful in both. H claims that if you don’t know the ‘right’ thing to do then you take your own path, you find new ways to achieve. This separates you out from the rest of the crowd. When you try something new don’t try to work everything out about it, don’t research what people usually do because everyone will be doing it. Sometimes it’s good to stumble into things and make your own way.

Judge Wether Things Fit Into Your Goals

Just as Arnold was picky about the movies he acted in you should be picky about the things you do, you should only do things that advance your life. Arnold chose only to act in movies that built him a good brand, he branded himself the way he wanted to be. It can be easy to just choose the first paying job that comes along but it is not beneficial, look towards the future and ask yourself: will this benefit me? Do things that make people see you the way you see yourself, only do things that you believe in.

Feel inspired? Get the book for yourself: Here

Someone else summary of total recall: http://blogcritics.org/book-review-total-recall-by-arnold/


One thought on “Lessons From Total Recall – Arnold Schwarzenegger

  1. I searched “total recall book summary” on google. It took me ten reviews to get to a “positive one”. The summaries played the book out to be a narcassistic tale of all his great accomplishments. I read the book and thought there were many great lessons to be learned. Nice to see there is someone who chooses to be positive and supportive.



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