As a Corporate Motivational Speaker, I’m often tasked with talking about success in one shape or form. That’s what organizations are looking for when they hire a speaker. Insight and inspiration. How do our people as individuals, and our company as a whole, attain more success? Today, I want to narrow that focus just a bit more.
How does a poor immigrant from Austria become one of the wealthiest Americans? Why would Hollywood pay someone 20 million a movie who can barely act?
How does a person win the governorship of one of the most powerful states in the union in his first public election?
This is not Jeopardy, but you probably guessed the person in question: Who is Arnold (pronounced Aaarnold) Schwarzenegger.
I have always been fascinated with individuals who have risen to success despite enormous odds against them. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most fantastic immigrant, rags-to-riches stories in the history of America, and he describes his journey in his brand new autobiography, “Total Recall.”
Now for the elephant in the room: Arnold’s adulterous behavior (which he admits in his book) was disgusting and inexcusable. I feel for Maria Shriver, who by all accounts, is a very lovely person. But we can learn from people in the public eye, both in their successes and in their terrible mistakes, and Arnold’s life story teaches us both.
As a success playbook, “Total Recall” lays out the how-tos. The key factor that jumps out for me on so many pages is his unrelenting drive for learning and taking on new challenges. Psychologists have deemed this approach as a mastery orientation, which is a personality dimension that focuses on self-improvement as a measure of success.
In countless research studies in both education and sport settings, individuals with a mastery orientation have less anxiety, greater motivation, and, ultimately, higher levels of performance than those people who deem success as being better than their peers (which is a competitive orientation).
While Arnold does have a competitive streak, his life is vastly that of a mastery orientation, which by the following examples, can help us to become more successful in our lives:
Quest for learning
As soon as he arrived in Los Angeles, Arnold began his continuing education. He took classes at Santa Monica Community College at night as he worked on his body during the day. He also learned as much as he could about real estate (as he soon realized his newfound wealth on land in California). He also took acting classes five hours a day while his bodybuilding career was winding down, and his film career revving up. Arnold has a love for growth of the mind as well as body.
Drive for new challenges
Even while he was completely dominating the sport of bodybuilding, Arnold was getting bored and seeking new challenges. Acting fit that bill. But his drive for new challenges did not end there. Once he established himself as a bona fide action hero, he sought the challenge of being a comedic star with roles in “Twins,” “Junior” and others. When acting became less stimulating, he again challenged himself into the chaotic world of politics. Arnold seeks challenge after challenge as a vehicle to keep him motivated in life.
When Arnold appeared on “Piers Morgan Tonight,” he said something very profound that will last with me for the rest of my life. Arnold said (and I paraphrase) that all his successes are unimportant without the support of his family. He professed to his stupid mistake of adultery (and he states the same in his book) and how it has affected the values in his life. The most important life lesson that I learned from Arnold was from his failure: No matter how high you climb in life, success is not as important as having a solid family life.
Giving Arnold’s history, I do know he will not lie down after the governorship. Whether it is directing, publishing, or being an older action hero, I do know Arnold will be back.