Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

November 25, 2017


Arnold Schwarzenegger said it best:


When he got to the gym, shivering from the freezing bike ride there, he walked to the door and pulled. It was locked.

This couldn’t be happening. Especially after he had committed himself to working out. How could this be fair?

And so Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the age of 15, four miles from his home in Thal, Austria did the only logical thing.

He broke into the gym. Just so he could keep a promise to himself.

He had resolved to become great. He could taste it. He could feel it. He could also feel the cold making its way deep into his bones.

Because the gym was closed, there was no heat that day.

But Arnold wouldn’t let that stop him though. He had, years earlier, dedicated himself to becoming a weightlifting champ. He had envisioned it.  Obsessed about it.

And so, with the towels laying around in the gym, he wrapped up his hands in makeshift gloves, and started his daily workout. Lifting steel bars with hundreds of pounds of weight on them in the freezing cold concrete gym. 

Exercise had always been a part of Arnold’s life. His father was ex-military and a civil police officer. He believed in structure and he believed in discipline. Every morning before breakfast, Arnold and his brother were forced to do sit-ups and push-ups before they would be allowed to eat.

Arnold didn’t mind. He loved physical activity. He didn’t even mind that his father would make him and his brother practice soccer every single day after school. That is, until Arnold decided that soccer was not the sport he was going to excel in. That sport would be weightlifting. 

When Arnold was fourteen, he met the current Mr. Austria. His name was Kurt Marnal. Arnold was in awe of the physique of the man. He would watch him swim in the pool and wondered what he did to get that built. Then one day, he decided he would never find out if he didn’t ask. 

From that day on, Kurt took Arnold under his wing.

They would meet daily at the gym. The same gym that Arnold would later break into. Kurt would show him what exercises to do. He would tell him how many reps.

When Arnold first started working out, Kurt pushed him so hard Arnold couldn’t even get on his bike to pedal home. His legs were like Jell-O and his arms felt like rubber bands. He tried numerous times to pedal and steer his bike, but he kept falling over. His balance was off and his limbs wouldn’t work.

So he had to walk the bike home. 

But Arnold loved the pain. He knew without the pain, there would be no rewards. So he continued to work out. He visualized himself becoming Mr. Austria one day. 

That all changed when he saw a magazine from the United States.

The magazine had a picture of a greased-up buff man, flexing on the front cover. It was Reg Park, the current Mr. Universe. 

From that moment on, Arnold saw things much clearer. He expanded his vision.

He would still be Mr. Austria — but he wouldn’t stop there.

He wanted to be Mr. Universe. He wanted to get invited to the United States. He wanted to work out on Muscle Beach. He wanted to break records in powerlifting.

So he worked day in and day out. Before school. After school. Before work. After work. He hung posters of other powerlifting heroes on his wall to motivate himself.

Which his mom had a problem with.

She even went as far as to question the neighborhood doctor. All the other boys were out trying to score a home run with girls. All the other boys had posters of bikini models on their walls. Arnold had posters of really buff men in speedos. She was quite alarmed.

The doctor assured her that it was perfectly normal, healthy even to have male role models. She accepted his opinion and let him have his posters.  

But his success wasn’t easy or automatic.

Every boy in Austria was required to join the army when they became of age.

Arnold was no exception. He enlisted and went to basic training.

It wouldn’t have been a problem, but by the time he was 18, he was fairly successful in local lifting arenas. He had even managed to place 3rd in the Mr. Austria contest.

And prior to basic training. He had signed up to compete in the Mr. Europe contest. 

His army sergeant knew the competition was coming up, because Arnold begged and pleaded with him to get a leave of absence to go. But base rules were put in place for a reason and he was denied any sort of leave. Arnold hadn’t worked this hard and this long for the military to tell him what he could and couldn’t do.

So he followed his heart, left camp and took the 7 hour train ride to Stuttgart, Germany where the competition was being held. 

He oiled up and walked out on stage in his tiny borrowed trunks and flexed for all the audience to see. The biggest audience he had ever had before.

And he won Best Built Junior Athlete of Europe. 

When he got back to base, his sergeant was not happy about his leaving.

Especially after being denied permission. Arnold was sentenced to solitary confinement.

He was only there for twenty four hours, though. When the military found out he had actually won the contest, they freed him. He didn’t sneak out anymore during his training. 

When training camp was over, Arnold was able to set up a weight room on base and was able to work out for four hours a day. And he was served meat every day — which never happened in the civilian world.

With the mixture of weight training and protein, Arnold got bigger and bigger and bigger. He outgrew a uniform every few months. 

After a rocky ride in the army, Arnold was offered a job running a gym in Germany. He didn’t want to pass it up so he applied for an early discharge from the army and was miraculously granted it.

Arnold saw this as just another part of his vision to get to the Mr. Universe title and ultimately to the United States. 

He knew what he wanted and was working to turn his vision into reality.

As he would teach other later: “What you do is create a vision of who you want to be and then live that picture as if it were already true.”

And that’s exactly what he did from his humble beginnings. He envisioned himself in America. He envisioned himself as a bodybuilding champ. He envisioned himself as a leader. 

Because of that, he became a seven-time Mr. Olympia. Winning it six times back to back. Then he made an unexpected comeback when he entered the competition years later at the last minute. He scoped out the competition. He thought he could win. And so he did. 

He made it to America and became one of the highest paid actors of his time. His movies became cult classics. His name recognizable around the world. 

And finally, he seized the moment when Gray Davis got recalled and became the Governor of California. 

Visualize your success.

Make up your mind to be great. And then do it. 

That’s how you achieve success. 

We talk a lot about being willing to do whatever it takes. About going that extra mile. About working while everyone else is sleeping.


There is no substitute for heart and determination and will. There is nothing that can replace the drive you have when you have already visualized the finish line. When you are living in that moment of expectation and success.

In your mind, you’ve already accomplished it. You have figured out where you want to be. You have the target in mind.

You know what you want. And that’s most of the battle.

It’s not the fight that trips you up. It’s not the determination or perseverance that you’ll need. It’s knowing what your target is. Knowing what you want. Where you want to be when the battle is over.

What’s that vision for you?

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.