You’re not going to make the journey to success without getting knocked down.
You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to do things that end up costing you money, time, and friendships with people you love.
Sometimes. you are going to do everything right and still have life go horribly wrong.
It doesn’t matter how smart you are in your journey to be successful or how much money you have while you’re journeying, you’re going to make mistakes in the pursuit of your goals.
You’re going to try things and realize too late that it was just a waste of your time. And the only remedy for failure is to get back on your feet. To try again.
But that’s not easy to do. Especially when you feel ridiculous. And scared. Completely freaked out. And lost.
No one knows that better than Arnold.
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 others 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.
He had a simple secret — visualize your success, make up your mind to be great, and then do it.
It’s not easy. But it’s what is required.
We all talk a lot about being willing to do whatever it takes. About going that extra mile. About working while everyone else is sleeping.
But besides all the inspirational stories and feel-good mantras, what do you do when you have a vision, but don’t know what to do next.
How do you get back up? How do you know when you should break the rules or follow them? Getting good at getting back up is a skill you’re going to need to master — no matter what you are trying to achieve or how big your goal might be.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Realize that your failure isn’t the end of the world. You’re just like every other amazing person who accomplished something of note.
- Spend some time with a notepad and pen digging into why you think you failed. Don’t play nice with yourself. Dig into the cause of why things didn’t work out.
- Take time to blow off some steam. Physical exercise sharpens your mind and forces you to step back and think a bit more honestly about what just happened.
- Put together a shortlist of people who could help you avoid failure in the future. They could be an expert in your craft or just inspiring people who keep you grounded and excited.
- Plan out your next attempt towards success using your new knowledge of what won’t work. Dive into the details and challenge yourself to give everything you have to this next go-around.
- Allocate time each day to learning, reading, and growing. You need to refill all of the emotional fuel that you are burning in your pursuit of greatness. That’s where a good book comes in
- Hire a great coach or find an accountability partner. It’s easier to spot problems in someone else’s life than it is to uncover weaknesses in your own.
- Do one small thing each day that you can call a success. It might be calling a friend or researching a new idea or just heading back into the office for a few extra hours of effort.
- Make time each day for introspection, meditation, or quietness. Often your hustle masks the real problems. When you stop and think, your dream becomes an obsession and you automatically figure out where is to get closer to where you want to be.
There’s no easy pathway to success. Not for Arnold. Not for you. There is no easy, automatic plan that will help you feel better when you’ve experienced epic failure.
It’s never going to feel good to lose. And you’re never going to be completely comfortable being uncomfortable.
If you’re not going to give up, then the only other thing you can do is press forward. You don’t have to stay beaten. You don’t need to let the brokenness of your current situation become your life-long story.
Love yourself enough to keep trying. Believe in yourself enough to do what it takes.
There is no substitute for heart and determination and will.