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Arnold Schwarzenegger An Austrian conquers the planet

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Business Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 1/2023 vom 14.12.2022


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As achampion bodybuilder, he’s a five-time Mr. Universe winner. As an actor, he became the biggest action hero in Hollywood. And as a politician, from 2003 to 2011, he was governor of California — the most populous U.S. state, which, if it were a country, would be the world’s fifth-largest economy.

These are just the best-known successes in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s remarkably diverse career. He’s also a smart businessman, reportedly making his first million from realestate investments even before he was famous. He told author Tim Ferriss, for the book Tools of Titans: “I saw, over the years, the people that worked out in the gym and that I met in the acting classes, they were all very vulnerable because they didn’t have any money, and they had to take anything that was offered to them because that was their living. I didn’t want to get into that situation.”

Arnie’s rules for success ...

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He may be in his mid-70s, but Schwarzenegger is still making movies and still righting wrongs he sees in the world. Always a believer in California as a land of opportunity, he has helped attract investment to the state, particularly in its technology companies. Now a cult figure and inspiring motivational speaker, when Arnie speaks, people listen. He often gets invited to speak at tech events, such as Bits & Pretzels in Munich in 2022, so that he can share the principles that have guided him to success.

1. Have a vision

“If you don’t have a vision of where you’re going, you drift around and you never end up anywhere,” he says. While growing up near Graz, in Austria, he discovered a bodybuilding magazine that featured Reg Park, a British bodybuilding champion and star of several Hercules films of the 1960s. In that magazine, Schwarzenegger saw the “blueprint” for his own life and career. By that time, he already felt that Austria was too small for him. His parents may have wanted him to join the police, like his father, but young Arnie had his sights set on America and Hollywood — and he knew bodybuilding would get him there.

2. Don’t listen to the naysayers

Even Schwarzenegger’s friends and family didn’t believe anyone could be a bodybuilding champion, suggesting that he try something more conventional, like skiing or cycling. And when he wanted to work in movies, he says that agents and studio executives laughed at him, saying his 250-pound (113-kilogram) body and strong accent meant he could never be a box-office star in Hollywood. “[In] everything I ever did, the thing that I heard out of people’s mouths was: ‘That’s impossible. That can’t be done.’ But you know what? I didn’t give a shit.”

“In everything I ever did, the thing that I heard out of people’s mouths was: ‘That’s impossible’”

Again and again, he has proved the naysayers wrong, but it wasn’t easy. In his first movie, Hercules in New York — afilm that, he says, “went right into the toilet” — Schwarzenegger’s voice was dubbed by an American actor. But still, he wasn’t discouraged. With hard work, he turned his body and voice into assets. Schwarzenegger remembers: “[Terminator director] James Cameron said: ‘What really makes this movie work is Arnie talks like machine.’ I don’t know if it was meant as a compliment.”

3. Work your ass off

Having a vision is important, but you must then be prepared to, as Schwarzenegger says, “work your ass off.” Consider that his first film was in 1970 and his breakthrough role, in Conan the Barbarian, came in 1982. That’s 12 years of working towards his goal — trying, often failing, but never giving up. He describes spending five to six hours a day in the gym while also going to college, working in a construction job and attending acting classes in the evenings. “There is no magic out there. You cannot get around it — you have to work and work and work.” Even after his signature role, in The Terminator (1984), had catapulted him to global fame, Schwarzenegger continued to hone his skills, showing in films like Twins (1988) and Kindergarten Cop (1990) that there was more depth to his acting than just robots and tough guys.

The Governator takes charge

In 2003, Schwarzenegger’s career took a new and, for many, unexpected turn when he ran for governor in the state of California. But perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. At the time, Schwarzenegger was married to the journalist Maria Shriver (the couple divorced in 2021), and this made him a member of America’s political “royal family” — the Kennedys. Former President John F. Kennedy was Shriver’s uncle.

Schwarzenegger has said he began thinking about going into politics in the late 1990s, a time when he was already politically active, promoting after-school programs in public schools, for example. The U.S. Constitution allows only native-born Americans to be president, so Schwarzenegger became the “Governator,” taking charge of California instead.

While his overall political legacy is considered “mixed,” he is credited for taking on essential but (at the time) unglamorous issues, like infrastructure and the environment. As governor, Schwarzenegger also appointed people to public office without caring which party they came from. Republican leaders may not have liked it, but Schwarzenegger has always been more pragmatic than partisan. “It has nothing to do with ‘Republican versus Democrat,’” he told The New York Times. “I never paid attention to any of this political stuff, period, because I think that both are full of crap.”

Last (action) hero?

More than a decade after leaving office, Schwarzenegger is still the most popular Republican in America, according to YouGov surveys, and he continues to be a leader in public life. Waiting for his Covid vaccination, he encouraged others to get vaccinated with a famous line from the Terminator films: “Come with me if you want to live!” And after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Schwarzenegger made an emotional speech comparing that incident to the Kristallnacht attacks on Jews by the Nazis in 1938. The video of that speech has had tens of millions of views.

“You cannot get around it — you have to work and work and work”

Schwarzenegger told the newspaper Politico that he worries about the polarization in America: “No one sees themselves as a team. It’s all about ‘Me, me, me.’” It is ironic that he would probably have a better chance of uniting the country than many current American-born politicians. And if he were allowed to be president? “I’d be running in two seconds,” he said.


Known as: bodybuilding champion, Hollywood actor, governor of California

Net worth: over $400 million

Nicknames: Arnie, the Governator