THE BLOG
08/04/2010 04:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What We Can Learn From Arnold Schwarzenegger

Whatever your opinions are of Arnold Schwarzenegger, he's a great example of what happens when you go after goals despite what people (well-intentioned or otherwise) might say. You know him as the Governor of California but may not know what events led him from a small village in Austria to his current position.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was born and raised in Austria. Schwarzenegger said since the age of 10, his dream was to move to the U.S. He didn't want to remain "on the farm" in Austria, and felt bodybuilding was his "ticket to America." When he began intensive training, building his muscles for competitions, his parents thought he was crazy. They wanted him to take after his dad and become a police officer. But Arnold said "I don't want to be a police officer, or bouncer or things of that nature." Even his friends didn't think bodybuilding was a good idea. They said "If you want to be a champion in a sport, why don't you go and become a bicycle champion or a skiing champion or a soccer champion? Those are the Austrian sports."

But Arnold had his heart set on becoming a bodybuilder. He eventually worked his way into competitive form and at the age of 22 won the title of Mr. Universe. He then went on to win the Mr. Olympia title seven times. By winning Mr. Olympia at age 23, he was, and still is, the youngest person to have held the title.

After his successful bodybuilding career, Arnold decided to go into acting. Again, he was met with discouragement from others. A Hollywood agent said he didn't have a chance, saying, "Look at your body. You have this huge, monstrous body, that's overly developed. It won't work in the movies. And no one ever became a star with an accent like that. And forget about ever seeing a named like 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' anywhere." Basically he said Arnold's body didn't fit on the screen and his name was too big for the marquee. But Arnold knew that goal was right for him and eventually proved all the naysayers wrong, starring in Terminator 1, 2 and 3, Kindergarten Cop and Twins.

A latent interest in politics came to the forefront when the political situation in the Governorship of California heated up. Arnold saw this as a perfect opportunity to leverage his popularity and enter politics. While others focused on his lack of experience for the job, Arnold vigorously campaigned and was elected in 2003. He was then re-elected in 2006.

What we can learn from all of this is how important it is to focus on your goals despite what other people might tell you. Arnold's advisors were well intentioned and thought they were doing him a favor. They didn't want to see him fail. But he was convinced his goal was right for him and eventually convinced others as well.

How many of us have been dissuaded from trying something because of what other people say? Those negative comments may be couched in phrases like, "I'm saying this for your own good" or "I hate to see you invest the time and money in something that is a long shot." Family and friends sometimes have the misguided belief that they know what's best for you. Only you can make that call.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success