Ask the Experts: what have you learned from Arnold?

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Arnold Classic tonight, we asked the schwarzenegger.com Board of Advisors, all fitness industry leaders themselves, what lessons they have learned from Arnold. I would be shocked if you can't find motivation from one of them. Enjoy. And to the boss, happy 25th anniversary for a great event.

-Daniel Ketchell (@ketch)

Adam Bornstein

His relentlessness. His inspiration. His drive. And his belief that all boundaries are illusions and that anything is possible if you hustle and work hard. He never said "This is too hard or this impossible." Instead he dreamed up his ideal existence and then pursued it starting from the end goal. It's the success mentality and one we can all learn and benefit from.


John Romaniello

"The lessons one can learn from a man like Arnold are legion. Some are easily recognized and more easily named; words like perseverance, ambition and charisma come to mind. And they are all applicable. But whatever lessons you take from Arnold's individual achievements, they are only threads in the tapestry. They tell only a fraction of the story. If you pull back, and view things from a distance, you can get a better view of the picture as whole.

Looking at his achievements collectively, all of the lessons blend into one, the single thing that I draw from looking at his many careers: The impact that one man can have.

In another article about lessons I've learned from Arnold, I mentioned that all fitness professionals owe Arnold a debt of gratitude. This industry--the whole of it--was shaped and molded by Arnold. Before Arnold, fitness was a freak show and gyms were dungeons. After, fitness is an essential part of life and a huge piece of our culture; gyms are big business. The Arnold Effect put fitness on the map; took something scary and foreign and made it accessible to the average person. The machine continued to run long after he stepped away from the controls, but he is the architect behind it's design.

The same happened in the movies: once Arnold hit the big screen, actors were expected to look like the heroes they were playing. Because of Arnold, we expect something completely different.

The Oak changed fitness. Then he change movies. And along the way, he's changed a lot of lives.

He is a great man, but for all his greatness he is only one man. Just one. Just like you.

The lesson we can learn from Arnold is just that: one man can make an impact. Change things.

The lesson we can learn from Arnold is to always ask yourself, "What can I change?"

Neghar Fonooni

If you look up Arnold's bio on Wikipedia, it describes him as an "Austrian and American former professional bodybuilder, actor, producer, businessman, investor, and politician." That's a whole lot of hats to wear, and with such a versatile and accomplished career, Arnold has taught me this:

You can be anything.

In an industry such as fitness, it's easy to get pigeon-holed. You fall into a niche, cater to a target market, and often are left feeling unsatisfied with the breadth of your career. Arnold has shown us that needn't be the case. If a professional bodybuilder can become a Governor, who's to say a personal trainer can't become a published author, a television personality or a professional chef?

My career started 12 years ago in a corporate gym in Los Angeles, training clients and learning to master the basics of exercise and nutrition. Today, I run two successful online businesses, write for multiple publications, have modeled for Men's/Women's Health and Experience Life Magazine and my next venture is all about brides. If an Austrian immigrant and bodybuilder can make an impact on the world so leviathan, that everyone knows his name, then I too, can be anything; all I have to do is put in the work.

Sean Hyson

For me, Arnold's greatest lesson is to develop and maintain a sense of humor.

As focused as he was and as ruthless a competitor as he may have been, he always appeared to be having a great time. He laughs with others and at himself. Whether he's up or down, he always has the same love of life. Arnold's likable personality and quick wit did as much to put Arnold on the map as his body ever did. Of all his legacies, I think don't think you can overestimate how important not taking yourself too seriously is to success.

Arnold is also a great example of how powerful a weapon humor can be. Sometimes you don't need to physically exert yourself to defeat an opponent, or plan something nefarious to gain an advantage. You can psych people out and let them fail on their own by showing them how smart you are and making them think twice about the fronts they put up. We saw this in Pumping Iron and on the campaign trail. If Arnold ever had a "secret" to success, it's his imcomparable charisma.

Alli McKee

“The good bodybuilders have the same mind when it comes to sculpting that a sculptor has. If you analyze it, if you look in the mirror and say, okay, I need a little bit more deltoids, a little bit more shoulders so to get the proportion’s right. So what you do is you exercise and put those deltoids on. Where as an artist would just slap on some clay on each side, you know and maybe that’s an easier way and we go through an even harder way because it’s the human body…”  - Arnold, Pumping Iron

This very thought process is an insight, which reflects Arnold’s mindset in a big way. It displays, from an early age, Arnold’s ability to visualize, reflect and invest hard work in order to achieve growth. Regardless of whether the goal was bodybuilding, entertainment or politics, Arnold’s achievements spanning his lifetime have proven that with a similar mindset, one can not only sculpt a body but a life through visualization, self-reflection and a relentless work ethic to exercise whatever areas in your life you want to sculpt.

Jason Ferruggia

I’ve learned several lessons from Arnold but one that really stands out is to rise above negativity. Arnold seems impervious to criticism or negativity of any sort. He never wastes time on it or lets it get in his way. He sets his mind on something and then he goes out and gets it done, no matter what anyone says or thinks. He doesn’t allow himself to be dragged down by anything or anyone. He’s unstoppable. And that’s what I aspire to be.

So when I hear someone talking shit about me or trying to get in the way of what I want to accomplish I think “What would Arnold do?” And I think about how many more times he’s had to deal with that and on a much bigger level than I have. That reality check and inspiration from the Big Man is all I need to keep it moving in a positive direction.

Never slow down, never look back. Keep grinding.

Rob Sulaver

If you want to accomplish anything extraordinary, you will be faced with extraordinary odds. If you want to win these battles, whatever they might be, you’ll need extraordinary conviction.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s life, at every turn of the road, has been the perfect illustration of this. And for a man who will forever be a legend because of his impressive physique, it is his bullet-proof resolve, his indomitable will that has taught me the most.

...and the Arnold-press. There’s that too.

John Kiefer

Arnold’s life taught me the value of something I’ll call unexpected redefinition—and it’s something I’ve adopted as a core principle in transitioning between completely unrelated career fields in my own life, moving from physicist, to software engineer, to nutritionist. Look at Arnold’s career progression and tell me you don’t see a theme:

Don’t speak much English? Don’t have much money? Then come to America and become the most important figure ever in a sport few had paid attention to before. Speak English with an accent, and you’re three times the size of anyone on screen? No problem. Become the biggest movie star of the decade. No political experience? Still speak with a funny accent? That’s cool. Just get elected as the governor of the most populous state in America.

When it comes to our own lives, and what we want to do with them, the only limits are in our imagination. That’s what I’ve learned from Arnold.

Zach Even-Esh

I don't think anyone on this earth has read Arnold's Education of a Bodybuilder more than I have. That started back in 1990 for me while a freshman in high school and the big lesson that hit home for me way back then all the way to this day is how Arnold broke the rules when it came to pursuing his dreams as well as his training.

The way Arnold stopped at nothing to achieve success taught me what I would have to do if I was to achieve success in my life. Things like the times Arnold escaped from the Army in the middle of the night to compete in his first Bodybuilding contest, then flying to the United States to compete for the first time in America while being unable to speak English. Arnold continued  pursuing Bodybuilding and believed with every ounce of his soul that he would conquer all obstacles in this sport while everyone around him told him he was crazy yet he never listened to the naysayers, he kept conquering all obstacles that dared stand in his way.

Arnold was great at listening to his gut instincts and following his passion no matter what anyone else said. In training, Arnold would have workouts where he would break the rules and push his mind and body beyond any limits he thought possible such as doing 50 sets of squats in the woods with his training partner until they could no longer stand let alone squat or performing pull ups for 20 or more sets until he could literally no longer hold onto the pull up bar.

Arnold taught me what it meant to truly attack life, smash through obstacles and to go for greatness no matter what anyone said he could or could not do. What's even more impressive is that Arnold has done this with consistency since his teenage years all the way until today. Many people achieve big goals in life but they also fall off the path and have no consistency, become lazy, make excuses, blame others and stop pushing for greatness.

Arnold is always pressing onward and upward. And, one of my favorite lessons is when I saw Arnold speak at his NYC book release party for Total Recall, where he openly admitted to his mistakes and his downfalls. He honestly spoke of his mistakes and took full responsibility for them. Not enough people take responsibility for their mistakes nowadays.

I would not be where I am today if it was not for Arnold. That's the truth.

And finally, we'll let Jim Smith close it out with some extra motivation.

Jim Smith

What I Learned from Arnold

It goes without saying that Arnold is an icon and a pioneer. 

Have you ever wondered how he has been able to accomplish so many of the personal goals he set for himself?  Have you ever wondered why good things just seem to happen for him?

Some might say fate.  While others, who are jealous of what he has accomplished and angry that they haven’t been able to make strides in their own life, would chalk it up to plain old luck.

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.”  - Walt Whitman

The problem is, those who only see Arnold’s greatest moments – never see what it took to get there.  They think that the road has always been easy for him and opportunities just came his way.  Those are the same people who think that they have no control in their own lives and things just happen to them.  They still haven’t grasped the fact that no one is ever going to give them anything in this world. 

And if they want something bad enough, they have to work hard and earn it.

Arnold has also known this all along.   

When you want to change your current situation, you have to work hard and find opportunities.  And when you find them, you have to devote your entire being to following through and making each one successful.  You have to be absolutely focused and believe in yourself; especially when no one else does.

Earl Nightingale stated that “What We Believe, We Become.”  That was his strangest secret.  The secret that many men will never learn in their lives.

And you have to develop this mindset because it can be the greatest catalyst to real change in your life.

“I am the master of my fate:  I am the captain of my soul.” - Invictus

If you believe that you are unlucky and you can never get ahead, then you won’t.  On the other hand, if you believe that you are a positive person, that you have many gifts to give to others, and that there are greater things waiting for you, then you will be a champion.

You will be different.

Nothing will stand in your way and your relentlessness will only be overshadowed by the belief you have in yourself.

Everyone Has 24 Hours Each Day

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

Recently, an opportunity came along for me to contribute to fitness section of www.schwarzenegger.com.  To say that I was blown away and beyond humbled would be the understatement of the decade.

Can you imagine getting that email?

I wasn’t asked to contribute because of any one thing I did recently.  I was asked to be a part of the team because of my reputation and the respect I have from others in the fitness community.  This wasn’t something that I created overnight.  It was something I built for well over a decade. 

It wasn’t luck. 

It was hard work - day in and day out – when no one else was looking.  It was my relentless work ethic when there was no end in sight. 


Because when you want to be successful, you work hard and make the most of the 24 hours everyone has in their day.  Eric Thomas says that, “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or you’re poor, everyone has 24 hours in the day.  What you do in that 24 hours will determine if you will be successful.”

How do you spend your time?

Arnold’s Six Secrets to Success

If you want to make the most out of your 24 hours, then look no further than Arnold’s 6 Secrets to Success.  These six secrets will change how you live your life, provide you with direction, and give you hope.  But, a word of caution; if you fall into the trap of thinking that they are too hard, or that they’ll never work; then they won’t. 

Remember, “What we believe, we become.”  You can have the life you’ve always wanted; one that is driven by your passion and defines who you are - but you have to do the work.

Arnold’s Secret to Success 1.  Trust Yourself – no matter what anyone else thinks.  Believe in yourself and never hesitate or second-guess your gut instincts.  Forget the haters and focus on your goals.  When the going gets tough, focus on what drives you.  What is your why?

Arnold’s Secret to Success 2.  Break the Rules – be an original, think ‘outside of the box.’  Don’t copy what others are doing.  Be yourself.  Be YOU!  Imagine, dream, hope, and finally live!

Arnold’s Secret to Success 3.  Don’t be Afraid to Fail – always be willing to fail.  Keep your vision in mind and your feet moving forward.  Champions fail; they try again.  They fall; but they get back up.  They lose; then they work harder.  Be a champion.  Be the champion of your life.

Arnold’s Secret to Success 4.  Don’t Listen to the Naysayers – don’t listen to the people who say it can’t be done.  These are the haters.  These people are jealous and are too afraid to take chances in their own life because they DON’T believe in themselves and they are not connected to their “why.”

Arnold’s Secret to Success 5. Work Hard – leave no stone unturned!  Don’t be afraid to work hard because achieving your dreams is hard work.  Arnold’s career and successes isn’t about luck, it is about hard work over a long period of time.  And don’t be afraid to go without sleep.  If you want it bad enough, then nothing will stop you.

“Only start counting when you start to feel pain, because that is when it really counts.” – Ali

Secret 6.  Giving Back – give to others.  Find time to give something back and try to inspire others.  I don’t like the saying “Pay It Forward.”  I like my version better; Pay It 360.  Pay It Backwards to people who helped you get to where you are today.  Pay It Sideways to friends and family who are there with you every step of the way.  And, finally, Pay It Forward to strangers and new friends, to help them realize their own greatness and encourage them to expect more from themselves.

Can I Be Different?

"Death twitches my ear. Live, he says, I am coming." - Virgil

If you’re willing to work hard, then the opportunities that others have and you used to think were ‘luck’, will start happening for you.  And if you align your hard work with what you’re passionate about, opportunities will come much faster.  Believe in yourself the way Arnold believed he would become a champion in bodybuilding, in the movies, and in life – and you will live the life you’ve always dreamed about – but never thought you could have.