I have always lived and competed by my own rules. I was told "you can't" over and over again as I chased ambitious goals in bodybuilding, in movies, and in public politics. I faced doubt and distractions, and I managed to shove them out of my way.
People often ask, "How did you do it? How did a non-native speaker become a world champion bodybuilder, an action star, and the governor of the great state of California?" The answer is simple: I obeyed these six rules, and I succeeded. I believed I could accomplish my goals and I fought to prove wrong anyone who told me I couldn't.
Like many of my fellow bodybuilders, I broke many of society's set rules for success and conduct. I did things no other men have. I worked harder than others. And now that I have done so much, I am focused on giving back to the world that has given me so much.
Follow these rules and success will follow you.1
You've got to have a vision of what you—not your mother or father—want to do. I knew when I was a kid that I wanted to be a world champion in bodybuilding. I wanted to be the greatest bodybuilder—not just win one competition, but be the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
My parents wanted a different vision for me. They wanted me to be a police officer like my father, to marry a girl named Heidi, and to have a bunch of children, like the von Trapp family in "The Sound of Music." I wanted to get out of Austria, to come to America, to be a champion. I had total trust and confidence in that decision and I went after it. Have trust in yourself, craft your own vision, and go after it. Once you have a strong enough vision, you can work like hell to achieve it.2
Break some rules
Franco Columbu stood 5-foot-5. Everyone told him he would never be a world champion. The rules said that only tall and big guys win Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia, and all the big titles. But Franco broke the rules. He became the monster slayer. He won the Mr. Universe three times. He won Mr. World. He even won the Olympia twice!
I did the same thing. People said I could not become an actor. The rules said that actors with accents could not be leading men. I broke that rule. I didn't care if no one in history had ever done it. I took acting classes, accent-removal lessons, and English lessons. I worked hard, and I became a leading man.3
Don't be afraid to fail
When you fail, you can always get back up. You have to take risks. Without taking risks, you can never break a record. If you have a 400-pound bench press and want to bench 420, but you are afraid to fail, then you'll never even try the 420. Relax! Don't be afraid.
A failure is someone who falls and never gets back up. A winner falls, gets up, dusts himself off, and keeps moving. Don't be afraid to fail! Everyone around the world fails. Don't be afraid to attack that goal.4
Ignore the naysayers
If I had listened to these people, I would still be in Austria, up in the Alps, yodeling. When I was 15 years old and told people I wanted to be a champion bodybuilder, right away they told me it wouldn't happen. "It's impossible," they said. "It's an American sport. In Austria, you can be a ski, cycling, or maybe track and field champion, but you cannot be a bodybuilding champion."
You know something? I didn't listen to them. I moved to America. I became a bodybuilding champion. The rest is history.
When I ran for governor of California, they said, "No, you can't. You have to first run for mayor, city council, state senator, and then maybe for governor." I said to hell with all that. I felt passionate about public service and giving something back. I wanted to run for governor, I ran, and two months later I was governor.
Work like hell
I hate when people say, "I don't have enough time to work out." That's crazy to me. You have 24 hours in a day. Sleep six hours, and you have 18 hours left. Do your job, which probably takes 8-10 hours, and you have at least 10 hours left. You're telling me you can't work out in that time?
Read a book, pay attention to your family, spend time with your friends, and save 30-45 minutes to work out every day. That's a minimum! I promise you can find or make the time.
A day lasts 24 hours, so don't limit your working hours to certain portions of it. Work like hell. Work your butt off. No one has ever been successful without working hard. There are no shortcuts. Work like hell and you're going to make it.
Give something back
We are not where we are today without any help. We all get help along the way. We've never done it by ourselves. Everything I have done—show business, politics, money I made, success in business and bodybuilding, my foundation, environmental organizations—it's always with a lot of help from a lot of people.
Since they helped me, I should now help others! This is why I have after-school programs, why I help with Special Olympics, and why I care about environmental issues. I want to clean up the environment and create a green-energy future so our world is a better place than when we inherited it.
We have to help people. There are millions of children who need help, who come from families that don't have enough money or don't read well. Help them learn to read! Encourage people to exercise! Join an organization where you can give a kid a hug, hang a medal around their neck and say, "You're a winner! We believe in you. We love you. We care for you."
Do something for your community, your state, your country. Give something back.