(5-minute read) Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story is an extremely motivational autobiography by Arnold Schwarzenegger. From an immigrant, world’s best bodybuilder, entrepreneur, real estate investor, and movie star, to California’s governor, his incredible life journey was made possible because of the American Dream he had when he was a kid in Austria.

My top three takeaways from this book:

1. Have a vision & visualize your goals!

“If I can see it and believe it, then I can achieve it.”

  • When Arnold first started bodybuilding, he posted photos of legendary bodybuilders all over his bedroom, so he could see his idols every single day when he wakes up. He aspired to become the greatest bodybuilder of all time, but long before he had won, he could already vividly see himself holding the trophy. “I pictured myself high up on the pedestal, trophy in hand. Everyone else would be standing below. And I would look down”
  • In many success literatures I read, the idea of visualization came up over and over again. In The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, one important part of the SAVERS morning ritual is visualization. In Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg told the story of how Michael Phelps’s pre-race habit contributed to his success; one crucial habit he has is “playing the tape” – a visualization technique his coach taught him.

2. Reps, reps, reps – and smile!

“From the bodybuilding days on, I learned that everything is reps and mileage. The more miles you ski, the better a skier you become; the more reps you do, the better your body.”

  • When Arnold was a kid, he and his brother had to earn their breakfast by doing sit-ups. The discipline his father instilled in Arnold has laid a strong foundation for his future success. He never treats hard work as drudgery, instead something he finds joy. Arnold is always smiling while lifting heavy weights in the gym, “because every rep every set is getting me one step closer to my goal.”
  • Arnold’s mindset reminded me of what Dan Coyle said in The Little Book of Talent, “People in the hotbeds have a different relationship with practicing.” Arnold definitely fits into that category! 

3. Get a buddy!


“Franco was a power lifter, I was a bodybuilder, and we both understood that these sports were complementary. I wanted to add bulk to my body, which meant having to work with heavy weights, and Franco knew how to do that. Meanwhile, I understood bodybuilding, which Franco wanted to learn. He told me, “I want to be Mr. Universe.” Others laughed at him – he was only five foot five – but in bodybuilding, perfection and symmetry can beat sheer size. I liked the idea of us training together.”

  • Arnold and Franco Columbu quickly became the best buddies when they met in Germany. After Arnold came to the U.S., he managed to convince his manager to also sponsor Franco to the U.S. As workout buddies, they pushed each other to train harder; as business buddies, they started a bricklaying business and later went into real estate investment.
  • Why having a buddy is important? As Angela Duckworth said in Grit about social multiplier effect: Social Multiplier Effect

Questions for WeZBest community:
– What’s your vision? How often do you visualize yourself achieving your goals?
– How can you develop special relationships with practicing?
– Who is your buddy?

Some more Arnold motivation:

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