Los Angeles—Arnold Schwarzenegger and I first met in January 1978, a meeting that had a profound impact on my life. Over the years, he has been a wonderful role model for me as I have watched him reach every goal he has ever set.
Since that first meeting, Arnold’s example and encouragement have inspired me to maintain a lifetime of physical fitness. He inspired me to start my own business, Creators Syndicate, which is now one of the largest newspaper and Internet syndication companies in the world.
And there are a half-dozen areas where his example influenced my life, including family, faith, discipline, hard work, salesmanship and worldwide travel. Arnold helped me see the world as small and easily traveled.
But without a doubt, the most important example was his attitude of thinking big, of positive thinking, of always expecting the best and of seeing success in our future, no matter what difficulties we might be facing in the present.
Conquer and Succeed
That is how Arnold views the world, and that is how he has always seen it. I was not surprised when the Los Angeles Times ran a story last year revealing that Arnold’s favorite word is “fantastic.” He instinctively sees every problem as an opportunity and makes every situation fun, no matter how grueling the circumstances. He is convinced in his mind that he will conquer and succeed, just as he has in bodybuilding, acting, business, working with young people, working with the handicapped, and, in fact, everything he has tried.
Some Californians are concerned that the entrenched lobbyists in Sacramento will beat him down, but don’t bet on it. In fact, despite a massive campaign against him and a recent drop in his poll numbers, I am almost positive he will prevail and that California’s economy, state government and business climate will all be vastly improved by the time he leaves office.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to our first meeting, a breakfast when Arnold was 30 and I was 27. We had agreed to meet at a Hilton Hotel in downtown Baltimore, where I was the UPI bureau chief. Arnold was promoting his bodybuilding autobiography, which became a best seller and is still in print today.
Arnold was wearing a turtleneck sweater under a sport coat, and I was struck by how massive he looked. He was enormous, and in those days, it was an uncommon sight. I have no doubt that his impressive size and charismatic personality led to the current popularity of bodybuilding. Arnold also spoke English with a much thicker Austrian accent than he does today. He was instantly charming, and it took only a short while before I realized how intelligent he is.
At that point, his two big goals were to break into movies and to become fabulously wealthy. He said he would achieve both by applying lessons he had learned in the gym, including discipline, hard work, “forced reps” and, most importantly, the cultivation of a strong belief in himself.
Reaching His Goals
In the book he was promoting, written long before he became a millionaire, he had said, “I’m so determined to make millions of dollars that I cannot fail. In my mind I’ve already made the millions; now it’s just a matter of going through the motions.”
And it was this subject that intrigued me most. I kept asking how he knew he would succeed, and he replied, “Because I see it with my third eye.” He pointed to his forehead as he said this, adding that he creates a movie in his mind, seeing himself reaching his goals over and over.
“I learned that technique in bodybuilding,” he said, “and I’m applying it to becoming a movie star—and I have no doubt that I will become the No. 1 movie star in the world.”
“You mean bigger than Robert Redford or Paul Newman?” I asked.
“Oh, much bigger than those guys. I’m talking about becoming bigger than Charles Bronson!” he said, smiling that infectious smile.
Since he’s known for his sense of humor, I wasn’t sure if he was kidding, but then I realized he was dead serious. At the time, I did not know much about Charles Bronson, but when he died last year, I read that 30 years ago, he was indeed the No. 1 movie star in Europe, so there was a rational basis for Arnold’s aspirations.
In the mid-1980s, my wife, Carole, and I were in London, and I remember seeing dozens of movie marquees dominated by the name “ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER,” featuring the movie The Terminator. On the flight back to Los Angeles, I was reading a magazine article describing how Arnold became box-office gold, while Robert Redford, with the movie Havana, had become box-office lead.
I tore out the page and sent it to Arnold with a note reminding him of our breakfast conversation.
When Arnold announced he was running for governor, people from all over the world wanted to know. What is going on? When the polls showed Arnold way behind, my friends from out of state asked me if I still thought he had a chance, and I always said yes.
Before Arnold announced his candidacy, he was a larger-than-life international celebrity. When I visited China in 2000, there was a giant poster, not of Mao, but of Arnold on the bridge leading to the Great Wall. The guide explained that Arnold was promoting the Special Olympics, “and everybody wants to see him.” Once he became governor, Arnold traded in the glamour of Hollywood and international fame for the daily grind of state government.
Now that he is settling into his new role, Arnold is facing enormous challenges. He is calling 2005 the “Year of Reform,” and he is going all out for his proposals. Not surprisingly, he is being criticized more than ever, and many of his opponents are speculating that he will soon surrender. They say that the problems confronting California are simply overwhelming and that he will be forced to return to Hollywood. Those are people who don’t know Arnold. Of course, he will continue to face obstacles and setbacks, just as he is now.
But in the big-picture scheme of things, my prediction is that he will prevail. Based on the impression he made on me 27 years ago, and after watching him achieve one goal after another in the interim, I would never underestimate Arnold and his unrelentingly positive attitude. I have no doubt that in his mind’s eye he sees a better and brighter California. And if the past is a prologue, that should be good news for the people who elected him.