Schwarzenegger sells success
By Ethan M. Rogers
Editor in Chief
World champion bodybuilder, Hollywood hero, irreverent governor of California, philanthropist – Arnold Schwarzenegger has worn a lot of hats over his 76 years. With his new book “Be Useful,” the Austrian Oak has turned his attention to legacy.
Schwarzenegger, throughout the pages of the book, declares his intent to share the wisdom he has gained throughout the course of his life. The title, “Be Useful,” is a phrase his father drilled into his head while growing up in Graz, Austria. The book, the sixth volume to bear his name, was released this fall. This usefulness is never directly defined but there are hints throughout that one should be useful; to themselves, to others, to their community and, finally, to humanity.
Conan the Terminator might not be your first choice for a success guru; he’s famous, rich, powerful, and successful in a number of different fields. He’s nothing like you. Right?
Well, not according to Arnie, nope, we’re alike, he and I. We share qualities. And forget that every other reader gets that same, personalized attention.
“The only difference between them and us, between me and you, between any two people,” says Schwarzenegger, speaking of why some people are successful and others are not, “is the clarity of the picture we have for our future, the strength of our plan to get there, and whether or not we have accepted that the choice to make that vision a reality is ours and ours alone.”
That sounds great, doesn’t it – you can be anything you want to be, you just have to have a good plan.
Throughout the book Schwarzenegger uses the idea of “you and I are just alike in many ways” to help hook the reader into the idea that they have more control over their life than they realize.
But you can get advice like that from any success book. You also get more relatable stories, like Mary Jones from Springfield, Wisconsin, who won a pie baking contest or some such thing and parlayed that into a pie baking empire all because she put in the work.
Schwarzenegger gives you the rich and famous; he is the example in his stories. He peppers these examples of behaviors readers must imitate if they are to succeed with the likes of Jim Cameron, Danny DeVito, George H. W. Bush, thus reflecting his own importance.
It’s hard to accept the “hey, you, reading the book, you and I have a lot in common,” when the things he talks about are so far outside my reality.
This isn’t to say the book is of no value; it is.
Despite the ivory tower perspective on a lot of things, despite Schawrzie’s own admission that he is wired different from the rest of humanity, despite the clear attempt at laying the foundations of his own legacy – the book offers some solid, working-class advice.
It’s clear that Arnold is trying to build a narrative of his life in the pages of this book. Something a little less rough than reality. He’s presenting the image that he wants the world to see. Not the old man who cheated on his wife and destroyed his marriage, but the wise old king who has accomplished much. Perhaps a final bid to play Conan the King.
His roots, though, are working class and it is the lessons he learned as a boy in Graz, Austria – both at the hands of his father, a drunk who beat him and other men who mentored him during his early life, before coming to America, that formed the foundation of the man we all see today.
“If there is an unavoidable truth in this world,” reads the dust jacket, “it’s that there is no substitute for putting in the work.” That pretty much sums up the book. Working class wisdom and some perspective on how to do that work from a guy who’s done it over and over again throughout his life.