Arnold Schwarzenegger is incredibly famous due to his movies, his bodybuilding titles, his life in politics, and his marriage into the renowned Shriver family.
But not many know that Arnold first became financially stable—and eventually independent—not from the movie business but through investing in real estate. He had a vision early on of what the result would look like, and he was focused and driven to that end.
A relentless pursuit of goals
At a young age, Arnold was charismatic, creative, and driven. He had dreams of going to America and becoming a bodybuilding champion, a movie star, and financially independent through real estate. He became relentless in his pursuit.
This story is not unique. There are many incredible stories of immigrants who moved to the United States and built fortunes, businesses, and lives. But the thing that stands out about Arnold is how pragmatic he was in his approach, persistent in his learning, and driven to grow as a person and in business. He was able to lay out steps to get to each goal and quite literally check things off the list as he achieved them.
In previous blog posts, I’ve talked a lot about saying “no” to everything so you can say “yes” to the “one thing.” Arnold was a master at this. He trained in bodybuilding with vigor. He learned about the business, aligned himself with the best competitors, worked with the best trainers, and eventually became one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
He was eventually invited to America for a bodybuilding competition. He set his sights on his next goal of moving to the U.S. and becoming a movie star. While training and winning more competitions worldwide, he grew a small business out of his apartment and found time to attend acting school. Although others around him suggested he would not land good roles or that his accent and body would hold him back, he always believed he would be a leading man. He waited until the right part came along, and he took the opportunity.
By his mid-30s, Arnold had become an instantly recognizable movie star and had made an incredible amount of money. But he had already become a millionaire well before that. He became financially independent by buying, accumulating, and investing in real estate. His first purchase wasn’t a single-family home; it was a small apartment building that covered his monthly cost of living. And he continued to invest his earnings into real estate deals that made sense. He learned from mentors and partners in the business.
Today, it’s estimated that his net worth is in the $400 million range. He has made millions in movies, but he created his wealth through real estate by reinvesting the income into assets. While other acting and bodybuilding friends were working for an income, he started building his passive income early on to support him while he pursued whatever he wanted to. He understood how real estate would enable him to do what he wanted and not trade time for dollars in his life.
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Business lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger has said, “I made my first million in real estate, not in movies.”
Schwarzenegger started early in real estate as a bricklayer. He invested those wages into a mail-order business. His real estate investments, book deals, restaurants, TV productions, and other business ventures have made him a millionaire hundreds of times over. And now two of his sons are real estate investors, too, and following in his footsteps—Patrick Schwarzenegger buys and sells multimillion-dollar homes, while Joseph Baena recently launched a career in residential real estate.
So what are the lessons gleaned from Arnold’s experience, and how do you become a formidable legend like him in real estate?
Refine your craft
Arnold differentiated himself as a legend in bodybuilding not only by doing hard work and lifting heavy things. He also constantly tested new techniques and refined his craft. He found it was the finer techniques and individual methods that worked best and really made the difference.
Get your mind right
He also had the right mindset. That included a big vision of developing mental toughness. The real estate industry isn’t easy. Investors have to have that vision—or at least something to keep them self-motivated when it gets tough. Arnold had the vision of the perfect body, of titles and medals, and of a big empire built on real estate. For me personally, it’s my daughter who keeps me going when times are tough, as well as leaving a good legacy once I’m gone. But ultimately, it’s about providing for her, being able to give her things and opportunities I never had growing up. It’s also about having the freedom to spend quality time with her and being there when she needs me. Everyone has to have something that drives them through those tougher days.
Of course, Arnold also clearly realized that just being in shape was not enough to hit his goals. He saw the importance of being in the spotlight and controlling the media too. That meant he had to take action and get out there and put himself in the game—and competitions. He competed, ran political campaigns, became the editor of several magazines, and even starred in reality TV shows. He still has his own website and blog. Along the way, he has always been incredibly generous about sharing the results of his errors and successes with others.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he has successfully embraced change. He had different training tactics for on and off seasons. And he has progressed through various seasons of his life and his career. He is still reinventing himself today. In real estate, you might start as a property scout for a mentor, rehab your own houses, get into landlording, then one day try your hand at crowdfunding and lending the capital you have made. Don’t be afraid to evolve, grow, and diversify with time.
It’s OK to struggle—and get help
Whether you are sitting at home, at work, in an airport, or on your cell phone, I want you to feel your hunger and desire to win. The more I learned about Arnold’s story, the more I felt motivated to build my own unique story of growing my business and my life through real estate. I want you to visualize your story and pull from the stories and people that inspire you.
You’ll need to pursue your goal with patience and persistence. Understand you will have tough days. You will fail. You will likely lose sometimes. But be humble, learn, and grow. Seek out mentors and teachers who can help you. Review your goals every day, and don’t let them become just ideas, but rather a part of your very makeup. Make the choice now so that when you struggle, you will get up and remind yourself that it’s a part of the journey toward the goal you made.
While on set one day, Arnold argued with James Cameron, the writer and director of The Terminator, about whether to say “I will be back” or “I’ll be back” in that famous line. James was persistent about the language choice, which ultimately became the most famous line of the movie, a phrase quoted for decades after. Although Arnold thought it wasn’t the right line, James had written the film and knew the correct choice.
Ultimately, it took the effort of both of these guys (and countless others) to make this movie. We will never know if the line ultimately would have been as famous if they had changed it, but we do know this: Even as driven, focused, and talented as Arnold was, he still had many people who helped him reach his goals. Make sure you keep your vision, understand your goals, and seek out people who have like-minded plans.