Extract: Be Useful by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Read and listen to an extract from Chapter 3 of Be Useful, Arnold Schwarzenegger's book about the seven tools for living your best life.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Work Your Ass Off

I bet you and I have a lot in common. We’re not the strongest, smartest, or richest people we know. We’re not the fastest or the most connected. We’re not the best looking or the most talented. We don’t have the best genetics. But what we do have is something a lot of those other people will never have: the will to work.

If there is one unavoidable truth in this world, it’s that there is no substitute for putting in the work. There is no shortcut or growth hack or magic pill that can get you around the hard work of doing your job well, of winning something you care about, or of making your dreams come true. People have tried to cut corners and skip steps in this process for as long as hard work has been hard. Eventually, those people either fall behind or get left in our dust, because working your ass off is the only thing that works 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of the things worth achieving.

Take something that most of us can relate to: becoming wealthy. It’s pretty remarkable when you realize that some of the least happy people you’ll ever meet are lottery winners and people with old family money. By some estimates, 70 percent of lottery winners go broke within five years. Among the generationally wealthy, rates of depression, suicide, and alcohol and drug abuse all tend to be higher than for the middle class or the people who worked hard to build their fortunes.

There are a lot of reasons this is the case, but a big one is the fact that new-money lotto winners and old-money rich people never got any of the benefits that come from working toward a big goal. They never got to experience how good it feels to make money; they only know what it’s like to have it. They never got to learn the important lessons that struggle and failure produce. And they definitely didn’t get to reap the rewards from successfully applying those lessons to their dream.

Imagine if Sir Edmund Hillary had been dropped at the summit of Mount Everest by helicopter, instead of trekking to it over two months in the spring of 1953. Do you think the view from the top would have been as beautiful? Do you think he would have given a shit about that other, smaller mountain he saw in the distance when he was up there? Of course not! If you don’t get to experience what it feels like to push yourself, to do more than you thought you were capable of, and to know that the pain you put yourself through will lead to growth that you alone are responsible for creating, then you will never appreciate what you have the way that same thing is appreciated by someone who earned it, who worked for it.

If there is one unavoidable truth in this world, it’s that there is no substitute for putting in the work.

Work works. That’s the bottom line. No matter what you do. No matter who you are. My entire life has been shaped by that single idea.

In my quest to become the greatest bodybuilder ever, I trained five hours a day for fifteen years. When I got to America, I took my workouts up a level and invented the double split, where I trained two and a half hours in the morning and two and a half hours in the evening, just so I could get two full workouts in each day. I needed two sets of workout partners to pull this off—Franco in the morning, Ed Corney or Dave Draper in the evening—because no one wanted to train that hard. They weren’t crazy like me. At my peak, on my heaviest days, I was moving forty thousand pounds of weight per workout. That’s the equivalent of a loaded semitruck. Most people didn’t want to work like that. It hurt too much. But I loved all the reps. I wanted all the pain. So much so that my first trainer in Austria thought I was a freak. He was probably right.

Copyright© 2023 by Fitness Publications, Inc.

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