The first thing you notice about Arnold Schwarzenegger is his size. You expect it of course, but it still disarms you. The man is 67 – how can he possibly look like this? But he does.
The second thing you notice is that he’s nice. He smiles a lot, and looks happy to be here. Here being the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.
"It’s his method," an article in Esquire magazine noted, "He tries to give each of them [everyone who meets him] what they came for, the Arnold experience.
Of course, to some extent he gives them the Arnold experience the instant he walks in the room or opens his mouth – his face and his body and his voice are that recognizable."
In his session at the Summit, Schwarzenegger spoke about his journey from Austria to America. He talked about growing up (his family wanted to be like the Von Trapps from The Sound of Music and had no interest in bodybuilding), being the youngest to win the Mr Universe title at 20 ("Every weight I lifted, gave me joy and got me closer to the title"), entering Hollywood ("The leading sex symbols were guys like Dustin Hoffman and Woody Allen.
‘They’re 150 pounds and you’re 250! You cannot possibly get any roles!’ they said, but I did."), making it big in Hollywood despite obstacles (he got Conan the Barbarian because he looked the part, and The Terminator because he sounded like the part) and becoming the governor of California ("People said I didn’t have a chance. California was 60 per cent Democrat and 40 per cent Republican, and I was a Republican.")
We spoke to him after the session, so you could meet him too.
You met Aamir Khan yesterday. Did you like him?
Yes, very much so. I think he’s a very talented guy. He’s proven that he can do both – win a lot of awards and also make a lot of money. And be very successful financially at the box office. He was also a very likeable man.
Do you know much about Bollywood?
Not as much as you probably do.
What is your workout routine now?
I still work out 45 minutes a day in the morning and 45 minutes at night. I do my cardiovascular training in the morning and in the evening, I do my weight training.
It’s kind of like eating and sleeping, you don’t think much about it, right? You get out of bed, and just do it. It’s the same before I have dinner, I just do it.
You’re definitely not going back to politics? (He was in office till 2011)
No. Well, I work within politics because our institute, the Schwarzenegger Institute at the University of Southern California, deals with issues and policy, specifically for the environment, stem-cell research, good government practice and public reform.
But I think I can have more effect from the outside (through the institute) than inside politics. I’m trying to improve the situation all over the world. You don’t have to be a politician to do that.
America is such a multicultural society, with so many first-generation immigrants. Does it seem silly that you can’t run for President?
There is a reason the Constitution is written the way it is written. And I think America just didn’t want, when it became independent, to have the Brits come over and start running for President.
Now I think the law is a little bit outdated. But the reason you never hear me complaining about it is because I feel like I have achieved everything in America because of America. If this is the only thing that first-generation immigrants can’t do, why complain?
But one should make an effort to change the law, so that a foreign-born can also run for President.
For someone who’s achieved so much already, what next?
Well, what I’m doing right now: fighting to create a clean environment. We have the responsibility to hand our land over to the next generation in better shape than when we inherited it. And right now, that’s not what we are doing.
I would do everything I can in my power to travel around the world, through our organisation to promote the idea of sub-national governance in cities, states and provinces, in individuals and companies and financial institutions and academic institutions, everyone working together to create a cleaner environment – to stop using fossil fuels, to build more renewable energy.
George Clooney is apparently planning to run for Governor.
I think that anyone should give it a shot. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s an actor or if it is a... coal miner, or an athlete, or a journalist.
It’s a very interesting arena to be in, a lot of hard work, but fun.
Did you try hard to lose the accent?
I never learnt or tried very hard to lose it. I always felt like the most important thing is that you’re understandable. I worked on it, sometimes, to have different accents – depending on what the movie was, but not to lose it now. I know it’s part of the Austrian charm.
You were advised to change your last name when you began acting.
Well, it was difficult. I remember when I did the first movie,
in New York, they changed the name to Arnold Strong. And I didn’t even have a choice. I saw it in the poster, “Arnold Strong”. But then when I got further down the line in the movie business, I made it clear contractually that I wanted to keep my name Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And I felt that if people could remember Gina Lollobrigida and names like that, then they will also remember Schwarzenegger.
And the other idea was that if it’s hard for you to remember a name, it’s also hard for you to forget a name.
Life lessons from Schwarzenegger
Have a very clear vision
a very clear goal of where you want to go. Only then will you get there. You can have the best ship in the world but if the captain doesn’t know where to go he will just drift around. The key thing is to know where you’re going and be very passionate about that. You have to see your goal in front of you.
2. Shoot for the top. You have to have big goals and think big because then you’re going to get big, then you’re going to achieve big things. We don’t achieve big things by accident, so shoot for the sky, shoot for the stars.
3. Work your butt off. If you think you’re going to go and accomplish something really special and be the best at that thing in the world, and you think you can do it without working, you’re making a big mistake. No matter what I did – whether it was bodybuilding, or acting, or in the political arena – it always took a lot, a lot of work. You gotta make a lot of sacrifices. If you’re not willing to work hard, forget about it.
4. There’s another rule that is very important. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re afraid to fail, you’re always holding yourself back. In weightlifting, we learnt it very quickly: the only way you could break a record is if you’re willing to fail. That’s when you put on more weight, you try, sometimes maybe you will not be able to lift it (which has happened to me many times) but eventually, when you train hard enough, you will lift it. So don’t be afraid to fail. I mean, how far can you fall? There’s the ground – that’s how far you can fall. Winners dust themselves off and move on.
5. Another thing that I always tell people is, don’t listen to the naysayers. There’ll always be people out there who’ll tell you that you will not be able to do it, forget it, it’s a stupid dream you have, a crazy vision. Don’t listen to them.
Photo by Raj K Raj
Follow @SaudaminiJain on Twitter
From HT Brunch, November 30
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