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Arnold Schwarzenegger - "I Am Not a Self-Made Man"

Image by Gage Skidmore at Flickr

Arnold Schwarzenegger totally debunks the myth of the self-made man and reveals the mentors who helped him.

By Jatinder Singh, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International

How many times have we looked at someone who is regarded as a legend by society, and thought that they had some 'super-power'?! Somehow, they were so fortunate to be born with a special gene - this gene, however, has escaped the rest of us.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is often regarded as one of those incredible people; his story is used by many people to motivate themselves into hoping that all their dreams can come true.

Born to humble beginnings, Mr Schwarzenegger became a champion body-builder and then an a-list movie star before moving into politics. This is where he held one of the most powerful positions in the US, as the Governor of California. This state, if it was a country, would have an economy that is the 6th biggest in the world!

Yet in the recent Foreword to blogger Tim Ferris' new book, Tools of Titans Mr Schwarzenegger tells of the reality behind the myth of him being 'self-made' - he was in fact, supported by hundreds of people....

"I am not a self-made man. Every time I give a speech at a business conference, or speak to college students, or do a Reddit AMA, someone says it.

Governor / Governator / Arnold / Arnie / Schwarzie / Schnitzel (depending on where I am), as a self-made man, what’s your blueprint for success?

They’re always shocked when I thank them for the compliment but say, “I am not a self-made man. I got a lot of help.”

It is true that I grew up in Austria without plumbing. It is true that I moved to America alone with just a gym bag. And it is true that I worked as a bricklayer and invested in real estate to become a millionaire before I ever swung the sword in Conan the Barbarian.

But it is not true that I am self-made. Like everyone, to get to where I am, I stood on the shoulders of giants. My life was built on a foundation of parents, coaches, and teachers; of kind souls who lent couches or gym back rooms where I could sleep; of mentors who shared wisdom and advice; of idols who motivated me from the pages of magazines (and, as my life grew, from personal interaction)....

It is true that the mention of it [money] can bring about an immediate loss of awareness...

There is a fear that coagulates around that idea of money and that is a fear, I would say, of survival."

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mentors

Mr Schwarzenegger then goes on to give further details about who helped him and how they did so. It is a fascinating list because each contributed to his success, yet a few of them we wouldn't necessarily regard as coaches and mentors!

"I had a big vision, and I had fire in my belly. But I would never have gotten anywhere without my mother helping me with my homework (and smacking me when I wasn’t ready to study), without my father telling me to “be useful,” without teachers who explained how to sell, or without coaches who taught me the fundamentals of weight lifting.

If I had never seen a magazine with Reg Park on the cover and read about his transition from Mr. Universe to playing Hercules on the big screen, I might still be yodeling in the Austrian Alps. I knew I wanted to leave Austria, and I knew that America was exactly where I belonged, but Reg put fuel on the fire and gave me my blueprint.

Joe Weider brought me to America and took me under his wing, promoting my bodybuilding career and teaching me about business. Lucille Ball took a huge chance and called me to guest star in a special that was my first big break in Hollywood. And in 2003, without the help of 4,206,284 Californians, I would never have been elected Governor of the great state of California.

So how can I ever claim to be self-made? To accept that mantle discounts every person and every piece of advice that got me here. And it gives the wrong impression — that you can do it alone.

I couldn’t. And odds are, you can’t either.

We all need fuel. Without the assistance, advice, and inspiration of others, the gears of our mind grind to a halt, and we’re stuck with nowhere to go. I have been blessed to find mentors and idols at every step of my life, and I’ve been lucky to meet many of them. From Joe Weider to Nelson Mandela, from Mikhail Gorbachev to Muhammad Ali, from Andy Warhol to George H.W. Bush, I have never been shy about seeking wisdom from others to pour fuel on my fire.

You have probably listened to Tim’s podcasts. (I particularly recommend the one with the charming bodybuilder with the Austrian accent.) He has used his platform to bring you the wisdom of a diverse cast of characters in business, entertainment, and sports. I bet you’ve learned something from them — and oftentimes, I bet you picked up something you didn’t expect.

Whether it’s a morning routine, or a philosophy or training tip, or just motivation to get through your day, there isn’t a person on this planet who doesn’t benefit from a little outside help. I’ve always treated the world as my classroom, soaking up lessons and stories to fuel my path forward. I hope you do the same.

The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough.”

Wow - what incredible advice here! Arnold Schwarzenegger says it all in these last few paragraphs!! He truly debunks the myth of the self-made man. We all need support and most of us have low times as well as good times. While he admits he has been lucky, he also, proactively, went looking for help. A quote from another legend, the golfer Gary Player reflects this attitude perfectly. He said;

“The harder I worked, the luckier I got!!”

This sums up Arnold Schwarzenegger and most other legends in a nutshell. They have the humility to know they can't do it by themselves, and they know that there is always more to learn however much they achieve. They do so because of the reality behind all of this; we live in an interdependent world. This is a universal truth that all legends recognise... there is literally no one alive who is 100% self-made!

How To Apply This!

If you were granted a wish and could have 3 ideal people be you could have around you and learn from, who would you wish for?

If you'd like to speak with one of our mentors in relation to anything in this article that you resonated with, please get in touch with us here...

Originally posted on the Legends Report.

4,913 views9 comments


Diane Cubitt
Diane Cubitt
Feb 24, 2022

I have always loved watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s films, always finding him very humble in what part he plays, from terminator, to playing twin brothers with Danny DeVito in Twins. But one film stood out to me because of what he did during filming, Kindergarten Cop. During filming the children were going to miss their graduation, so Arnold held a special graduation for them all so they wouldn’t miss out. It is his character that makes him who he is, that is only where he is a self made man in my eyes. Thank you JT


What a wonderful article, thank you. It really hits home the myth of the self made man where rugged individualism is suggested to bring incredible results. Interdependence and mentorship will produce far more fruit than any individual every time, to suggest otherwise is incredibly naive and arrogant. A powerful honest message, reality, thank you.


Jan 24, 2022

For many years, I believed in the myth of the self made man. I wanted to be one myself. I had a vision of pulling myself to the top of the ladder and battling through all the challenges by myself to emerge triumphant! It is a myth because we all need help from others and we all receive help from others throughout our life whether we acknowledge it or not. I value Arnold's humility and honesty. He doesn't have an attitude of I'm a big film star and it's all about me. Instead, he is grateful for those who have helped and guided him throughout his life.


Jan 24, 2022

Thanks Jatinder, I really value that Arnold has given respect and acknowledgment where it is due. That type of attitude and humility has probably been part of why so many have been willing to help and support him. This “self-made” myth is prevalent across society and is actually extremely dangerous to perpetuate because people believe that almost killing themselves through strife alone to make it, is the way to go. It costs more of their life, time, money and manpower and the fruits and results are not optimal. I will share this article right now!


Anthony Antoine
Anthony Antoine
Jan 24, 2022

Such a great article, I value the adjustment to reality, that this notion of being self-made just can’t be true. You can’t make everything single in your life and achieve anything significant. Too many people become very rugged in how they go about trying to attain outward, and even internal success, and it doesn’t work. Too many smashed dreams are because of this, so much strife and struggle, heartbreak and tears are because of this belief. So thank you for breaking it!


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