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Arnold's Book is the Most Schwarzenegger Thing I've Ever Read in My Life

📚 Hey, my full breakdown of Be Useful is finally ready!

I ripped through Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book like I was tearing a phone book in half, and I end up with five full pages of notes.

I feel as though you’ve heard of Arnold already? Do I really need to introduce the guy?

Anyway, he’s a former Mr. Olympia bodybuilder who went on to become an action movie superstar, then took over politics, then turned around and became a charity leader helping American children access all the same opportunities he had while coming up in America.

He also wrote an autobiography a few years back that I quite enjoyed, called Total Recall. Which, if you know about his movie career, is an amaaazing title for an autobiography.

But this one, Be Useful, is more of a self-help book that grew out of advice Arnold received from his father, and many of the lessons he learned about visualizing a big, incredible dream and then sacrificing everything that didn’t bring himself closer to it.

I’ve written a full breakdown of the book that you can read in 32 minutes, and I’m going to share a sample of that breakdown here in this email.

The full breakdown is available right here for free, and then in a few weeks I’ll be putting it back behind the paywall.

Then it’ll be just for Premium subscribers of The Reading Life and members of The Competitive Advantage. 

And now let’s learn how to…

This Book is For:

*The dreamers and the visionaries who can't sit still, who know that there's something more to life, and that it can be found just outside the confines of one's hometown and the borders of one's comfort zone.

*Athletes and businesspeople who want to get inside the mind of one of the greatest competitors and achievers who has ever lived, and find out how they can bring some of that same potency and drive into their own life and work.

*Young people who are just starting out, are still living inside their origin story, and who want to get an idea of what's possible for them, what the world needs, and how they can contribute it.

*Ambitious people everywhere, always striving for more, who want to get inspired by the crazy life story of some restless Austrian kid who knew exactly where he was going and who didn't stop until he got there.


“It’s not hours in the day you lack, it’s a vision for your life that makes time irrelevant.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger, Be Useful

Arnold’s book is the most Schwarzenegger thing I’ve ever read in my life. I mean that in a good way, of course.

It’s full of his big personality and he doesn’t tone anything down (like he ever has), the result being this compulsively readable book, full of great life advice and inspirational passages. It’s motivating as hell, and I tore through it like I was ripping a phone book in half! 

There’s a lot in the book about vision, and the supreme importance of having an overwhelmingly clear, specific idea of how you want your one and only life to unfold.

Not only that, but he backed up his vision with massive action, working out twice a day for hours on end (probably overtraining, but whatever) and then attending school, going to work laying bricks with his best friend and fellow bodybuilder Franco Columbu, or heading off to acting classes in the evening.  

His path was not without obstacles, of course. None of us can claim that. Every single one of us will face people in our lives who either don’t believe in us or actively want us to fail. Not everyone is going to believe in your vision, no matter how strongly you believe in it.

Arnold says that you can either use the naysayers you’ll inevitably meet on the path to your goals, or you can ignore them, but you can never, ever listen to them. 

They are roadblocks, and you can either go around, above, or through, but you can never turn back. Not from your vision.

Your vision should be so clear and energizing - almost literally like a photograph in your mind of where you’re going, what it will look like when you get there, and how you’ll feel when you arrive - that it will inspire you to hold onto that vision and never let it go. 

Arnold can also be very funny, and the Governator’s got jokes for sure. I’ve always laughed a little whenever he advises people to “sleep faster” in order to leave more time in the day for accomplishing their goals.

Another thing that cracked me up a bit was where he was talking about the various kinds of training and acting classes he was taking once he got to Hollywood and how he wants his money back for his “accent removal classes.” 

Be Useful is full of empowering, strong messages from someone that people can look up to for a whole host of reasons; and Arnold, in my opinion, is just one of those guys who is exactly who he says he is.

He's a brutally hard worker - often lifting more than 40,000lbs per workout, morning and evening - and an aspirational role model who isn’t afraid to step forward in life and say “I am.”

Key Ideas:

#1: The Single Idea That Shaped Arnold's Life

“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.

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.”

Money can make you happier, especially when you use it to remove the sources of unhappiness. But have you ever noticed how unearned money tends to make people miserable?

It's the same story with the lottery winners whose lives become worse than before, or the children of billionaires who feel lost and without purpose, with nothing to struggle and strive for, nothing to achieve.

The same principle is at work in all of our lives, and I can tell you from personal experience: when you work so hard for something; when you give so much of yourself in pursuit of something you desperately wanted...and you actually get it?

It's one of the best feelings ever. It's damn near indescribable. But the people who aren't forced to work for what they have are deprived of the opportunity to experience it.

There is nothing you can do to feel this way, besides the work that it will take. There is, literally by definition, no shortcut to the feeling of getting something you've worked unreasonably hard for.

Arnold says that his entire life has been shaped by that one idea, and I feel the same way. I don't appreciate things that I haven't worked for, and I do almost feel sorry for people who have never felt what it feels like to give everything for their dream. Freedom feels amazing, no matter what. But earned freedom feels even better.

#2: Failure is Safer Than Quitting

“Failure has never killed a dream; quitting kills every dream it touches.”

Arnold used to say, "Look at it, there's the ground. That's as far as you can fall!" Hearing him say that changed my whole perspective on failure. You see, failure is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.

He also used to say that falling down doesn't make you a failure. Staying down is what makes you a failure. Looked at in this light, it's literally impossible to fail. Just don't quit! Don't quit and you can not fail.

Of course, it's not always that simple. "The floor" can be an awfully long way down, and you can't always just "dust yourself off" and try again tomorrow. You can very easily get knocked down to the count of 9, but even if you feel as though you're a failure...if you're on your way up, you're still in the game.

Another objection is that you shouldn't foolishly persist in error. If something isn't working the 100th time you do it, maybe it is time to give up and try something else. Or at least modify your approach.

But still. Every setback or adversity contains the seeds of an equivalent or greater benefit, and you'll find that the biggest winners in this world have also failed just as spectacularly on their way to the top. You can't avoid it, so you may as well just get better at it, and spend less time on the floor each time you get knocked down.

#3: Set Big Goals (No, Bigger Than That!)

“If you only go for the smaller goal, the big goal is automatically out of reach.”

The psychology of attacking a huge goal is completely different than that of tentatively approaching a smaller one.

It quite literally opens up new possibilities. Opportunities and paths you've never considered before will start to extend before you, and things you never even considered before will appear in consciousness. It's a totally different way of seeing.

We see what we're looking for, and so if you only look for ways to achieve a small little goal, you're going to completely miss your chance of noticing a path to a larger one.

You can put it this way: ask bigger questions, get more expansive answers. Asking how you're going to 10X revenues this quarter will shift you into a completely different mode of thinking than if you were just looking for ways to eke out an incremental 2X increase.

Another benefit is that even if you "fail," you're still going to be further along than you would have been had you only pursued the smaller one. Maybe you won't be able to 10X your revenues, but even making the attempt, taking bigger swings makes it more likely that you'll at least hit something like 5X or 7X.

Turns out, that lame poster hanging up in your school classroom was right: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.

Book Notes:

“By the end of 1987, I’d killed 283 people. More than anyone else in Hollywood during that time, by far. It took me eight films, but I did it. And that meant something.

It meant that I was an action movie star. My name was above the title of most of my films. In big block letters just like I’d envisioned: SCHWARZENEGGER.”

“This wasn’t a fantasy. This was a memory that just hadn’t happened yet.”

“If you want your vision to stick, if you want to increase the chances of success looking exactly like you hoped it would when you first figured out what you wanted your life to look like, then you need to get crystal clear on that vision and tattoo it to the inside of your eyelids. You need to SEE IT.”

“Working your ass off is the only thing that works 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of the things worth achieving.”

“One of the main reasons people voted for me was that I’m not a typical politician with a phony flawless exterior. I’m a normal person who likes to do fun things.

Why pretend that the things that got me where I was and made me who I am didn’t happen? All I’d be doing is putting myself in a position to sell the story of someone I don’t know.”

Action Steps:

So you've finished reading. What do you do now?

Reading for pleasure is great, and I wholeheartedly support it.

However, I am intensely practical when I'm reading for a particular purpose. I want a result. I want to take what I've learned and apply it to my one and only life to make it better!

Because that's really what the Great Books all say. They all say: "You must change your life!" 

So here, below, are some suggestions for how you can apply the wisdom found in this breakdown to improve your actual life.

Please commit to taking massive action on this immediately! 

Acting on what you've learned here today will also help you solidify it in your long-term memory. So there's a double benefit! Let's begin...

#1: Set a Clear, Compelling Vision

If you don't have a clear destination, you're just going to keep wandering around you're not going to end up anywhere.

Now, it probably goes without saying that you don't have to be some bodybuilding world champion or have your sights set on growing some billion-dollar company. Your goals and your vision just have to be compelling to you.

Personally, my clear and compelling vision includes reading a ton of books (my goal is to read 10,000 books) and developing an extremely impressive physique, as well as inspiring millions of people to read more and get active, while growing my business. Those are elements of my clear and compelling vision, but each of us needs to come up with our own.

More than likely, your vision will involve gaining time freedom, financial freedom, and living a life of purpose, probably including mastery of some art or skill. Deep, fulfilling relationships are likely to feature prominently in your vision, and being of service drives more people than you'd think. But everybody's different.

Both words - clear and compelling - are critically important here, but I want to stress clarity for a moment. You have to be able to literally see your vision as it will be reflected in reality, just like what you're moving towards is sitting right in front of you.

The detailed specifics of your vision need to be visible, tangible in every sense, inside the theater of your mind. Visions are seen, felt. They live inside you right now, but they can - indeed, must exist in reality.

No one can bring them to life besides you, and so you need to make a promise - a self-promise - that you're going to do whatever it takes to turn your vision into reality.

#2: Increase Your Inputs

Speaking of doing whatever it takes, a helpful approach I take in my own life is to assume that it's going to be 10X harder, and that it's going to take 10X longer, and still commit to doing whatever it takes to make it happen, whatever "it" is.

A great book regarding this is called The 10X Rule, by Grant Cardone. Okay, fine, it's a good book, but it's got a great message. All you have to remember to do is take 10X the amount of action you think it will take to achieve your goals.

Commit to working 10X harder, for 10X longer, and 10X smarter, than everybody else. Massively increase your inputs, and never reduce your goal. The problem is never the goal. The goal is never too big. Your inputs - your actions - are too small. This is now a guiding principle of your life.

Arnold himself didn't just expect to be handed everything simply because he showed up. As he tells in the book, he was working his construction job during the day, working out 5 hours a day, taking acting classes in the evenings, learning everything he could about real estate - all these inputs, this ridiculous level of preparation and focus, whatever it took to reach the goal. To realize his vision.

#3: Advance Through the "Pain Period"

The pain period exists to allow us the opportunity to show the universe how badly we really want it. To prove that we want it as badly as we say we do. To back up our claims that we are who we say we are.

As mentioned in Key Idea #8, the pain period is where all growth occurs. That's true whether we're talking about building big muscles, building a big company, or building a big vision. There's no way around the pain and the sacrifice and the work. The only way out is through.

But here's the motivating part: the only way you can fail is if you quit! That's literally the only way that you can be stopped. It's virtually impossible to fail - just don't quit! Don't quit, and you cannot fail.

"The path to success is to take massive, determined action."

-Tony Robbins

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OK, that’s it for now…

More excellent book recommendations coming your way soon!

Again, the rest of the above breakdown is absolutely free (for now!), and you can find it right here.

What you see in this email is less than half of what you get at the Stairway to Wisdom. I left out most of the Book Notes, all the Questions to Stimulate Your Thinking, several of the Key Ideas, etc.

So there’s a lot more for you left to read if you enjoyed what you read in this email!

With that said, I hope you enjoyed this edition of The Reading Life, and enjoy the rest of your week!

Until next time…happy reading!

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

P.S. Whenever you're ready, here are five more ways I can help you:

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  3. These are 50 of the greatest books I’ve ever read (out of more than 1,200+), along with complete breakdowns of all the key ideas

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