How Arnold Schwarzenegger's Relentless Willpower Made His Vision a Reality

Growing up in rural Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger had little chance of achieving fame or fortune.

He lived in a tiny village called Thal where children were groomed to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Arnold’s parents were set on him joining the military and becoming a police officer like his father. 

But Arnold knew he was meant for something bigger. 

Then one day, he was reading through a magazine which contained an article on the current body-building champion, Reg Park, titled “How Mr. Universe Became Hercules.”

Arnold read through the article and could not contain his excitement! Instantly the whole plan was laid out in front of him. He was going to follow Reg Park's footsteps to become a bodybuilding champion and a huge movie star.

To his family and friends, this idea was crazy. Hardly anyone even knew what bodybuilding was back then – especially in a rural Austrian village. Yet, despite their ridicule, Arnold began lifting weights like a mad man.

He had a vision, and he was going to do everything he could to make it a reality. [1]


Despite his dreams, though, Arnold was still forced to follow in his father’s footsteps. So when he turned 18, he was enlisted in the military. He was to become trained in combat, then move back to Thal to become a respected officer of the law.

So Arnold had a huge challenge in front of him, but it did not change his vision. He told himself:

"Okay Arnold, here is the goal, now whatever it takes to get there, I will do." [2]

That was easier said than done.

At the end of each day – after waking up early, running, climbing, cleaning, and marching – every other cadet was so exhausted they couldn’t move. But as they all collapsed in their beds, Arnold did an extra 3 hours of strength training!

This was training was made even harder by the fact that he didn’t even have the right equipment. He had to work with whatever he could find: chairs, bars, ropes, anything he could use that would help him get stronger.

This relentless effort only made Arnold look more insane. Everybody around him would make fun of his dream. They would try to snap him out of his fantasy world, but Arnold knew where he was going and he was determined to get there at any cost.

He didn't just have the vision he had the will to make it happen. 


Then Arnold got the opportunity of a lifetime. He was invited to the Junior Mr. Europe competition in Stuttgart, Germany.

It was also the only opportunity he would ever get. Once he turned 19, he could no longer qualify for the Junior championships. And without competing in Junior, he may never get invited to a competition at the next level.

The military, of course, would never give Arnold leave to go to the competition. So if he was going to achieve his dream, he would have to sneak off the base - facing severe consequences like weeks in solitary confinement or even years in prison.

For the first time in his life, Arnold was seriously questioning how badly he wanted to achieve his vision.

Was it really worth it? What if it was just a crazy fantasy?

Then he remembered the magazine he picked up as a boy. He remembered that Reg Park did it – so it was possible! The choice became clear - he had to go. So he waited until the night, jumped over an unlit fence and snuck off the base.


Without any transportation, Arnold had to ride freight trains for 26 hours before finally arriving in Stuttgart on the morning of the competition.

The stress of being caught, the full day riding trains, and the embarrassment of showing up at the last minute (begging an earlier competitor to borrow his trunks because he only had army clothes), would have left others in his situation flustered. 

But Arnold seized his moment.

He showed extraordinary confidence and poise while on stage, and drew huge cheers from the crowd! He performed so well, in fact, that he was chosen as one of the 3 finalists in the competition – he was so close.

After another round of posing, Arnold waited patiently as the judges gave their rankings. They announced third place…second place…and the winner....Arnold Schwarzenegger!

He couldn't believe his ears - he just won a major bodybuilding competition!

That victory in Stuttgart was the small victory Arnold needed to launch the massive success that followed. He went on to win competition after competition; including bodybuilding's top prize, Mr. Olympia, 6 years in a row!

He became the best thing to ever happen to bodybuilding. Then he completed his vision by becoming the greatest action star of the 20th century. All because he never lost sight of what he knew was possible.


How did Arnold do this?

He had so many opportunities to give up. Opportunities to listen to his friends and family, and settle into a comfortable life as a respected police officer in Thal. 

But he not only didn't listen to them, he pushed himself through pain every single day to reach the goal that he knew was possible.

Arnold's story proves the power of a vision, but it was not his vision alone that turned him from a poor, skinny boy in rural Austria, to one of the most successful people of all time...

Here are 3 factors that led to his ultimate success


Before he even picked up the magazine about Reg Park, Arnold knew that he had to get out of that little Austrian village.

He knew that his purpose in life was beyond becoming a police officer, marrying a girl in Thal, and living the simple life. He wanted something more. So his subconscious was on the lookout for a purpose in life that would get him out of Thal.

Undoubtedly, plenty of children in tiny villages around the world also read the magazine article about Reg Park. But they saw it from a different perspective than Arnold. They didn't see the plan he did because they were not looking for one!

It was so clear to Arnold because his brain was already looking for a way out.

The first step in the journey to greatness is not to have a vision; it is to open your mind up to the search. By doing this, your brain will subconsciously pick up signals. You will notice things in your world and the lightbulb will come on just as it did for him.

Do not force a vision. Simply open yourself up to finding one.


With an open mind when reading the Reg Park article, Arnold found his hero.

He was able to see that Reg Park came from humble beginnings, yet still built himself into Hercules. Park's story proved to Arnold that he wasn't crazy and kept him going through tough times.

When everyone was telling him to give up, he could turn to Park’s story and remember that he was not crazy – it really is possible. 

There is something special about a hero. When you learn about the path that someone else took to reach your dream, it makes the idea more concrete in your mind. [3]

Had Arnold read an article titled, "5 Simple Steps to Become a Bodybuilding Champion and Huge Movie Star!" it would not have given him the motivation he needed when he was risking his freedom to sneak off the army base.

When he faced the doubts of others, the pain of exerting his body, and the easy way out he could have taken, it was his hero that kept him going.

Seek out your own hero. Learn their inspirational story and allow yourself to believe that their success is possible for you too.


Winning the Junior Mr. Europe competition is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. There were plenty of winners before Arnold, and there have been plenty of winners since that have not come close to his success in life. 

Yet, if he hadn't won the competition, he may not have become the man we know today.That small win was what he needed to show everyone around him that he was not crazy. And to prove to himself that he could reach anything that he set his mind to. 

Small wins are perhaps THE most important aspect of achieving any vision. 

They boost your confidence. They show you that you're on the right path. And they prove to yourself and others that your vision is possible.  

What are some small wins you can achieve on the way to your goal? Seek out these victories and enjoy them. They are your stepping-stones on the way to achieving any vision. 


Seeing Arnold as the incredibly muscular man, the huge movie star, or even the former Governor that most of us know him as today; it can be really difficult to believe just how unlikely his success was.

There are undoubtedly countless others who have had a vision like Arnold's who worked extremely hard, but gave up right before they had their big opportunity. 

That is why Arnold is exceptional. He is the exception from all of the others because he never chose the "rational" path. He chose the path to greatness. And he had the willpower to stick with it - no matter what.