Why Having a Vision Is the Key to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Success

Adweek's 2016 Brand Visionary on his persistent drive

It takes a certain set of skills to successfully transform one's career not just once or even twice, but over and over again. No one has been more successful at achieving new, seemingly unattainable goals than Arnold Schwarzenegger. From conquering the world of body building, taking on Hollywood and eventually achieving his political ambitions, Schwarzenegger is a true Brand Visionary.

Accepting the 2016 Adweek Brand Visionary award at the Rainbow Room in New York on Tuesday night, Schwarzenegger let the room in on a few keys to his continued success and why it was so important for him to accept his award in person.

Over the past 14 days, Schwarzenegger said he was working on a film with Jackie Chan in China, but had a hard stop on Oct. 25. He needed to get back to accept an award that he said, means a lot to him. "I think, personally, that having a vision is the most important thing for one's success," Schwarzenegger said. "If I wouldn't have had a vision, I wouldn't be standing here today."

Schwarzenegger recalled his first vision, coming to the United States from Austria at the age of 10. Everyone told him he'd never get there, but somehow he did. Next came his passion for bodybuilding. He picked up a bodybuilding magazine at the age of 15 and decided this was the next thing he wanted to master. 

"I saw myself very clearly, and I was so convinced that if I started training up to five hours a day like a fanatic, believing, that one day I will get there," he said. "When people saw me working out five hours a day, smiling, having a great time they all thought this guy must be crazy … but I couldn't wait to lift another 500 pounds, I couldn't wait to do 100 chin ups, I couldn't wait to do another 1,000 sit ups because every day, every step of the way, every weight I lifted was taking me one step closer to turning this vision into a reality."

Schwarzenegger continued to plot his next career moves, from Hollywood to politics. While he was met with resistance at pretty much every step of the way, he said his visions kept him motivated. When people in Hollywood told him in the '70s, "Dustin Hoffman is the star. Al Pacino is the star. Woody Allen. Those are the sex symbols of the '70s," and that his accent would mean that he would never be a leading man in a major movie, Schwarzenegger didn't listen.

When he felt that he has accomplished all he wanted to accomplish in the movie world and pivoted once again to politics, people said he was crazy and would never be elected governor of California. No one would ever take an actor and former bodybuilder seriously.

"I said to hell with those people, that's a load of crap!" Schwarzenegger said. He became governor of California and proved everyone wrong, something he has continued to do throughout his entire career.

"If you don't know where to go, you don't end up anywhere. The best airplane in the world, the most sophisticated ship, but if the captain or pilot doesn't know where to go you are not going to end up anywhere. Vision is the most important thing and this is why I am so honored to receive an award that is the Brand Visionary award," he added.