It’s time for some real talk: I’ve been “without employment” since mid-May. Yes, technically that is also called being unemployed. But I wasn’t fired. I didn’t lose my job. I graduated and am working hard to find a position that I REALLY want. I went to grad school for this specific purpose. While hanging out in limbo land has proven to be unnerving at times I’m committed to this goal and I WON’T BE DETERRED.
That sounded pretty confident, huh? Spoiler alert- I don’t actually always feel like that. Some days I’m frustrated and more than a few times I’ve questioned my methods. The friends I graduated with are doing well in their chosen fields and I’m still in the networking phase. The thing is, deep down I’ve got this feeling that if I keep at it something big will come my way. This small flame of optimism is occasionally threatened by negative thoughts (Health insurance costs WHAT and you only get WHAT?!) but I try to stoke the fire whenever I can.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to stay motivated and goal-oriented day after day. Some people just seem to have that drive about them. I can be focused but I don’t find myself constantly chomping at the bit to get after life like a freaking robot of productivity. It’s certainly something to aspire to though.
I was having a similar discussion with my friend Shawn earlier in the summer and he suggested that I read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. He said it was both hilarious and motivating. I guess I was looking for a humorous kick in the pants because I read it pretty much immediately. For the vast majority of my life I had no real opinion of Arnold but by the end of the book I was a certifiable fan. He says ridiculous stuff like, “From then on, the army became a fantastic joyride”, and talks about meeting the Pope and what it’s like to have pranks played on you by the Kennedy family.
Old Arn has certainly made some mistakes in his life (ahem…fathering a child with his housekeeper- yeah, he talks about it) but when you watch his life unfold you can’t help but admire him. I mean, he grew up in rural Austria in a house with no running water and went on to dominate the international bodybuilding scene, make a disgusting amount of money in real estate, and become the governor of the most populous state in America. CRAZY.
Considering where he came from and what he’s accomplished, it’s clear that he never would have come so far in life if he didn’t have robot (Terminator) productivity and if he hadn’t made a serious effort to improve himself along the way. Arnold writes that whenever he meets a great person, he asks them how they’ve achieved their goals. He then uses their advice to refine what he considers to be the Keys to Success. His autobiography ends with him sharing some of these solid, go-getter tips, which I have taken the liberty of summarizing for your reading pleasure. Except for #10. I left that one just the way it is.
1. “Never let pride get in your way.” People will always be better than you at certain activities or at aspects of your craft. Don’t let the fear of not being the best sour you. By keeping an open mind and celebrating others for what they excel at, you’ll allow yourself the opportunity to learn from the best.
2. “Don’t over think.” Over analysis can cripple you. The more knowledge you have, the more comfortable you should be relying on your instincts.
3. “Forget plan B.” “To test yourself and grow you need to operate without a safety net.” If you believe in your ability to achieve your goals you’re more likely to win the support of others. Failure is a possibility but if you don’t succeed, the fall won’t kill you. AND while pursuing your #1 priority other quality opportunities are likely to present themselves.
4. “You can use outrageous humor to settle a score.” If you are being awesome at life, at some point you will undoubtedly encounter haters. Don’t let other people’s ignorance bog you down. If you and your good attitude are on a roll, naysayers will eventually change their tune and come crawling back, trying to be a part of the winning team. And if you’re completely outrageous you can add insult to injury by sending them memos encoded with secret “f-you” messages, then leak it to reporters and pretend you had nothing to do with it when quite obviously you did.
5. “The day has twenty-four hours.” It is ridiculous how much you can get done if you set goals and train yourself to maintain focus. If you have 4 hours of free time between work and sleep, actually THINK about how you’ll spend that time. Plan it out: One hour walking a new trail with your dog. One hour trying a new recipe. One hour editing a photo project. One hour reading. BOOM! You’re getting things done.
6. “Reps, reps, reps.” There is no substitute for practice. If you want to really be good at something, the only way to get there is through a commitment to repetition.
7. “Don’t blame your parents.” Whether your parents were unsupportive, careless, or overbearing, how you react to your upbringing is determined by your own attitude. “Sometimes you have to appreciate the very people and circumstances that traumatized you” for shaping you into the person you are today.
8. “Change takes big balls.” Committing to a plan that you know will not provide immediate gratification takes serious courage. Goals that are important to you (or are a part of something bigger than you) are worth the struggle.
9. “Take care of your body and your mind.” Whether you’re naturally inclined to pursue physical fitness or to cultivate your brain, to be the best version of yourself you need to spend time developing both of these areas. Balance will only make you stronger and more satisfied.
10. “Stay hungry.” “Be hungry for success, hungry to make your mark, hungry to be seen and to be heard and to have an effect. And as you move up and become successful, make sure also to be hungry for helping others.” Well said, Arnold.