Arnold Schwarzenegger Recalls His Best and Worst Financial Bets

Great article in the WSJ on Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the article he talks about his various some of his best and worst investments. It’s worth sharing.

Schwarzenegger was a big influence on my life growing up. His story is unbelievable. He came from nothing. Really nothing. He had dreams, vision, and a plan.  For those not too familiar with his body of work and accomplishments, I highly suggest you read his book, Total Recall. I wrote a review here.

Below is the article from the WSJ.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Recalls His Best and Worst Financial Bets
By Chris Kornelis from the WSJ

Arnold Scharzenegger has had one of the most impressive—and oddball—careers in popular culture, from two terms as governor of California to four (going on five) turns as sci-fi icon the Terminator. The financial bets he has placed have been just as diverse. Some have been high profile, like his ownership position in Planet Hollywood. Others have flown under the radar.
In 1970, for instance, when he was a young Austrian expat with enormous biceps, he read that an airport for supersonic aircraft was being planned for the Mojave Desert. So, he spent $15,000 on 10 acres of land that had neither clean water nor electricity.
“The idea was that within a short period of time they were going to come in and bring electricity and water and roads and subdivide it, and [there] was a whole plan for the area,” says Mr. Schwarzenegger. “So, we said to ourselves, ‘We’re going to make a lot of money. We’re going to become millionaires.’ ”
But soon after he bought the land, supersonic flight was banned over the U.S., and the airport never materialized. Recently, though, those 10 acres of barren land—which he still owns—have risen in value as a nearby town has developed. The last appraisal came in close to $1 million, he says.
Still, Mr. Schwarzenegger says his best and worst bets have had less to do with writing checks and more to do with investing his time and effort in getting ahead—as well as having a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve and preparing for a job.
INVESTMENT: Relentless training as a bodybuilder
GAINS: Millions of dollars, movies, the governorship of California
By the time Mr. Schwarzenegger was 15, his mom charged him rent to live at home. After seeing videos of the U.S.—“the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, the huge highways, the big Cadillacs with the big wings in the back”—he didn’t just want to leave his parents’ house, he wanted to leave his home country, Austria.
Mr. Schwarzenegger decided that his ticket to America would be through bodybuilding. He began to train. He joined the Austrian army and continued training, his sights always set on moving to America. After he won the Mr. Universe competition in 1967—at 20, the youngest champion—he got an invitation from Joe Weider, one of the godfathers of the sport, to train in the U.S.
“Coming to America opened up all the doors that I didn’t even think about,” he says. “My movie career happened, and then my political career, and the money, the millions that I made, it goes on and on and on. Everything that I have accomplished in life is because of America. So this was really the most important and the best decision that I’ve made.”
THE TAKEAWAY: Mr. Schwarzenegger says he made it to America because he had a vision. From the time he was a teenager, he could visualize himself onstage winning Mr. Universe and using his success as an entrée to a life in America.
“The No. 1 lesson of being successful is having a vision,” he says. “Because when you have a vision of where you want to go in life and what you want to be, then it is just a matter of doing the work to get there.”
As he diversified his professional goals—whether it was being an investor or governor—Mr. Schwarzenegger says he employed the same principle. It is one the things he tries to instill in young people today.
“There’s just too many people floating around and not having a vision, especially young kids,” he says. “They don’t know what they want to do when they get out of college, they don’t know what to do when they get out of high school, what kind of work should they do. Should they go intern somewhere? There is no goal.”
Worst Bet: ‘Hercules in New York’
INVESTMENT: Time and cultural cachet
LOSSES: Future jobs and cultural cachet
As a child, Mr. Schwarzenegger looked up to men like Steve Reeves and Reg Park, bodybuilders who parlayed their muscles into film roles like “Hercules Unchained” and “Hercules and the Captive Women,” respectively. So, when Mr. Weider called him in 1969 and asked him if he wanted to go for the title role in the film “Hercules in New York,” he went for it.
Mr. Schwarzenegger hardly spoke English, so Mr. Weider instructed him not to talk during the meeting with the producer. (Mr. Weider told him Mr. Schwarzenegger was “a German Shakespearean actor.”) Mr. Schwarzenegger got the job but had to talk to make the film. It didn’t go well.
“I just said [the lines], but there was no emotion there because I didn’t even know what I was saying,” he says. “I didn’t have any acting training, and even though the director complimented me, I knew I was kind of in a bit over my head.”
The performance was so bad that his lines had to be overdubbed. His phone stopped ringing. “It really took me back with my career of becoming an actor for several years because I didn’t get an offer or anything,” Mr. Schwarzenegger says.
THE TAKEAWAY: “You have to find the sweet spot between having courage and being confident,” he says, “but also knowing that you’re deep into it and you’re not ready for something.”
Mr. Schwarzenegger says he got so caught up in his initial success as a bodybuilder that he didn’t slow down and take care of the basics before he capitalized on opportunities. But he doesn’t think of the experience as a total loss. Looking back, it taught him an important lesson.
“We learn not only just from our success, but we learn actually more from our failures,” he says. “I really learned to never do anything that you’re not really prepped, overly prepped for. Just like in bodybuilding, don’t go in the competition if you haven’t done the reps. The same is with anything else. Don’t do it if you haven’t done the reps or if you didn’t put the mileage behind it.”
Mr. Kornelis is a writer in Seattle. Email him at
Appeared in the June 11, 2018, print edition as ‘Schwarzenegger Recalls The Good and the Bad.’



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s