Notes from the Tim Ferriss interview of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Having finished listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast episode in which he interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger, I came away inspired and with a very deep respect for the man I watched in action movies growing up.

Here are my notes from the interview:

  • What I most admired about Arnold was his lack of arrogance. In my mind, arrogance is the manifestation of insecurity on some level, and I found Arnold to be confident and comfortable with himself as a person. This is rare to find, and something I value so much.

  • When getting into the movie business, Arnold leveraged his unique qualities—physique and German accent—to maximum benefit, despite being told by experts that these very same qualities would prove to be the limiting factors in his acting career.

  • At an early age, Arnold had the foresight to recognize that little money was available to be made in bodybuilding. Witnessing the effect high inflation was having on property values in California in the 1970s, he took advantage of that special decade, and became a millionaire in real estate.

  • Exploiting the American fascination (at the time) with all things European, he built a successful business selling brick-laying and masonry services—with the “European style”. In this business, he applied a hilarious good-cop/bad-cop strategy to land deals.

  • The motivation for doing the movie Twins was to expose the humorous side of Arnold that he saw in himself, but had yet to surface on the screen. He helped identify Danny DeVito as the co-star, partly to achieve a dramatic physical contrast between the roles. It turns out that Twins was his most financially lucrative movie, as he agreed to do it without a salary, and instead take a cut of the revenue.

  • He raised the interesting point that the reason he took “accent-reduction” classes wasn’t so much to get rid of his accent, but rather to work on those areas of speaking a foreign language that can impede communication. He mentioned as an example the focus on word emphasis. Married to someone myself who speaks English as a second language, I’ve long noticed the tendency to sometimes emphasize the wrong word in a sentence, and how that can surprisingly change its whole meaning.

  • When asked about the important books in his life, he pointed to [[[Milton Friedman’s, “Free to Choose”]]]—which has also been one of the most influential books in my own life. As someone who has experienced several cultures and political systems, through living in various countries, and has worked both as an employee and business owner, I am convinced of Friedman’s economic and political worldview.

  • Arnold pointed to the benefits of meditation, which I’ve recently discovered myself through the iOS “Headspace” app.

  • Arnold attributes much of who he is to having dedicated parenting, 24/7, which he noted is increasingly uncommon nowadays. This is something that was fundamentally important to my wife and I when we had kids. My wife quit her career as an aerospace engineer to become a full-time mother, and deeply believes it has been worthwhile.

  • After all his success, Arnold remains a down-to-earth and approachable person, which I believe reflects a deep level of self-confidence and comfort in who he is as person. I suspect that if he lost everything he’s built during his life so far, he’d still be nearly as happy as he his today, and would probably find a way to build much of it back.

  • All in all, I found him to be intelligent, funny, sincere, authentic, resourceful, well-read and humble. He’s the kind of person I’d like to associate with and have as a friend.

(PS — Arnold, if you happen to read this, I’d love to get in touch.)

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?