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The No. 1 Habit of Successful People, According to Arnold Schwarzenegger

The bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned governor reveals some helpful advice. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger is wildly successful. The Austrian-born multi-hyphenate went from being a bodybuilder to one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood and later, became the Governor of California. According to the 76-year-old, a single habit (or two) is the secret of highly successful people, and he reveals it in a new essay. 

Being a Good Listener Is Key

Arnold Schwarzenegger

"Being curious and being a good listener are a big part of how to effectively utilize your relationship with other people in pursuit of your goals," he writes for CNBC. "I don't mean that in a manipulative way, only practically."

He Says That People Are Resources

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Wikimedia Commons

He goes on to explain that people are resources. "But it's only when you learn to soak up what those people tell you — not just let it go in one ear, out the other — that you truly begin to make yourself useful to others and become a resource yourself," he says. 

The Most Important Skill: "Asking Good 'How' and 'Why' Questions

Arnold Schwarzenegger at the premiere of "FUBAR" in May 2023
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

According to the star, the "most valuable skill" is "asking good 'how' and 'why' questions."

He Tells a Personal Story About Another Bodybuilder

Vince Gironda
Wikimedia Commons

"In the gym, if I saw someone trying a new training technique that didn't make sense to me, I would ask them about it because maybe it would help me," he said, telling a story about the great bodybuilder Vince Gironda.

He Thought an Exercise Was Pointless, But Tried It Anyway

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Wikimedia Commons

Instead of dismissing an exercise he was doing, describing it as "a little Mickey Mouse," he tried it. 

And, He Learned Something

Arnold Schwarzenegger

"I did 40 sets during my next arms workout, which I had learned was the best way to see how a new movement impacts my body, and my outside triceps shook the whole next day," he said. 

He Then Asked About the How and Why

Arnold Schwarzenegger on "The Howard Stern Show" in October 2023
The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

"The exercise was so effective, I had to ask Vince about it: How did you come up with this exercise? Why does this work better than other similar movements? How should I best incorporate it into a workout?" he continues. 

Not Only Did He Learn, But Made Himself an Ally

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Wikimedia Commons

He explained that his questions served multiple purposes. "The answers, if they made sense, would alleviate any of my doubts or concerns. By being curious, I showed humility and made myself an ally to Vince, which made it more likely that he might share other valuable training techniques," he points out. 

Asking Good Questions Increases the Chance You Will Remember It

Arnold Schwarzenegger

"But most important of all, asking good 'how' and 'why' questions about something you're interested in increases the chances of information sticking in your brain and connecting with other related bits of information — making all of it more useful to you when it's time to put it all to work in service of others," he adds. 

Being Governor Allowed Him to "Soak Up" Information

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Wikimedia Commons

"That's why I loved being governor more than any job I ever had. It was an opportunity to soak up all this information about the way our society runs while being in a position to use that information to help millions of people," he says. 

He Was "Learning Nonstop"

Arnold Schwarzenegger at Synergy Global Forum 2019
Photo_Doc / Shutterstock

He explains that he was "learning nonstop," while he was governor. "The more I learned, and the more questions I asked of the people who were teaching me, the more I understood how things were connected and the better leader I became," he said. 

He Was "Lucky"

Arnold Schwarzenegger at the premiere of "Terminator Genisys" in 2015
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

"Of course, I was lucky. As a governor, even if I wasn't naturally curious, I could make people explain things about the way the state worked until it made sense to me, no matter how long it took."

He Admits Others Aren't So Lucky

arnold schwarnegger stands on stage with pink and purple background in russia

He admitted that the majority of people aren't so lucky. "They don't have the power to make others explain the world to them. They have to try to figure it out for themselves, which can be very intimidating and very discouraging without support."

People End Up Feeling "Stuck"

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Netflix docuseries "Arnold"
Netflix / YouTube

"This, I believe, is one of the reasons so many people feel stuck in their lives. They live in a world they don't fully understand. The world is what it is, and they are who they are, and it's just something they have to accept and deal with," he writes. 

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Be a "Sponge," He Says

A stack of three colorful kitchen sponges, purple, yellow, and blue.

"Maybe they were born into a life in which others were rich and they were poor, or others were tall or smart of physically gifted and they were the opposite of those things — and no one explained to them that while there are some circumstances you can't change, there are others that you can change by being curious and by being a sponge, and then using the knowledge you gain to craft a vision for yourself."

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