Arnold Schwarzenegger's 6 Rules for Happiness

Delivering the 6 Rules speech at USC Commencement 2009

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6 Rules for Success Happiness

Today’s post examines a famous speech given in 2009 by Arnold Schwarzenegger during the commencement speech at the University of Southern California. During this speech, Arnold (as he is affectionately known by most of us) gave his 6 rules for success. I will review these rules in this post and explain why even though they were given as the rules for success, I believe they are equally applicable as rules for happiness. 

First, what qualifies Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak on the subjects of success or happiness? I think his life answers that question clearly. He was born into a poor family in rural Austria. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a body building champion, of moving to the United States, and of being a movie star. He knew from an early age what success meant to him, and what happiness would look like. Therefore he set out, diligently applying himself to the manifestation of his goals. He succeeded on all accounts and then some, doing exactly what he set out to be. He did move to America, where he would eventually earn citizenship. He became not just a body building champion but arguably the greatest body building champion of all time, having one of the most famous expo’s in the world named after him: the Arnold Classic. He didn’t just become a movie star, he defined a generation and a class of film, becoming the quintessential action hero and starring in numerous box office hits. On top of this he went on to become Governor of California, the United States’ most populous state, perhaps this was outside the scope of thought even for that young Austrian dreamer. As someone who so  greatly defined and realized his own vision of happiness, I take hold his rules for success/happiness in high regard. 

One of the many feature films Arnold would star in

The rules are as follows: 

1. Trust yourself 

2. Break the rules

3. Don’t be afraid to fail

4. Don’t listen to the naysayers

5. Work your butt off

6. Give back

Let’s take a deeper look and allow me to explain why I think these rules for success can just as easily be followed for happiness. 

Rule 1: trust yourself. In this particular part of the speech Arnold even directly references happiness. Here he urges the listeners to figure out for themselves who they want to be. What makes you happy, he asks. We all need to trust ourselves enough to recognize what success or happiness look like. If we don’t know where we are going, how will we know how to get there, or when we arrive? 

Rule 2: beak the rules. Ok, this one made me laugh a bit. If he’s giving a list of rules for success, and rule number 2 is break the rules, shouldn’t we break these very rules? Now what?? What he goes on to explain though is that he means break the rules of conventional norms. Society is full of unwritten rules saying we cant be this or we cant do that. Break those rules. There is no reason you cant be this or that, or you cant do that. Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean you can. To that point Arnold said: “if somebody has never done it before then that means that when I do it I get to be the first.”

Rule 3: don’t be afraid to fail. Fear of failure is the greatest barrier to any meaningful realization. If Arnold was afraid to fail as a movie star, he would never have dared to fly across the ocean to settle in California, the place where his career took off. If you are searching for happiness, and that means making a large change, only the fear of failure can stop you. Maybe things won’t go according to plan, but at worst you will be exactly where you are now. In fact you will be better because you will have acquired wisdom and experience in the process of your daring. 

Rule 4: Don’t listen to the naysayers. Similar to rule 2, this one encourages you to remain focused and confident. People will often belittle and disparage you on whatever your journey may be, because misery loves company. They feel a sense of insecurity in themselves, and to see someone dare greatly to chase their personal legend makes them feel inferior. If you have naysayers, you’re probably doing something right. 

Rule 5: Work your butt off. Whether you are chasing a body building career, an acting career, starting your own business, or just simply trying to work towards a happier version of yourself, it requires effort. There will be setbacks, and there will be frustrations and moments where it all seems lost. As the great American inventor, Thomas Edison said: “many of life’s failures are people who didn’t realize how close they were to success.” Keep persevering

Among his many accomplishments, he would serve as governor of CA, giving back to the community through service

Rule 6: Give back. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a handful of valuable role models and mentors who helped make his success possible. I think the idea of a truly self-made individual is a myth. At some point, I think every person’s path to success was aided by another. Pay the favor back to humanity by doing something good for society. If you find wealthy, give charity to the needy. If you have success in your career, give advice and guidance to those who desire to be like you. If you have found happiness, become a source of happiness for those who continue to struggle with their own journey. We are all in this together, lets be nice and help each other out. 

I hope you enjoyed the post. 

You can hear the entire speech here: 6 Rules for Success Speech


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