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 The Stoic Titan: Arnold Schwarzenegger

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The Stoic Titan of Determination and Positivity


“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Few individuals have carved a path as distinctive and impactful as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the pantheon of modern-day titans. As a result of his journey from a small village in Austria to the pinnacle of bodybuilding, Hollywood stardom, and political leadership in California, he is a testament to the importance of a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), Stoic philosophy, and Positive Psychology principles.

From Mr. Olympia to Hollywood, from the governor of California to environmental advocate, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life story is a relentless pursuit, indomitable will, and a commitment to growth. However, beneath the strength and charisma lies a foundation based on ancient wisdom – Stoicism.

This blog aims to illustrate how Schwarzenegger’s achievements are based on Stoicism, Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), and Positive Psychology.

As part of PMA Science University, we combine Schwarzenegger’s Stoic mindset with PMA philosophy. Our blog at PMA Science illustrates the power of combining ancient wisdom with modern psychological insight to achieve unparalleled results.

From Humble Beginnings to Global Icon

Arnold’s story begins in Thal, Austria, where he was born into modest circumstances. Yet, even in his early years, Schwarzenegger was driven by a vision of greatness. He was not content with the status quo and sought to sculpt his destiny with the precision of a bodybuilder chiseling away at marble. His early exposure to bodybuilding magazines opened a window to a world where physical prowess and mental discipline intersected. This laid the foundation for his lifelong pursuit of excellence.

Amidst the clangor of weights in a gritty gym, Schwarzenegger found resonance with the Stoic virtues of discipline, courage, and resilience. Even though he didn’t know Stoicism back then, he applied it.

Stoicism, a philosophy in ancient Greece, emphasizes control over reactions to external events. It advocates a life in harmony with reason and nature. It’s a philosophy that teaches inner discipline and perception. Arnold’s abstract concepts were practical tools.

One can vividly imagine Schwarzenegger perusing Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations during the early morning mist. Schwarzenegger will likely find kinship with the Roman Emperor’s views on duty, mortality, and the temporary nature of fame. Seneca’s letters may have given Arnold solace and guidance during trials, teaching him the art of serenity despite chaos. Epictetus’ discourses would have emphasized the importance of concentrating on what one can control. Arnold embodied this concept as he navigated his life’s vicissitudes, from bodybuilding to the silver screen to politics.

Due to the fact I haven’t yet talked to Arnold, I am not 100% sure when he started reading and applying stoicism. However, I’m pretty confident he meditates according to the Stoics of the late period.

The Stoic Path to Success

Schwarzenegger’s fascination with Stoicism, the ancient Stoic philosophy that teaches self-control and fortitude to overcome destructive emotions, began as he sought to understand the mental frameworks that underpin success. He discovered Stoicism through Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, whose teachings on virtue, endurance, and rationality resonated with him.

He found in Stoicism a framework for understanding success and a set of practical tools for navigating the challenges life throws our way. He ultimately credits Stoicism with helping him stay focused and motivated throughout his career.

Furthermore, Stoicism’s emphasis on accepting things outside one’s control while striving to act with virtue and integrity in what one can influence became a guiding principle for Schwarzenegger. He applied these lessons to his training, acting, and political career. He viewed obstacles not as impediments but as opportunities to grow and reaffirm his commitment to his goals.

For example, when Schwarzenegger was training for his first Mr. Olympia competition, he injured his back so severely that the doctors told him he couldn’t compete. Rather than giving up, he used the injury as motivation to work and train harder, eventually winning the competition.


The Ryan Holiday Podcast: A Meeting of Minds 


According to Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic podcast, when Danny DeVito couldn’t interview Arnold, Arnold’s assistant asked to book Ryan Holiday for the interview. Ryan was so excited that this happened on stage on 92nd Street in New York City, USA. To learn more, listen to the podcast here.

In a testament to his lifelong commitment to learning and sharing his wisdom with the world in his new book “Be Useful,” Schwarzenegger invited Ryan Holiday, a modern-day Stoic and author of books such as “The Obstacle Is the Way,” among others and whose works on Stoicism have rekindled interest in the ancient philosophy.

A meeting in Santa Monica, California, and a podcast on 92nd Street in New York City were not just exchanges of ideas but a meeting of the past and present, where time-tested wisdom was juxtaposed with contemporary interpretation. To convey Stoicism’s relevance to today, Schwarzenegger delved into his newly released book “Be Useful,” drawing parallels between Stoicism and his own experiences. With his thorough understanding of Stoic principles, Holiday would have found Arnold to embody the philosophy he espouses.

Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) and Positive Psychology

PMA – a concept popularized in self-help and motivational literature, finds a robust ally in Stoicism.

Schwarzenegger’s journey is a masterclass in Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) and Positive Psychology. PMA, a concept popularized by Napoleon Hill, focuses on optimistic thinking’s transformative power. Even in the face of setbacks, Schwarzenegger’s relentless positivity exemplifies PMA’s principles. He approached each challenge believing in his ability to prevail, transforming potential negatives into positives.

Positive psychology, a scientific study of what makes life worth living, aligns with Schwarzenegger’s approach to life. He has consistently sought to cultivate happiness, resilience, and well-being in himself and others. Through his philanthropic efforts and public service, Schwarzenegger has aimed to enhance the quality of life for as many people as possible. He has embodied the Positive Psychology principle of contributing to the greater good.

For example, Schwarzenegger established the After-School All-Stars program to provide after-school and summer programs in low-income communities, which has impacted the lives of over 2 million children since its inception in 1992.

Engaging Insights and Motivations

“Do something every day to move you closer to your goal” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger’s life vividly illustrates how Stoicism, PMA, and Positive Psychology can intersect to create a fulfilling and impactful life. His ability to maintain focus, discipline, and a positive outlook, even when faced with daunting challenges, offers a compelling blueprint for personal and professional success.

– Control and Acceptance: Arnold’s trajectory shows the importance of focusing on what one can control and accepting what one cannot, a core tenet of Stoicism.
– Resilience: His comeback in various fields underscores resilience, a virtue celebrated by Stoics and essential for overcoming adversity.
– Purpose and Service: Schwarzenegger’s shift from personal achievements to public service mirrors the Stoic ideal of living in accordance with nature, which includes social and communal responsibilities.

One of the most engaging aspects of Schwarzenegger’s application of these philosophies is his emphasis on action. Stoicism, for him, is not an intellectual exercise but a practical guide to living. His motto, “Do something daily to move you closer to your goal,” reflects this ethos. It’s an invitation to embrace life’s challenges, secure in the knowledge that each obstacle overcome is a step closer to one’s aspirations.

A Legacy of Strength and Wisdom


The path of greatest impact can only be achieved if we are willing to pay the price! – Jay Pacheco

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life illustrates Stoicism in action. His journey, marked by the pursuit of excellence, resilience in the face of adversity, and a commitment to worthwhile causes, is a compelling testament to Stoic philosophy’s timeless relevance. His journey from a small Austrian village to global fame embodies timeless Stoicism principles, the transformative potential of a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), and the life-affirming insights of Positive Psychology.

Furthermore, Schwarzenegger’s narrative is not just about public figures’ triumphs but about the enduring power of ancient wisdom in shaping a life of purpose, meaning, and impact. In the tapestry of his life, each thread woven with Stoic principles highlights a path to success, fulfillment, and well-being. This makes his story inspiring and instructive.

As we reflect on Schwarzenegger’s legacy, we are reminded that ancient philosophy and modern psychology are abstract concepts and practical tools for navigating life’s complexities. As a result of Schwarzenegger’s example, we are encouraged to face our challenges with courage, discipline, and a firm belief that we can shape our future. Taking inspiration from the stoic titan who paved the way for us, we can also follow the same path to greatness.

“Throughout history, our ancestors have left us a legacy of strength and wisdom, guiding us through challenging times and inspiring us to persevere.” Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ryan Holiday are leaving one. You, yes, join us too!

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