Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Book Summary)


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People used to get a job from a company and work there till the end of their careers. However, it changed a lot since then. For several decades, people changed their way of thinking about their career. From now on, success is seen as inferior to versatility and flexibility.

In a moment, you will read about a man who gets to the peak of three different occupations.

Everyone knows this man from the movie Terminator. Yes, you guessed it right, our hero is Arnold Schwarzenegger. The man himself has an intense career journey. He started from the bottom – he was just a countryman in post-war Austria. Then he became the Mr. Universe, well-known movie star and the governor of California.



In these terms, Schwarzenegger would be the best man to get career advice from. He has been determined, ambitious, and passionate throughout his life, and still, he is. Moreover, he never stopped learning. In this summary, you are going to learn how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. 


1 – Coming to America was Schwarzenegger’s best decision after a tough childhood.


Arnold was born in Austria in 1947. It was the time right after World War II and Austria was one of the countries that were heavily wounded. Water and food were short in the entire country and there were lots of death because of the bad conditions after the war. In the Schwarzenegger family, nothing was different, they were struggling, too. 

Her mother would go out every day to find food and clean water for her children. She cared too much about them. However, Arnold’s father Gustav was not a caring person. Upon the war, his state of mind changed more in a bad way. He became angrier and beat his 2 sons whenever he wants. The reason? Just because he wanted it. 

Gustav was the dictator of the house. He had a daily routine for his kids. First, they got up early in the morning, did a long list of chores and homework. Then they trained for soccer and athletics competitions regardless of the weather condition. Whenever they made a mistake, Gustav beat the kids badly.

Since the country was in the post-war period, domestic violence became usual. In fact, Arnold had witnessed one of his teachers slammed his classmate’s head on a desk such force that he broke the kid’s teeth. And that kid’s treatment was not an easy one because at that time dentists treat the patients without giving anesthesia. 



Bad conditions in the family, bad conditions in the school and outside… Arnold had decided to escape from Austria when he was 12. His plan was to get a new life in his dream country, America. He was so determined and focused on the plan. He started to take jobs from everywhere and saved money for his dreams. 

He could go anywhere from Austria, but he chose America. Why? The reason was that America was the one that swept away the Soviets from Austria. It was the country of power and freedom. Lots of opportunities were waiting for him there, he thought.


2 – Schwarzenegger did everything he could to join his first Mr. Universe competition.


When Arnold was a high school student he took up bodybuilding, after he finished high school, his interest in bodybuilding blasted off. He was getting points from the local junior bodybuilding competitions but, they weren’t enough for him. He wanted to join the worldwide known biggest competition ever, – Mr. Universe. 

In order to improve himself, he decided to move to Germany and work out with the veterans in the competition. When he was 19, he moved to Munich and after a week he found a job in a gym. The owner was Rolf Putziger who was an incompatible man that no one got along well.

Schwarzenegger was struggling financially, even though he had a job. That’s why he lived in the gym by converting a storeroom into a temporary bedroom. He trained in that gym for the next Mr. Universe competition in London (1966). He prepared a daily routine for himself. He needed to train for two hours before and after work every day, with an extra hour after dinner.

Only a few days to the competition Arnold realized that his application hadn’t been delivered to the organization. It turned out that the reason was that Putziger had torn off the application before it was delivered because he was worried that his business would be affected badly.

He thought that if Schwarzenegger leaves the gym he would lose plenty of customers and there won’t be new customers as much as he brought to the gym.



Luckily, he landed on his feet and the organizers of the competition accepted his application, in spite of the fact that he had missed the deadline. Then, the words spread about the Putziger’s misdemeanor and the owner of a rival gym offered him to pay his plane ticket to London. 

When the competition had started Arnold was really excited about it, but he was underestimating himself. He thought that he wouldn’t go further than the first round. However, it turned out that he was the biggest and the strongest competitor and he came second in his division. Then it hit him that if he had come to this competition with a champion’s mentality, he could have finished in the first place. 

That competition was a milestone in Arnold’s life. From now on, he trained harder with a champion’s state of mind. He decided to never enter a bodybuilding contest without having that mentality. Thanks to his ambition and determination, he was rewarded with his efforts: the next year (1967) he came first in the Mr. Universe competition. 


3 – Thanks to the help of the right coach, his dream came closer.


He was so determined and focused that he never gave up working harder. Eventually, in 1968 Mr. Universe competition he came first and he took the second prize to the hotel he was staying in London. When he arrived at his room, there was a telegram waiting for him. The sender was Joe Weider, who was one of the best bodybuilding coaches of his time.

In the telegram, Weider was inviting Schwarzenegger to train him in Los Angeles. It was like Arnold’s childhood dream came true. He was shocked and excited about it and accepted the offer without even thinking. Arnold knew that with this offer, his whole life would change.

Weider was sure about Arnold Schwarzenegger. He saw the promising determination of Arnold and decided to train him to be the greatest bodybuilder of his generation. Weider said that for the next year, he would fund him. In other words, Arnold would get an apartment in LA, a car and infinite hours of time in Weider’s gym. Needless to say, he accepted the offer.  



Weider was more than just a coach. The man had dedicated his life to the bodybuilding. That’s why he had a bodybuilding empire selling nutritional supplements, magazines, and specialist equipment. He wanted Arnold to get the advantage of this empire and started to teach the secrets of trading. When he went on business trips he took Arnold with him to get the core of the trading.

On the trips, Arnold started to think about what to do in his future and he saw himself as a trader in bodybuilding business. However, Weider was just letting him see the core of the business, he had different plans for Arnold. He wanted to send him to Hollywood to be an actor. When Arnold was 22, Weider arranged a role in a movie and started his acting career.

Weider thought the business world lost a trader but Hollywood gained an actor. He was so sure about Arnold and he was determined to show Arnold to a wider audience. With the help of his friends in Hollywood, Arnold’s first job as a lead actor in the movie Hercules in New York. 


Thanks to his body shape, he got the lead role easily. However, his use of English was a little problematic because of his background. And the funny thing was, Weider had told the producers a few white lies about Arnold. He claimed that Schwarzenegger had trained as a Shakespearean actor in Vienna…

Nonetheless, Arnold didn’t give up and producers continued to shooting the movie. He was struggling during the roleplaying because he hadn’t understood the script thoroughly. Even so, editors dubbed his voice with an actor that had better English. Although his first movie was full of problems, he was determined to do his best on this career.


4 – Schwarzenegger was so close to turning down his iconic movie.


Conan the Barbarian (1982) was the first successful movie of Arnold Schwarzenegger. His first plan was to take advantage of movies to promote his bodybuilding actions. In other words, he was acting on movies to show his body to the wider audience. Then he realized that Conan was one of the box-office hits and he saw the big picture.

Since then, he changed plans and made the acting prior to his bodybuilding promotions. He aimed to become a real movie star just like the Hollywood actors Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. He was aware of his capabilities that’s why he knew his acting was not good enough to topple Marlon Brando or Dustin Hoffman from their thrones. 

And he knew that he could improve himself in order to take the throne. He used the same mentality he had improved himself to be the champion of bodybuilding. Of course, his efforts paid off and in 1984, that iconic movie Terminator became hit in the market. Surprisingly, he was so close to turning down this role.



In fact, O.J. Simpson was going to get the role of the Terminator, but James Cameron changed the course of events. During a lunch with Schwarzenegger, Cameron realized that Schwarzenegger had inscrutable behaviors and a different tone of voice that would produce a great job as the role of a cyborg. Then, Cameron offered him that part.

However, Schwarzenegger was not sure about the part, because he thought that he would reach a wider audience if he plays the hero role; the villain role would make him repellent. Cameron convinced him by explaining the Terminator’s features. The cyborg was neither hero nor villain and he presents a great performance and dedication, which would win the audience’s hearts.


5 – Schwarzenegger explored running for governor when he was in California.


In Sylvester Stallone’s 1993 film Demolition Man setting was crime-free utopian LA in 2032. Accordingly, in 2032 Arnold Schwarzenegger runs the presidency. Of course, that wouldn’t be possible because the 61st amendment doesn’t allow foreigners to run for the presidency. However, he became the governor of California in 2003. But, how did he end up there?

Arnold has a lifelong habit that he writes out what he wants to achieve in the next 12 months. In 2001, there was an interesting item on that list: “Explore running for governor.” 

The reason for this item was that he was aware of the decline in the quality of life in California. Silicon Valley had affected the state’s tax affairs and the electricity crisis was out of control. He knew that he was the right man for this job. He thought that if Ronald Reagan made it to the presidency with the Hollywood background, he would make a great governor. After all, he was the Terminator, who would do better than him? 



His recognition and popularity would provide him lots of votes, but he had to show his political force to show that he was more than just a Hollywood celebrity. To do so, he started a campaign for reducing juvenile crimes in California. 

According to recent research most of those crimes had been committed between 03:00 p.m. and 06:00 p.m. His idea was to set up after school clubs in which teenagers get help with their homework and also improve themselves in the gym. His campaign was a success and he became the Governor of California in 2003. 


6 – No one can deny that Schwarzenegger was a man of success. 


Inspiring others does not necessitate being perfect. Because life is not perfect, so is Arnold. There are lots of discrepancy in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life. Even though he is passionate about the environment, he drives a Hummer jeep. He is a bodybuilding freak but we always see him with a cigar in his mouth or hand. What are the coincidences, right?

Schwarzenegger owes his success to obeying rules that he established for himself. Let’s see what are those rules: 

1- Don’t blame your parents for the problems you have.

People have different kinds of family relationships. Some families are conservative and others are radical. Some parents are good relations with their kids and some of them don’t get along well. 

Arnold’s father didn’t treat him and his brother well. He was a rough dictator in the house. Nonetheless, Arnold doesn’t blame him. He thinks that if he hadn’t treated him like that, he wouldn’t have left Austria and be the man he is right now. We shape ourselves with our parents’ mistakes, Schwarzenegger says.



2- Stay hungry.

Arnold could have given up after winning his sixth consecutive Mr. Olympia title. He came out of retirement 5 years later to do it again. He could have given up after making his first several million filming the Conan series. Instead, he ended up pulling over $30 million per film at the peak of his career. He served as governor of California for several years. He could have quit at the end of his serving time, but instead, he stayed in office for two terms 

Take Bono for example, his success as a musician-led him to make a campaign against AIDS. Even Donald Trump, the guy that seemingly has it all, always wants more. His inheritance got bigger and bigger, he could have lived a comfortable life with all his money but he launched a network TV show, a lot of other stuff. and more importantly, he ran for president! 

You could live with the pride of your earlier achievements, or you could get more power from your newest achievements. Arnold’s passion for success never left him and now he has achievements in 3 different careers. 


Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger Book Review


Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most determined and ambitious men in the world. He was born in a mediocre Austrian family and raised in the post-war period. His father beat him tens of times while he was growing. This led Arnold to realize his childhood dream: living in America. Since then, he won worldwide bodybuilding competitions, became one of the Hollywood stars and eventually won the governorship of California.


What does he suggest to us? Well, his biggest advice was to aim higher in any case and prepare yourself accordingly. Just remember how Arnold prepared for the Mr. Universe competition to win. When his first try he didn’t aim higher that’s why he didn’t prepare himself for the winning. Then, he trained harder with the winner’s mentality and became the first. That wasn’t enough for him. We don’t even need to mention his box office hit movies. Lastly, he aimed to run for the governorship and somehow he managed to become one. He had written his aim one year before he elected and we saw how he proved himself with his magnificent determination, again.


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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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