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Be useful, and keep moving forward

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the holder of arguably the most famous quote of all movie history: “I’ll be back”; but this week I have had two other very simple Arnie quotes running around my head.

Last week I watched Arnold, a Netflix documentary about Schwarzenegger; he has had a quite remarkable life.  Born in Austria shortly after the second world war, he gained fame initially as a body builder, then went into films (which is how most people know him) before garnering political success as the Governor of the State of California; latterly he has also become associated with campaigning on environmental issues.  Add to that some interesting (and not all flattering) personal history, and you have quite a character.

A number of things struck me as I watched the programmes.  Firstly, is the determination of the man.  I spoke to the boys in assembly this week about resilience and reacting well to setbacks, and boy, has this been true for Arnie.  He lost his first Mr Olympia competition when everyone expected him to win but came back to win it seven times in a row.  As a body builder with a heavy European accent, the idea of becoming a movie star was laughable and he was turned down regularly but still kept coming back.  Even after he became an American citizen, the thought that he would be elected to public office was crazy; and yet this happened too.  This all links to the second thing that strikes me about Arnie - he is full of self-belief.  He talks often in the documentary about needing to believe in yourself, and the power of self-visualisation: if you truly believe you can do something, you will be able to achieve it. The last thing I would note is the sheer joy of the man; person after person lines up to explain that the things he has done he has always done with fun, and that is perhaps why so many people have been drawn to this big man with a foreign accent.

But what struck a chord most, and I can’t get out of my head, is his simple advice for life.

The first he claims was said to him by his dad: be useful.  What a tremendously succinct piece of powerful advice.  There is plenty of evidence to show that people who help people, or are useful, feel better about themselves.  A few years back I read a book called Lost Connections by Johann Hari; this is a book about anxiety and depression and, whilst it would be wrong to boil a complicated book down to one message, the main one I took from it was ‘if you are feeling down, go help someone else’.

The second thing Arnie repeatedly says is: keep moving forward.  He says he certainly regrets certain things he has done in his life, but ultimately, you have no better option than to simply to keep moving forward.  I can’t help agreeing with him as I’ve never found that stewing on things ultimately is helpful.  Trying new things, taking on new challenges, doing something out of your comfort zone - all of these are important, and I think can be summed up in his simple advice to keep moving forward.

So, two very simple, but for me, very powerful pieces of advice to come from, of all people, Arnold Schwarzenegger: be useful, and keep moving forward.

“Hasta La Vista, baby……

Alistair Duncan
Interim Head

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