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Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Robert Irvine Magazine Interview

Robert Irvine Magazine: You’re currently trying to tackle some very big issues, gerrymandering and climate change. I see your videos everywhere. Everyone shares them. You’re obviously very passionate about this. My question is what lesson from your past, maybe in body building, best prepared you for this crusade? Because it’s an uphill battle, progress is barely discernible, and for the average person, it’s easy to get discouraged when thinking about the enormity of the task. As I think about it, there is at least that much in common with fitness.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: I think there’s a lot of similarities. When I think back to where we’ve come from, in fitness, with there not being very many gymnasiums to where we ended up now—having a gymnasium in every hotel in the world, and in every military base, every fire station and police station, at every university, every high school—we’ve come a very long way. So we know that it has been very successful, but if I would of thought that this could have happened from one year to the next, I would have been totally wrong. But I did not think that way. I thought that it’s gonna be an uphill battle, and all we have to do is keep plugging away and have as many people as possible help me, and that’s how we’re going to end up successful in the fitness crusade.

At the Arnold Classic (held every year in Columbus, OH, and around the world—learn more at arnoldsportsfestival.com) we now have 78 different sports, with 20,000 athletes participating and 250,000 spectators. It didn’t start that way. At first it was a bodybuilding competition. The same will happen with the environmental movement and the same will happen with the anti-gerrymandering movement. It will take time and it take a lot of help from a lot of people.

I’ve learned to be patient and I’ve learned to stay focused and to keep on message, so that we don’t deviate from that, but to keep talking about gerrymandering and the environment. When we talk about gerrymandering, we talk about what damage did this caused in America, what damage it’s causing right now as we speak, and how we have to get rid of it. How politicians made it their business to pull the wool over our eyes and make us believe everything is okay, dandy and fine.

RI: You’re a Republican and an environmentalist, and there are very few left who would call themselves both. Is it disheartening for you to see your party take scientific consensus and throw it out the window?

AS: There are two answers. The first is that Republicans are very interested in a clean environment. Republicans are as concerned as Democrats about pollution, but the problem is the communication of a lot of the environmentalists is so wrong and so off—because they talk about global warming and climate change and they talk about stuff that is going to happen in 20, 30, or 100 years from now. Even though it is all true—those things will happen—but most people are more concerned today about ‘What is the job that I can get today?’, ‘How can I get healthcare today?’, ‘How can I go and provide for my family today?’, ‘How can I feed my kids today?’.

It’s all about today. So when an environmentalist starts threatening people and saying ‘If you don’t go and drive an electric car’ and ‘If you don’t change over to solar then the seas will rise six feet and we’re going to have horrible heat and storms,’ and people say, ‘What the hell is he talking about? I’m worried about today.’ And then brush it aside. So it doesn’t mean that they’re gonna be invested in pollution, but their not interested at all in talking about anything that is happening twenty or thirty years from now. That is a miscommunication on environmentalists part.

My idea for this is that we need to go and communicate the right way, which is, ‘What is happening today? Today we have a tremendous about of pollution and today 19,000 people will die because of pollution. Today. And tomorrow, again, 19,000. And the next day, 19,000. When you can get it out that nine million people die every year because of pollution, people will recognize the fact there is no Republican air or Democratic air. We all breathe the same air. There’s no Republican water or Democratic water. We all drink the same water, so therefore, we all have to protect our environment. We have to protect what we have and our future and get rid of the pollution.

Walking with the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, in advance of the Paris Climate Summit in 2014. Schwarzenegger is a staunch environmentalist; in the wake of President Trump deciding to withdraw from the Paris accord in 2017, Schwarzenegger said, “One man cannot destroy progress. One man cannot stop our clean energy revolution. One man cannot go back in time—only I can do that,” the last bit a wry reference to his Terminator films.

Now it is true that today, the Republican party, in general, has gone in a different direction. That means that certain principles that the Republican party used to stand for, all of a sudden, get thrown out the window by some of the people. Not all of them, but some of the people.

If you think about the party of Abraham Lincoln, this is the party that ended slavery. The Republican party that a huge majority voted for giving those slaves citizenship in America. This very same Republican party has given those very same, that were slaves that became citizens, voting rights. That is the party that I belong to. I belong to the party of Roosevelt that was protecting a huge amount of natural resources, land, and created all these huge National Parks, in order to have a great, clean environment.

I belong to the party that is of President Nixon, that created the Environmental Protection Agency. I belong to the party of President Nixon that wanted to have universal healthcare in all the past Democrats derailed him. Specifically, Teddy Kennedy derailed him so that a Republican wouldn’t have healthcare reform. This is the Republican party that can win in the future.

RI: In addition to your civic work, you’re still making movies. Do you ever get stressed out by all the work and if so, how do you deal with it?

AS: I’d say if you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t really stress you out. You know what I’m saying? If you’re passionate about exercising and you work out three, four hours a day, it doesn’t stress you out. If you’re passionate about writing and you write books, articles, and cover stories and all this stuff, I don’t think it stresses you out because you’re writing a book. It maybe stresses you out when the publisher calls and says ‘Hey you’re five months behind schedule,’ then you maybe get a little bit stressed out, but the writing itself doesn’t stress you out.

So I think if you’re passionate about something, it brings you great joy. The things that I do always bring me great joy because I love fighting for a good political system and to get rid of gerrymandering. I love fighting for a clean environment because I believe in it.

I love fighting for people being healthy and fit, because I know how good it feels to get up in the morning and to jump on your bike, to go bicycle riding and to work out in the gym and to be full of energy because you’ve done something great. It feels great and I want everyone to feel that great and that’s a huge part of what we do with the Arnold Classic. I also want the people to be passionate about giving something back to their community. So I don’t really ever see that it is stressful, what I’m doing.

RI: You’re on social media a lot, do you ever find it to be a distraction that takes away from what you’re trying to accomplish? So many people get sucked into it, especially young people. You see them spending so many hours on their phone every day. Do you make a conscious effort to limit social media or random web browsing, things that distract from what you’re trying to do?

AS: I think there are two categories here. One of them is: because I did not grow up with a telephone in our house and I did not grow up with a television in our house, I was always very content and happy without any of that. So therefore, today, I very rarely watch a television show. I watch the news and then I turn it off. When something is on spectacularly, if it’s the Academy Awards, or the Super Bowl, of course you watch it, but in general I don’t watch it.

So I’m not obsessed with it. I might come home from the gym and I read a script from 9:00 in the morning to noon. My iPad is off. I don’t hear if anyone calls or rings or anything like that. I read my messages and all that stuff but there are times of the day where I just turn it off. When I drive around in New York, I find what I see through the window of the car so much more interesting than anything that I can find on an iPhone or iPad. I want to experience what is going on live. I want when I go to the show, the Arnold Classic, I don’t want to go and look at the iPad. I want to see what is on stage.

The second point of it is: Unlike some people that attack the media relentlessly because they’re not happy with what’s going on—I’m different about that. I compliment the media and at the same time, I know what their shortcomings are and what their shortfalls are. Therefore, I find it’s extremely important to use social media to go and to get my point across of the things that I want to say or that I want to present to the people. We are very active on social media during the Arnold Classic weekend. This year we had 468.5 million impressions.

So imagine, all the channels together in the morning, is approximately 11.5 million people are watching news. In the evening, it’s 12.5 million and with a big sports program it can get to 20 or 30 million. But we in the “Arnold Classic” have had 468.5 million impressions! That’s how many people were reminded there’s a sports festival, because we made sure that each one of our seventy-eight sports is tweeting out, is snap chatting out, is sending out information talking about the Arnold Classic sports and fitness festival, and reminding people to stay healthy and fit. So that is power of social media and so therefore, that side of social media, I hail, and I will go all out for it and I can tell a really good story.

On the other hand, I’m very disciplined and can turn it off and still enjoy the real action out there rather than just getting everything through the phone. Kids, they’re starting to do everything through social media. They don’t even talk to each other anymore when you sit at the table. So I think that is a big, big mistake and I think the parents should watch that and make sure there is some discipline in the house and say ‘When you sit down at this dinner table, we talk. We don’t talk through the iPhone. We talk. For this hour we’re sitting together for dinner. We talk and we hang out together.’ Those are rules I think parents should have. We did that, Maria and I, and have been very successful with that, and it helps us.

Visiting with a wounded veteran at Naval Medical Center San Diego while serving as governor.

RI: What is the most valuable piece of advice for success that you could offer to our readers? You’ve won in every arena, in bodybuilding, the movies, and politics. What is the unifying factor of your success?

AS: First of all, find your passion, because it’s not going to help you if someone says ‘You would make a great salesman,’ but you really have no interest in selling. If you’re not passionate about it, then you can never be successful in it. You have to find your passion.

There was a woman at the Arnold Classic and she crushed a watermelon between her legs. As I’m walking away, the thing that came to mind was not ‘Oh, she’s crazy’ but I said to myself ‘She found what she could shine in.’ As crazy as it may be, it makes no difference because she was on the floor and bringing tremendous entertainment. There was a huge amount of people standing around her because she was squeezing one watermelon after the next between her legs, which none of us can do—and crushing it!

And making people say ‘Wow! Look at the power in her legs!’ and she was smiling and she was full of joy. That’s what it’s all about. She found what she is good at and she is using it to its fullest. It’s just a little example, but it reinforces what I said. You have to find what you’re passionate about. I was very fortunate always, to find what I was passionate about. And you know it was the weightlifting and bodybuilding, when I was 14 years old or later on with entertainment when I fell totally in love with being in front of the camera and performing. Then later on, I did not know that eventually I would turn into this passionate person about giving something back to my country.

But I developed and found my passion. I remember that I felt so good to be working with the Special Olympics. I remember in 1977 training those guys and making them feel really feel happy about lifting weights. When I went home at night, I just felt happier than when I had done Stay Hungry or Pumping Iron or anything. So I found another passion of mine, giving back. So I went all out on that and eventually got to the point where I wanted to run for Governor, to really work full time for 40 million people here in California. I think that the thing is, passion. Find your passion, number one. Then number two is, you got to work your ass off. Don’t ever think anything comes easy. Everything is a struggle, everything takes 24 hours a day. Concentrate on it, be passionate about it, work your ass off. Work, work, work—that’s the way you can do it.

The other thing is there will be a lot of people in your life that will be saying ‘You will never make it’ or ‘This is stupid, what you’re doing here, what you’re trying here.’ Pay no attention to that. You can take their advice, weigh it, but that should not be your final answer. Always go with your passion. Always go with your instincts. My instincts told me that I can make it. I believed in myself, and so therefore I did not listen to the naysayers.

Stay up to date on all things Arnold at SCHWARZENEGGER.COM. Click the ALL-CAPS links to follow Arnold on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, and FACEBOOK. To learn more about his children’s charity, After School All-Stars, or to make a donation, click HERE.

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