I know a lot of you have been asking about the newsletter, and I’ve wanted to sit down and send it to you, but my whole life has been FUBAR, FUBAR, FUBAR, my new show for Netflix. I have met so many new friends and worked with some old ones.
I am shooting almost every day for 12 hours a day, and I am having a great time with a fantastic cast and crew, but I don’t have time for almost anything else. And as you all know, I believe in the Focus Principle, that whatever I am doing, I am doing 100%. This week, I finally had a few hours of quiet, and I decided to spend it talking to all of you. Since it was my birthday last week, I wanted to do something I haven’t done in a while.
I used to sit down every year and write down my goals.
They were my dreams, really. They started out with things like “Win Mr. Universe” or “Buy my first apartment building” or “Take acting classes” or “Get a role in a big studio movie.”
People love hearing about my lists of goals and always ask me about the ritual. I think it gives them hope. They want to know their dreams are also possible. And they always want to know what I write down now that I’ve won the world championship titles, become a leading man in Hollywood, and served as governor of the great state of California.
This year, I turn 75.
I feel the urgency that drove my relentless dreams as a youngster all over again, and now I have three quarters of a century of experience to go with my drive.
So to celebrate my birthday, I’m going back to my old ritual. Except, there’s a twist. I’m not as worried about pumping up my biceps or making more money. Those things used to be the end goal - now they’re simply the means to achieving a bigger end.
My goals at 75 are “us” goals, not “me” goals. You might laugh at some of them and say I’m naive. Don’t worry, I’m used to that. When I said I’d be the best bodybuilder of all time or a leading man in Hollywood, do you think people said, “This guy sounds totally reasonable”?
I’ve never been reasonable. So this year, let’s set some unreasonable birthday goals.
Goal One: Be Kind
I want us to realize that real power comes from kindness. Every day, I see examples on the internet of people saying things to other people that they would never, ever say to a live human being. Social media was supposed to bring us all together. That definitely didn’t happen. It’s easy to blame Facebook and Twitter, but it is harder to look into a mirror. An algorithm might show you things that bring out the worst in you, but it can’t actually bring out the worst without your participation. There’s a moment when you can choose how you react, and too many of us blow right through that brief time with our thumbs hammering away to dunk on our imagined enemies.
One of my heroes, Abraham Lincoln, said in 1861: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” And in case you wanted it with an Austrian accent, I’ve got you covered:
If he could show that grace with half of the country deciding they’d had it with the American experiment and preferred bloodshed, we can definitely show it when we are worked up about this hour’s trending news story.
Where are our better angels? They’re still out there. I see them all the time. I’ve made a concerted effort to spread more positivity online, and here’s what I’ve learned. Negativity gets more attention more easily, especially when it is pushed by grifters who profit from your outrage, but positivity can be contagious, too. I’ve popped in to Reddit threads for several years now, so much so that people send up an Arnold signal and tag me when someone needs a dose of motivation. I love doing it, but I love the aftermath even more. I almost always stick around to watch because something fantastic happens: the commenters don’t need me for motivation any more, and they start pumping each other up, giving each other a boost in their quest to quit smoking or start exercising or just get outside. Once they take over, I know my work is done. I’ve seen that we can all catch kindness on social media - that’s the world I want us to live in.
This doesn’t take any more effort than coming up with the best shitpost you could imagine. In fact, it’s probably easier. We are social creatures, and the anti-social way we act on social media isn’t natural to the vast majority of us who aren’t sociopaths. Odds are, that isn’t you, because according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that’s only 0.2 percent to 3.3 percent. So let’s stop using social media to be anti-social.
There are times you’ll be worried about your country or community, and you won’t have anything positive to say. I don’t want you to fake it. I simply want you to take a moment after you see something that makes you angry and ask yourself, “Is there a way to find my better angels here? Will being mean to someone I disagree with move the needle at all?”
Or just take a step back and ask yourself, is this who I want to be? Someone who is angry all the time? Is that helping me or anyone in any way? The answer is probably a big no.
Goal Two: Be Useful
I want us to commit to do one thing a day that’s useful. I see these news reports about “the masculinity crisis” and what I see is a lot of ships drifting in the wind. I see a lack of purpose and direction.
Experts talk about the different causes, and one is always the changing job market. Yes, the economy has changed fundamentally! Guess what? It will keep changing - it always has.
If you think you can hold on to the economy from years ago, I’d love to introduce you to some horse carriage repairmen, some fax machine salesmen, and that guy at Blockbuster who didn’t buy Netflix when he had the chance.
You can’t hold on to the past. What you can hold onto, though, is your usefulness. Your purpose. And that doesn’t just go for men who feel lost and out of place in a changing world. That goes for everyone. We can all benefit from knowing why we are here.
When I look at history, I see a lot of big economic shifts. But I don’t see this same problem with millions of people feeling lost and angry. I think the biggest difference is that now, people can fill their time with hundreds of hours of social media and entertainment that is designed to make them as pissed off as possible so they keep coming back. It sucks you into a cycle of outrage, and it never offers you hope or purpose or solutions. Those people on your screen aren’t interested in solving problems, because they don’t make money by solving problems. They make money from you being mad as hell. If you find yourself spending hours a day on your phone or television, turn it off for a while and try to find a purpose.
My dad always said “Be useful, Arnold.” When I was young, I listened, but it didn’t mean as much as it means now. 75 years of life has taught me that it means everything.
Once I realized that I got more joy from training Special Olympics athletes than raising trophies and enjoyed hanging out with kids at after-school programs more than walking red carpets, it all clicked.
Being useful gives all of us purpose. You can be useful at a job, but you can also be useful as a father, as a friend, as a mentor. You can even be useful by improving yourself, by reading a book that teaches you a new perspective or starting to hit the gym. But it doesn’t require any heavy lifting. You just have to be willing to ask yourself, “How can I help?” instead of “How can I hurt?”
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. There will always be tragedies and disasters and injustices you can’t solve. But there will also always be little moments when you can do something - anything - to help.
This goes right along with the problems with social media I talked about. When I was growing up, we read the newspaper and we sometimes talked about it around the dinner table or at work. You didn’t get rewarded for complaining about news stories with likes and retweets. In fact, if you complained about the newspaper every day, most people would just avoid you. And if you carried around a newspaper that automatically updated every second and screamed at everyone about the latest story you saw, you probably would have been committed. Seriously, think about how crazy our newsfeeds would seem to anyone in the past. Today, everybody has a platform and a personal brand, and I think that is great, except… for most people, that means complaining. Seriously, go read your social media feed for 60 seconds and come back. How many of the posts were complaints about problems, and how many were solutions to problems?
It is easy to complain. Any idiot can highlight a problem. It is not easy to brainstorm, to learn, and to find solutions. Naturally, the vast majority of our social media experience is people taking the easy route. I’m asking you to try to add something to the conversation, to be curious, not judgmental, as Ted Lasso says. And if you are so pissed off you think all you can do is complain, maybe log off and go outside and try to be useful in the real world. Put down your phone and help somebody (or, maybe, help yourself).
I promise you that the first time you go a little bit out of your way to be useful, whether it’s helping someone with their groceries or reading to kids or sitting down to share a human conversation with a homeless person or helping stray animals or campaigning for a policy that matters to you or lifting a weight to start getting in shape so you’re here for your family longer, you’ll realize that this is the true joy of life. You’ll be addicted. You’ll have a purpose. You don’t need your usefulness to be a grand gesture, just do anything to help anyone and you’ll feel the bitterness you’re holding onto start melting away.
At the very least, you won’t have as much time to be pissed off.
Goal Three: Make Politics Work
I want us to make our political system work for the average voter. I’m zooming in from 30,000 feet now and getting a little bit more in the weeds, so stay with me.
The majority of Americans aren’t the loudest voices. They aren’t starting Twitter wars. Our system is failing them. But remember, we don’t just put a spotlight on problems. We highlight solutions.
Let’s be clear: our system of letting politicians draw their own districts so that they pick their voters is a joke. For those of you who haven’t listened to me for the past 15 years, gerrymandering is the 200 year old system where politicians draw their own district lines in a smoky backroom, picking their voters instead of letting the voters have the chance to pick their leaders at the ballot box.
Let me use an example. If I told you there was a country where one political party drew a map that obviously favored themselves, and in doing so, violated a constitutional amendment that voters passed in a landslide 75%-25% just four years before, what would you think? What if I told you the highest court in that land (where one of the judges, who didn’t recuse himself, was the son of one of the politicians who supported the map) declared the map an unconstitutional gerrymander multiple times, and the party just kept resubmitting the same map again? You’d call that country a banana republic.
This was Ohio!
You might ask yourself how politicians could show such a lack of respect for 75% of the voters of the state. The answer is gerrymandering. If you pick your voters so that it is nearly impossible for you to lose, you don’t need to listen to voters any more. Why would you?
We’ve made progress on turning over map drawing to commissions in 1/3 of the districts of the United States - including in California when I was Governor, a decision both parties fought - but we need to tackle this problem nationally. We need to make the voters the boss. The Supreme Court isn’t going to save us. They tell us it’s a political problem, and that means in some states without an initiative process, we have to fight with one hand tied behind our back to convince a legislature to give up their power to draw their own districts. But we still have to fight.
I’m worried that some of you might be thinking this is a job too big for you. Don’t give in to that apathy. Meet my friend Katie Fahey. She was pretty frustrated about the election in 2016, and instead of just complaining on social media, she used it for good. She posted on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to help her end gerrymandering in Michigan. It caught my attention, and I was proud to stand with her in 2018 as Michigan terminated the 200 year old monster of gerrymandering. Katie said, “We the people can save ourselves.”
She is right. But we have to be willing to do the work, not just the tweeting.
I know some of my conservative friends somehow think ending a system fixed by politicians is a liberal conspiracy. It isn’t. Even though Republicans have gerrymandered many states, Democrats have gerrymandered some of the states they control, as well. No matter which party does it, it isn’t fair to voters.
Plus, terminating gerrymandering can accomplish an old Republican goal! Republicans have talked about draining the swamp since Ronald Reagan. So how is it going? 93% of Congress got re-elected in 2020 (that was actually a bad year for them, sometimes it is higher than 98%). The average margin of victory for congressional races was almost 30%. Let me say that again: the average United States Member of Congress wins their election by 30%!!! There are dictators around the world who win by less votes, because even they realize it might be ridiculous for an election to look too lopsided. You want to drain the swamp? Start by not letting politicians fix the system against the voters so they can keep their jobs forever.
If we can end gerrymandering around the country, we will finally start to see some turnover in our leadership, and the people will be the boss again. Politicians won’t be able to spend their time acting like wannabe entertainers on social media and cable news. They’ll have to pass bills that help the people, or the people will fire them. Let’s make our elections sane. I will continue to work on electoral reform through my institute at USC , but I need all of you to discover your inner Katie Fahey and say, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it any more” and work from the grassroots. You can be part of the solution to our broken political system.
Goal Four: Terminate Pollution
I want us to terminate pollution. When I was Governor of California, we formed a bipartisan coalition to pass the most aggressive laws in the country to reduce emissions. I believe that it is our duty to leave the world better than we found it, and I believe that there is no Republican air or Democratic air - we all want clean air.
But I don’t actually give a shit if you believe in climate change. I do, but whether we agree on that or not, it doesn’t matter to me. No one can deny that fossil fuels cause pollution. Like I said years ago, if anyone wants to deny the harms of pollution, they should be willing to spend a few hours in a sealed garage with a running gas-powered car.
Pollution is literally killing us. 7 million people around the world die from air pollution every single year. That’s almost 20,000 deaths every day. But it isn’t just statistics. At my annual environmental conference in Austria, I spoke about my good friend Rosamund. You can watch my speech here:
In case you don’t have time to watch, Rosamund lost her beautiful 9 year-old daughter, Ella, to pollution. Their family lived less than a hundred feet from South Circular Road, one of the busiest roads in London, with thousands of cars and buses and extremely high levels of pollution. The last 2 years of her life, Ella was hospitalized 30 times for asthma attacks. And one terrible day, the doctors couldn’t save her.
Normally her death certificate would have said asthma. But Rosamund fought for the truth to save other children. Ella became the first person whose official cause of death was pollution. I want to thank Rosamund for standing up and showing all of us that we can’t keep lying. We have to tell the truth.
The truth is, a 9 year-old girl lost her life, and all of her hopes and dreams disappeared because we grownups can’t stop burning fossil fuels.
The truth is, pollution kills more people every year than malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, terrorism, drugs, alcohol, or war.
We have to do better. And in many ways, we already are. The market, combined with smart policies, is starting to show that technology can save us. I spoke about this in Vienna, but if you don’t have time to watch, here are some highlights.
In 2010, solar and wind generated 1.7% of the world’s electricity. By last year, it was 8.7%. Solar and wind are exploding at an annual growth rate of 15%. At this speed, they would reach 45% of electricity by 2030.
And since 2015, electric vehicle sales have increased by 50% every year. If this trend continues, 50% of passenger vehicle sales would be electric by 2026.
It’s no different than mobile phones. They started with huge clunky things only rich people could afford. By 2005, 2 billion people had them. Today, 7 billion people own smartphones. Almost the whole world has a phone that can access the internet! Mobile phones went from a niche product to mainstream before anyone realized what was happening. That’s the power of technology.
But we have to keep going. We have to remember that clean energy doesn’t just fight climate change. It saves lives. And if that isn’t good enough for you, clean energy is energy we can produce in our own countries. We don’t have to rely on Russia or the Middle East! Every country can produce its own clean energy. Clean energy is freedom and independence.
I will continue bringing people together to discuss the policies that work through the Schwarzenegger Climate Initiative, but all of us can do things in our own lives to speed up the transition. Maybe installing solar isn’t in your budget right now, but replacing your inefficient lightbulbs with LEDs might be. Maybe it isn’t time for you to buy a new car and go electric, but we can change our other purchases to support local businesses instead of ordering things from China that have to be shipped across the ocean on polluting cargo ships. There are ways for all of us to be useful and protect the Ellas of the world that don’t deserve to breathe dirty air.
I am hopeful when I see the news of the agreement the Senate has reached on a clean energy bill. They should pass it. I don’t love every single thing about it, but that’s how policy works. It isn’t a dictatorship. You never get a 10. You have to compromise - I wish Congress would always remember this. Whether I love everything in it or not, you know what? The biggest investment any country has ever made in clean energy is a big fucking deal. We know from our work in California that market incentives like the ones in this bill work - it’s a big reason California attracts 50% of the clean investment money in the country despite only representing 12% of the population. For those of you who are worried about climate change, this bill should give you a dose of optimism. For those of you who don’t care about climate change, this should make you happy that it will save lives and create fantastic jobs right here in America. Fossil fuels won’t be terminated tomorrow, but if we stay on this path, the transition will happen faster than we think. Remember mobile phones.
Goal Five: Build, Build, Build
I want us to learn to build again. Energy, housing, big, inspiring infrastructure projects - everything seems impossible today.
The Empire State Building was constructed in 1 year and 45 days.
Today, the environmental impact report would take longer. (No, really - the average environmental impact report takes 4.5 years). Once you finished the report, you’d have years of expensive lawsuits. And that doesn’t just apply to skyscrapers and roads and rail, it applies to clean technology that will reduce our environmental impact for decades. You can pass all the infrastructure and clean energy bills in the world, and they don’t mean anything if special interests can use CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) or NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) to delay every project for years and years and years and make it too expensive to build.
Here are some things I saw when I was Governor of the world’s fifth largest economy: a clean energy transmission line that took 8 years to complete, solar and wind projects delayed over and over, 14 years of work on a 119 mile stretch of high speed rail that won’t be ready for passengers for another 8 years, $2.7 billion in funds for water storage still sitting in the state’s bank account 8 years after voters overwhelmingly demanded solutions for our constant droughts. All over the country, there are similar horror stories.
I guarantee you that we couldn’t build the Pacific Coast Highway today. I think one of the reasons people are so pissed off is that they realize we can’t do big things and they’re frustrated about it. Let’s prove them wrong!
We can’t be held hostage any more by those who use our environmental review system against us. If a project can’t be approved in a year, what are we even doing? If anyone can sue to slow down every project with no consequences, what are we incentivizing? Set a time limit of 1 year, and create a system that doesn’t encourage a million lawyers to file frivolous lawsuits.
We should build because we should never be satisfied with the status quo. We should build because it creates good jobs. And we should build because it’s worth proving the impossible is possible.
Do you know why I decided I belonged in America? I was sitting at my little desk in the Hauptschule in Graz, Austria, and our teacher showed us a movie reel about the United States. I saw the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge and said, “Finally - this is the place for my big dreams.”
We need to get back to dreaming big and building bigger so we can inspire the next Arnold sitting in a classroom in some foreign country. People are cursed with growing old. Countries aren’t!
You might be shocked to hear that someone who led California toward the most aggressive environmental protections in the nation and hosts an annual environmental summit wants to speed up environmental review. My environmentalist friends might not love me saying this. But they also tell me it isn’t climate change, it is a climate emergency.
Here’s the dictionary definition of emergency in case you forgot: “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action”.
Immediate action. Not action after 4 years of review. Not action after 4,000 lawsuits. Immediate action.
In an emergency, you stop the bleeding first. You don’t show up in an ambulance to help some guy bleeding our and have a debate about whether it’s the right brand of ambulance. You don’t launch a study to decide whether he is better off if you use a tourniquet. You stop the bleeding.
We need to stop the bleeding by building. Every delay in building solar or wind projects means more time burning coal, oil, and gas, more time polluting, more time beschmutzing the world. Let’s make a deal: if you say that we have until the end of this decade to stop climate change, we’ll approve every clean energy project in one year or less. That’s how you act in an emergency.
Goal Six: Invest in our Kids
I want us to look out for our most vulnerable kids who don’t have a lobbyist working for them in our capitol buildings.
This has been my passion for three decades now. When I was the Chairman of the President’s Council of Physical Fitness and I traveled to all 50 states to promote physical activity in schools, I saw a problem. Whenever the bell rang, a lot of the kids hung around outside. No one was picking them up. I asked principals about it, and I learned that 70% of the kids come from homes where the parents are working, so they don’t have supervision after school. When I looked into it more, law enforcement told me that the hours between 3 and 6 PM were the “Danger Zone” for our kids, when drug use and juvenile crime spiked.
Suddenly, I had a new mission. We started After-School All-Stars to give kids a safe place to continue to learn and grow after school. At the time, it was a revolutionary concept. There were YMCAs and other programs, but we could offer our programs so efficiently because we had a simple proposal: keep the school open from 3-6, and we will provide the staff to work with the students on their homework, play sports, and grow.
It has worked better than I ever imagined, and now we serve 100,000 kids in 13 states. We share our best practices with other programs and we all team up together. When Washington decides to cut the federal funding for after-school programs because the kids don’t have a lobbyist to protect them, I become the lobbyist and fly in to DC to sit down with members of Congress, and so far, the three times it has been cut, I haven’t failed in keeping that money in the budget.
But I won’t stop. We will continue improving our program because we have a great team, and we will continue pushing for more programs until every child who wants one has somewhere to be after-school.
How can you help with this? There are so many ways. You can volunteer at a program! You can donate to one. You can check if your state or city supports after-school programs, and if they don’t, you can call your representatives and demand that they open this up. In California, before I ran for Governor, I donated my money to put an initiative on the ballot, Proposition 49, to give after-school programs half a billion dollars a year. I campaigned all over the state, and I sat down with legislators from both parties to convince them to endorse the initiative. Democrats were happy that the programs could help create more equality in schools, so they signed on. Republicans were happy when I told them that every dollar spent on after-school programs now saves 3 to 6 dollars down the line because less kids end up in jail, less kids drop out of school, less kids have teenage pregnancies, and more parents can continue to work without worrying about whether their children are safe. Use those arguments on your elected representatives, and help them see the light.
It’s a win-win-win.
Goal Seven: Make Fitness Available to EVERYONE
I want us to continue our fitness crusade until everyone knows there is a path for them to become healthier.
Back in the Pumping Iron days, I told people that my goal was that one day, exercise would be so common that there would be more gyms than supermarkets. They thought I was CRAZY. Back then, the famous action heroes pretended they didn’t lift any weights, because bodybuilding had a terrible reputation. Gyms were dungeons that regular people avoided at all costs. But remember, my specialty is being crazy and proving people wrong.
Today, there are 106,000 gyms in the United States and 63,000 supermarkets. We did it.
Fitness is now completely mainstream. 200,000 people come to our Arnold Sports Festival every year. The Arnold Classic began as a bodybuilding contest. Then it added weightlifting and strongman. But as our audience grew, I realized there are hundreds of ways to get in shape and be active, and I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that I think the only way to be fit is my way. That’s why now we showcase 80 sports and we have people participating in and watching everything from bodybuilding to strongman to medieval fighting to martial arts to indoor soccer to wheelchair tennis to ninja warrior courses to Scottish Highland games - literally every fitness activity you can imagine.
We welcome every sport and treat everyone equally at our sports festival because I want the message to be, “There’s something here for you. You choose. You find something you fall in love with. But do something.”
I am for fitness and power and strength and energy for everyone. But who am I to say you have to do it my way? Who am I to say you have to squat and deadlift when I did, when some people physically can’t squat? Now, one of the things that inspires me the most is seeing the athletes who have “disabilities” prove that they’re more able than anyone. Like this guy using one arm to lift a stone. Or my friends with one leg, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy lifting on the main stage of the event in front of our biggest audience because I wanted them to show all of those gym-owners and fitness company CEOs in attendance that fitness really is for everyone.
Some of us take for granted that everyone can join a gym and work out, but what if they need special equipment? What if they don’t have the 50 dollars a month for membership? I want to spread the word and find solutions until we find everyone’s love of fitness.
We still have work to do. I see it in the obesity statistics, and I see it in those reddit threads I talked about earlier. There are still people who feel that fitness isn’t available to them, because they don’t know where to start or gyms intimidate them or they don’t have money. I want every single person in the world to know that fitness is for them.
We will continue growing the Arnold Sports Festival and welcoming more sports and more people. And I am also working on something right now to harness the awesome, positive power of the internet to make fitness more accessible. In fact, if you’re someone who wants to get into better shape but doesn’t know where to start, respond to this email with the subject line “Fitness” because I want to see if my team and I can figure out a program to help you out. There’s no catch, it won’t cost anything, we just want to test and make sure we are on the right track to help as many people as possible.
But what can all of you do to spread fitness if you don’t host festivals or have the resources to build something online? It’s simple. If you lift weights, make sure you also lift other people up. If someone looks intimidated in the gym, make them feel welcome. If someone is out of shape in the gym, don’t mock them - give them a high five for starting their fitness journey. If you have a friend who is down and isn’t taking care of themselves, offer to go on a walk with them to get them outside and moving. Volunteer to coach some youth sports.
My father-in-law, Sargent Shriver, said at a Yale university commencement speech, “Tear down this mirror. Tear down this mirror that makes you always look at yourself and you will be able to look beyond this mirror and see the millions of people that need your help.”
Gyms are filled with mirrors, and when we start working out, mirrors are our best friend. We love seeing our progress. But look past that mirror, and you will find someone you can inspire to join the fitness crusade. We all have that power.
That’s it. That’s the real message of all of these goals. We all have more power than we know.
Realize the tremendous power you hold inside of you, no matter who you are. And then use your power to make the world a better place.
If everybody is willing to do that, well, this will be the best birthday I’ve ever had.