The day before Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and announced that he would run in the recall election for governor of California, I received a phone call from him. At that point there had been a great deal of speculation in the news media about Arnold’s running, and the naysayers were coming out of the woodwork to attack him.
His purpose for the call was to get my opinion on a piece of exercise equipment he wanted for his home gym. Once that subject was out of the way, the conversation moved to our families— his oldest daughter is the same age as my son, so we naturally focused on them. I then asked him why he was even considering running for governor. Before he could answer, I recited a litany of reasons that I thought he shouldn’t run. He agreed that there were major risks. I asked him if he was going to do it, and he said he wasn’t sure yet, but, “I will run if I believe I can make a difference.”
I think believe is the key word here. Arnold has never been less than very successful in anything he truly believes in. He won that election, and on a daily basis he creates current events that become history.
Last week I had the opportunity to spend (invest) a day with Arnold as he went about his activities as governor of the Union’s most populous state. It had been two years since I’d spent any extended time with him. At 8:30 a.m. I took the elevator to Arnold’s quarters, and he greeted me as if we see each other all the time—the two years felt like yesterday.
Arnold’s ability to make everyone comfortable and his knack for being comfortable with anyone are traits that were evident from our first meeting at Vince’s Gym in 1969 and traits that shine today. Many times throughout the day I saw him naturally create an atmosphere of mutual respect with everyone from Air Force generals and legislators to those on his staff. He’s very proud of his staff and never misses an opportunity to tell them that. They’re all involved in a very serious business, but because of Arnold’s style, there’s as much laughter as there is deep discussion. It was really a short course—12 hours—on how to get things done while having a great time. The last words Arnold spoke to me as we shook hands were, “Now you can see why I love this job.”
Arnold, focused and driven as he is, has applied the same skills that made him a great bodybuilder to being a great governor. Many people are driven and focused, but very few take such obvious joy and exhilaration from the challenges. Arnold is the right person in the right place at the right time. He remarked to me that Maria thought he was the luckiest guy in the world, but if you look back at the past 40 years, you see a man with a vision who’s unafraid of pursuing that vision, always ready, as he’s said, “to make a move.”
There are photos from our day together on page 170 of the Aug ’07 IRON MAN. Be sure to listen to Arnold’s inaugural speech below—a tour de force of his vision. And in the Sep ’07 IRON MAN, Bill Dobbins will further explore Arnold’s personal philosophy.
Happy 60th birthday to someone who makes a difference every day. IM