"Total Recall" by Arnold Schwarzenegger


Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story” by Arnold Schwarzenegger is an autobiography that covers Schwarzenegger’s three careers and his personal life through the decades. 

Schwarzenegger served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011. Before that, he had a long career, starring in such films as the Terminator series; Stay Hungry; Twins; Predator; and Junior. His first book, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, was a bestseller when published in 1977 and, along with his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, has never been out of print since.

The book begins in Austria, where Schwarzenegger was born, and explains why he dreamed of moving to America. By the time he was twenty-one, Schwarzenegger was living in Los Angeles and had been crowned Mr. Universe. Within five years, Schwarzenegger became the greatest bodybuilder in the world and by his thirties, he was a millionaire from his business enterprises in real estate, landscaping, and bodybuilding. 

Schwarzenegger then went on to become the world’s biggest movie star, the husband of Maria Shriver of the Kennedy family. After his film career, Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California, the seventh largest economy in the world. He led the state through a budget crisis and natural disasters.

Schwarzenegger raised four fantastic children and in the wake of a scandal he brought upon himself, he tried to keep his family together. This book covers all that and more.

 Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger poses next to his portrait. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  

 Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger poses next to his portrait. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


1) Reps, Reps, Reps

Writing out my goals became second nature, and so did the conviction that there are no shortcuts. It took hundreds and even thousands of repetitions for me to learn to hit a great three-quarter back pose, deliver a punch line, dance the tango in True Lies, paint a beautiful birthday card, and say “I’ll be back” just the right way.
— Page 613

Of the main themes in Schwarzenegger’s book is the importance of reps or repetition. No matter what task or career one chooses, to do an excellent job, one must practice, practice, and practice some more. 

Whenever Arnold went to the gym, he would write out his workouts for the day and how many reps had to be performed. After completing each exercise, he marked it with an X to show that it was done.  At the end of his workout, he would feel a sense of accomplishment because he would look at the chalkboard or his journal and see it filled with X's.

When Arnold was tasked with giving his first address to the United Nations, he wrote down a tally mark for each time he rehearsed the speech. Just for that one speech, he practiced over 50 times. In his book, Arnold writes that “Whether you’re doing a bicep curl in a chilly gym or talking to world leaders, there are no shortcuts–everything is reps, reps, reps” (page 614).

If someone wants to be a good skier, they have to get out on the slopes and practice skiing. If they want to be a good chess player, they have to play thousands of games. The same goes for acting. Arnold writes that just to film one scene, the crew spent half the day rehearsing. Getting better at anything in life requires reps, reps, reps. 

It took Arnold hundreds of reps to get the line "I'll be back" just right.

It took Arnold hundreds of reps to get the line "I'll be back" just right.

2) Care For The Body And The Mind 

Some of the earliest advice that stuck in my head was Fredi Gerstl channeling Plato. “The Greeks started the Olympics, but they also gave us the great philosophers,” he would say. “You have to build the ultimate physical machine but also the ultimate of the mind.”
— Page 617

Taking care of the body came easy for Schwarzenegger, but he also wanted to train and grow his mind. Arnold writes that he became like a sponge and absorbed everything around him. “The world became my university, I developed such a need to learn and read and take it all in” (page 617). 

And the same is true for people in the opposite setting. If a person has a high level of intelligence, it would benefit them to also exercise the body every day. Arnold notes that both Clint Eastwood–the famous actor and director, and Dmitry Medvedev–the former President of Russia, worked out every day. 

Even the Pope, specifically John Paul II, was a big believer in training the mind and the body. Arnold writes that the Pope was known to wake up at five in the morning and did "two hundred push-ups and three hundred sit-ups, all before breakfast and before his workday began” (page 618).

The Pope was a skier too, and he was in his sixties. If he can find time to exercise, so can everyone. 

Arnold advises readers to train the body and the mind.

Arnold advises readers to train the body and the mind.


3) The Day Has 24 Hours, Use Them All   

I explained how as a student I’d trained five hours a day, gone to acting classes four hours a day, worked in construction several hours a day, and gone to college and done my homework.
— Page 612

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a big believer in working hard and spending each hour of the day wisely. While training for bodybuilding competitions, Schwarzenegger worked construction and ran side businesses such as buying real estate and selling fitness handbooks. As an actor, Schwarzenegger took acting and speech classes while continuing his strict workout routine. 

This was a man that had an insatiable appetite for success. And once a person reaches a high level of success, they should move on to do it again instead of resting on their laurels.


Schwarzenegger writes that too many accomplished people just coast once they reach a certain level of success. He believes there is always more to be done. As Arnold’s father used to tell him, “Be useful. Do something.”  

Schwarzenegger notes that Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, went on to organize the Goodwill Games. Bono, who started out as a musician, founded RED to combat AIDS. Anthony Quinn became a famous movie star but wanted to do more, so he became a painter whose canvases sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. There's always more that can be done in life.

You’ll have plenty of time to rest when you’re in the grave. Live a risky life and a spicy life and like Eleanor Roosevelt said, every day do something that scares you. We should all stay hungry.
— Page 618



Total Recall” (2013) is an incredible story about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life that covers both the struggles and triumphs he faced in bodybuilding, acting and politics. It’s a great American-dream story that shows the true path to becoming successful and what is needed to get there.

Schwarzenegger is an unbelievable person–he achieved success in not just one field, but three. A lot can be learned about his drive and desire to achieve from reading this book. Readers will learn several important lessons such as the need to write down your goals, practice often, be self-disciplined, don’t blame your parents, and train both the mind and body. 

And although Schwarzenegger may seem like a machine, he is actually human, and a humble one at that. In the book, he writes about his affair–why he did it and what he learned from his mistake.

Overall, this book gives a fantastic overview of Schwarzenegger’s life: It covers how he was raised, why the wanted to go to America, why he fell in love with bodybuilding, why he wanted to become an actor, and why he went into politics.

Arnold doesn’t hide anything and talks about both the ups and downs during his life journey. He also includes a chapter that highlights his rules for success. And even though he isn’t perfect and had an affair, he is an awesome human being and readers will learn a lot by reading his book. 

Now go read this book. Hasta la vista, baby.

Rating: 5/5 stars

If you’re interested in reading the book, click here or on the image below!

  • Book: “Total Recall" by Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Pages: 646
  • For: People looking for self-improvement tips, people who love true inspiring stories
  • Lesson: Learn about Schwarzenegger's incredible life journey and how he became successful in three different careers  

If you're looking to get in shape or learn about Arnold's diet during his bodybuilding career, I'd recommend reading "The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding."