One of my favorite documentaries is Pumping Iron, which follows the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competitions during the 1970’s. It famously features a young and hugely muscled Arnold Schwarznegger, who before becoming an action movie star and Governor of California (I still don’t get how this happened) was the face of bodybuilding back in the day. Now, Ahh-nold is a very polarizing figure and he has done some really morally questionable things throughout his life, but no one can doubt his work ethic and success. If he was eligible, I wouldn’t doubt that he would be able to become President of the United States one day.
One scene from the documentary in particular speaks to his work ethic. In the scene, he talks about getting a phone call from his mother informing him that his father passed away. He was away from home because he was participating in a competition, so his mother assumed that he would skip it and come home to attend his father’s funeral. This is a pretty rational move and I’m pretty sure most of us would try to make arrangements to make it to our dad’s funeral if we were away. But this is Arnold we’re talking about.
He told his mom he was not coming home for the funeral and that he was going to finish the competition. He also said that since dad is already dead, there is nothing more to gain from being at the funeral so go ahead without him. While this sounds like an incredibly insensitive thing to say, Arnold explains why he made that decision. He wanted to be the best. Nothing more than that. To be the best, he reasoned, required sacrifice that others were not willing to make. If he left the competition to attend his dad’s funeral, someone else would have won it and he would have been an afterthought. He wanted to be the best in the bodybuilding world, and was ready to risk the relationship with his family to achieve that. Because of this level of sacrifice, he was able to achieve all that he did, but gave up some other things in the process.
What would you give up?
I don’t think many people would do what Arnold did there, but then again not many people will be as successful as Arnold. It all depends on what we are willing to give up, and this really made me think. The other day I had a conversation with a co-worker that reminded me of this exact situation. She wanted to go back to school but didn’t want to leave her child in daycare because she wanted to be present for those early years. I essentially told her that it’s all about what you’re willing to give up. If you want to go to school and achieve your dream, than you will have to be absent from your son’s life for a little bit. But if you want to be there for your son all the time, then you’re going to have to forget about school. It’s as simple as that.
We try to have it all, but we are inevitably going to have to sacrifice something at some point. And we would do well to recognize this. Many people get paralyzed from committing to anything because of this. And I speak to myself first, but sometimes is no right or wrong answer. It takes courage to give up something we enjoy or cherish on order to achieve something else. It really comes down to priorities, and putting what is most important to you at the top of the list. Making money and becoming successful is important, but to what end?
I don’t fault Arnold for his decision because it really is based on sound reasoning. He wanted to become the best in what he did, no matter what the cost. It’s that level of extreme sacrifice that separates the superstars from everybody else. Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time (Please, there is no debate here) not necessarily because of his talent alone, but because of his sacrifice and work ethic. He pissed off a lot of people on his way to the top and alienated some of his family and friends, but he will go down in history as the greatest basketball player this world has ever seen.
Test it Out
This made me think a lot about what I would give up. If I worked 7 days a week as an optometrist and sacrificed most of my sleep to work on blogging and freelancing at home, I imagine I would be doing very well financially. But I would be giving up time with my family, the comfort of sleep and spending time with friends once in a while, things that are all important to me.
While it seems tough to find out how much you would sacrifice, I’m finding that it isn’t that difficult. Just test it out. If you want to give up some sleep to work on a project, just do it for a few days and see how you feel. If it feels good, then you can continue to give up a little bit of sleep to achieve your goals. But if it’s causing you undue stress and you start resenting your work, then maybe you shouldn’t give up so much sleep. Just do some trial and error and see where it takes you.
Would you give up relationships to achieve your dream? What would you never sacrifice?