How to Build Something From Nothing And Be #1 at it (the Arnold Effect)

Last week I told you. . .Arnold effect

. . .That megastars aren’t just supported by the crowd.

Except for their elite skill and their entertainment value, there is another a reason they’ve have risen meteorically, and it’s because. . .

. . .They’ve been helped by  big industry influencers, businessmen, and teams of marketers.

This is how megastars like George St-Pierre (MMA) and Magnus Carlsen (chess) have become so immensely popular. Now, why would these marketers and other people help them out?

Because, they’re ordered to by the industry big shots.

And these industry big shots want — and need — as many poster boys as they can find. So that they can grow the market of that industry. And why do you think they want to do that?

Well, obviously, so that they can earn more money.

In other words, it’s not an act of generosity.

There’s a strong incentive there.  For example, George St-Pierre has definitely been one of the main driving forces behind pushing the UFC into the mainstream.

He’s been the perfect poster boy for the kind of image that the UFC has wanted to portray in order to be respected and accepted into the mainstream.

Because GSP has been the perfect martial artist gentleman, always acting politely and sportsmanlike.

And in chess, they’re hoping that Magnus Carlsen can do the same thing, and bring it into the mainstream. . .

. . .Because that’s where the big money is.

And the reason I tell you this is because this is what we’re going to look at today. We’re going to examine someone who brought an obscure sport into the mainstream, and in doing so, helped build a multibillion dollar industry.

We’re going to look at how. . .

Arnold Schwarzenegger Made Bodybuilding Big


To hell with it. We’re either going to be #1 or #2 in every field we’re in or we’re going to be out.

–Jack Welch

This is what how Arnold Schwarzenegger thought, from a very early age. He quickly decided he was going to be the best — and he wouldn’t settle for anything less.

Arnold was an athletically talented teenager. He considered going pro in soccer or swimming. But ultimately, he didn’t do it. Because he didn’t think he could become the best at it.

He didn’t think he had the best physique for those sports, plus he thought that the competition was too tough.  So Arnold chose bodybuilding instead. Because he believed it was a better fit for his body.

Even though bodybuilding was a very small sport at the time, with little money and fame, Arnold didn’t care that much.

And this is key.

Because it’s a mindset you’ll see among many ultra-successful people. They’d rather build something of their own — no matter how much work it takes — than following a lane created by someone else.

Most people don’t think like this. They’re afraid of trying new things.

Unless the thing is safe, and has been proven to work by someone else, most people won’t do it. Especially when it comes to something like their choice of career.

Most people’s mindset: “I’ll wait until someone else does it, see how it goes, then make a decision.”

Arnold’s mindset: “By being an early adopter I’m given seizing the opportunity to get ahead, and become the best!”

And Arnold did become the best, and he did make a ton of money in the process.

But how did he do it? What principles did he follow? What is the Arnold Effect?

To explain these things, I think it’s best we start from. . .

The Beginning

When Arnold was 20, he flew to England to compete for the title of Mr. Universe, but he came in at second place. At first, he was devastated.

But soon, things brightened up. For Arnold met some very influential people in the bodybuilding industry who were impressed by him.

One of those people was Charles Bennett, a judge at the competition. Bennett let Arnold stay with him in England — for free. He also coached him and gave him (lots of) free food.

With the help of Bennett, and some other people, Arnold went on to win the title of Mr. Universe in his next competition.

Then he went to Germany where he studied business, worked out (and coached) for several hours per day in the gym, in preparation for his next Mr. Universe competition. How was Arnold able to balance all these things at the same time?

With some damn dedication. . .

. . . Combined with a cocktail of steroids.

When Arnold was 21 years old he moved to the U.S and started working with Joe Weider — who was the top dog in the bodybuilding and fitness industry.

It was at this point, when Arnold moved to the U.S, that his road to megastardom started. And it was also now that his entrepreneurial talent started shining through.

Because over the coming years he started a couple of businesses of his own. One of those businesses sold fitness and bodybuilding products. This would turn out to be a very smart idea some years later.

Arnold effect

Arnold showed himself to be a savvy businessman and he made his first million dollar around age 30. Not from bodybuilding, but from real estate.

He kept up his hectic schedule consisting of working out for competitions, running his businesses, and attending college.

It was now that Arnold’s big break came — thanks to his. . .

Talent For Marketing And Promotion

Which he used to attract lots of attention to the documentary Pumping Iron in 1977.

Thanks to the success of Pumping Iron, Arnold was able to kill two birds with one stone: He furthered his career as an upcoming actor, and he helped grow the bodybuilding industry.

Arnold’s actually a lot more intelligent than people think he is . .

. . .For example, when I was on exchange in Canada,  I had this course in marketing. A guy who I was doing a team assignment with — a guy who was considered smart, and was a straight-A student — told me:

“Dude, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an idiot. He doesn’t know anything except how to flex his biceps and take steroids. He’s a stupid Neanderthal.”

I asked the guy, “How do you suppose he became so successful then?”

And, of course, I didn’t get a good answer back.

(The answer I got was: “Well, uh, he took steroids!”)

That just goes to show that lot of people who are considered smart really aren’t. For some reason, this guy couldn’t get over the “stupid bodybuilder” stereotype.

But anyway, how did Arnold become so successful?

Through his skillful promotion of Pumping Iron. And the reason he was able to do this was because he knew something very important about human nature. . .

. . .That it’s not enough to be great at what you do (though I wouldn’t call Arnold a great actor).

You also have to create a bit of shock-and-awe. You’ve gotta entertain people. And Arnold’s is great at that.

Yes, shock-and-awe. That’s the best way of describing the marketing strategy for Pumping Iron.

What did Arnold do?

For starters, he had to make bodybuilding seem interesting to outsiders who didn’t understand the lifestyle, the sport, or the culture that revolved around it.

The following quote is from a clip where Arnold talks about the movie.

“The greatest feeling you can get in the gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump…..It’s as satisfying to me as coming is. You know, as having sex with a woman and coming.

So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like getting the feeling of coming in the gym, I’m getting the feeling of coming at home, I’m getting the feeling of coming backstage when I pump up, when I pose off in front of 5000 viewers I get the same feeling.

So I am coming day and night! I mean, that’s terrific, right? Haha, so you know, I’m in heaven!


Arnold made bodybuilding and gym-going seem cool by comparing it to having sex. How did that go?

It went pretty damn well.

Imagine how awesome that must’ve sounded to the people who didn’t know what it was like. . .

. . .When you go to the gym and lift heavy weights — and you get to experience “the pump” — AND IT’S AS ENJOYABLE AS HAVING AN ORGASM!

Who wouldn’t want to go to the gym after hearing that?

So, yes, that got a lot of attention.

And then there’s something else to consider: Nowadays, the things Arnold said in that clip just sound a little funny, but to say those things back in 1977 was extremely controversial.

And it was remarkable enough for people to spread the word and start talking. . .

. . .Talking about Arnold, talking about the movie, and most importantly, talking about the bodybuilding scene.

And this resulted in a dramatic spike of interest for bodybuilding and gym-going, among people in the mainstream. It didn’t take long until it became a trend.

And when that happened, Arnold began spending plenty of time educating and informing people in the mainstream about the lifestyle, the sport, and the products.

And what do you think happened after that?

The fitness and bodybuilding industry grew massively.

And here’s the key point:

Since Arnold was the most famous bodybuilder, and had a large stake in the industry — which he had helped build — he was now fast becoming a big time celebrity. And he was able to use his new-found fame as an asset for:

  1. Skyrocketing his acting career and,
  2. Making a ton of money in the fitness and bodybuilding industry

This is how Arnold became a bodybuilding megastar, and started making serious money.

He was able to do this because he helped build and promote an industry where he was high man on the totem pole.

He didn’t do this overnight, it happened over the course of ca 10 years. But when it did happen — as Arnold had bet it would — he was in a strategic position thanks to having invested a lot of time getting there.

This is the Arnold Effect. And it is what you should take away from studying his success. . .

. . . Because you can do the same thing, in some niche of your own. Lots of people are doing it in different variations.

It’s especially common among artists; musicians, moviemakers, and authors. But the Arnold effect can be applied to just about any niche. Here’s how:

  • You find some niche where you have the potential to become one of the best and most reputable people
  • If you can’t find any niche like that, perhaps you can create your own? This is now done by lots of people on the Internet who think outside the box.
  • You get in early before there’s too much competition. To improve your odds of success.
  • You put in the time. . . and build your strategic position by creating some kind of long-term asset. Perhaps a niche-related business.
  • Finally, you cooperate with other people in the same niche to grow the market and make it popular in the mainstream. You do this via marketing, entertainment, and education. Like how Arnold made Pumping Iron happen.

The best-case long-term scenario is that you become a megastar poster boy (or girl) for your niche, with the help of industry big shots.

And since you’ve put in the time to build a strategic position in that particular niche, you’ll be able to earn an increasing amount of money as the market for the niche grows. . .

. . .And more importantly, this will allow you to keep making money long after your niche-related talent dies out. As is often the case for professional athletes.

And so, taking into account the three previous articles, we can sum up some different strategies for long-term success. If you:

  • Have a talent + develop supplemental activities = Become elite at anything
  • Get into a niche early + become the best at it + build a strategic position + grow that niche + educate and inform the mainstream = Cash out using The Arnold Effect

And when you decide to use the Arnold Effect, remember that you’re taking a risk.

But, then again, you’re always taking risks.

When you get on a bus you’re betting your life on the assumption that the driver won’t do something crazy, like driving off a cliff.

But you still get on that bus.

Because if you don’t you’re not getting to your destination.

So you do it anyway because you know that. . .

. . .Where there is no risk there is no reward.

Photo credit:

Flickr: 1, 2,



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  1. Thank you Ludvig for another awesome post.

    It makes me curious how do you break down this things and how do you choose the stuff you want to break down?

    Anyway great stuff.

    Arnold kicks ass and your approval is not needed., hehe.

    Take care and keep being a machine!

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