Non Fiction, Self-Help

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life

Posted by Max Bellmann

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life

Written by Arnold Schwarzenegger, published in 2023. Summary and review.

As a fan of Arnold (I mean who isn’t) and a pseudo fan of Self-Help books, I had to give this a try. It’s a quick and easy read, and bonus for anyone listening via audiobook you get to hear that famous accent narrate the whole book.

I’ll say right off, this was nothing new per se. He basically takes things we’ve heard before, whether through life or through other self-help books, and puts his Arnold spin on it. For anyone wanting the cliff notes, his 7 Tools for Life are:

  • Have a Clear Vision
  • Never Think Small
  • Work Your Ass Off
  • Sell, Sell, Sell
  • Shift Gears
  • Shut Your Mouth, Open Your Mind
  • Break Your Mirrors

In a nutshell, he suggests having a plan. Not leveraging The Secret (which I’ve also read, and at the time was fantastic, upon reflection, seems like total BS… I digress). Basically work and failure are part of the process. Know that. Expect that. Plan for that. You need a direction and a strategy to get there. I’ll admit, 2 things I’ve never been particularly good at… but think this is (for me) the most valuable chapter of his book. He cites working out as an example (shocker, I know). But if you want to “get in shape” that’s just too vague. For what? To be a bodybuilder? To be a rock climber? Both are goals for “getting in shape” but they are vastly different. And thus a both a specific goal, and plan to get there are important.

He also suggests to never think small, aim high. Basically, “shoot for the moon, and if you fall short you’re still among the stars.” *note his quote, but quoted in the book. I suppose that means even if you fall short, with such high aspirations, even falling short is a huge leap forward. I can see the value there.

I also like the “use it or lose it” mentality. It applies to way more than I thought, at least on the onset. For your mind (perhaps the most important) but also your body, your skills, etc. Stay consistent with whatever you do. I’ve been doing this already in my life, and plan to continue. Fitness, guitar, relationship, fatherhood, etc. It applies across the board.

He also cites giving back as important. This is a major theme in nearly every self-help book I’ve ever read. I did like his note, that if you don’t know how to go about this, simply think about what others have done for you in your life, and do that for others. Simple. Though this concept always just feels like a feel good. Shouldn’t knock it… but in my mind I often do. But I’ve got plans to start building on this. Even if it’s small to begin with.

Lastly, I’ll mention that this book kind of flirts between autobiography and self-help. I was certainly expecting more self-help, so the personal life stories kind of threw me for a loop… but I guess that’s to be expected with nearly any book of this nature. His story is fantastic, to use his words. But it’s mostly a story we’ve all heard before. Immigrant body builder, moves to California, revolutionizes the fitness world, takes Hollywood by storm, then becomes Governor of California – the 6th largest economy in the world. Highly impressive.

I did not know that his father was abusive (though he does show a lot of love for him… an interesting dynamic) and he had an alcoholic brother who died in a drunk driving accident in 1971. This I did now know. Two things that can certainly shape one’s life, for better or worse.

TLDR: Not a revolutionary read with new concepts or ideas, but framed in Arnold-ese. It has certainly worked for him, so why not others (I’d argue there may be a million reasons why, but that defeats the purpose of his book). More autobiography than I’d have liked, but ultimately 7 solid steps to better one’s self. Might Recommend. 3/5 Stars.

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