The Biggest Revelations from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s New Book: From Making ‘Amends’ to Shock Surgery
Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Arnold Schwarzenegger just entered the self-help chat.

The former bodybuilder-turned-action star-turned two-term governor of California decided to turn years of queries about how he achieved success into his first self-help book, Be Useful: Seven Tools for Lifeout now from Penguin Press.

Prior to the book’s release, Schwarzenegger sat down with PEOPLE to talk about why he made the decision to turn an edict he heard relentlessly from his father in his youth — be useful! — into a primer on how to get unstuck and fulfill your dreams. 

Be useful “was the very phrase that motivated me,” the Terminator star says. He adds: “All I’m trying to do is just try to use my talents and help other people. It’s the simple stuff that I do that really helped me get where I am today.”

The book pulls lessons from Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding career (during which he won seven Mr. Olympia titles), five decades spent in Hollywood, his two terms as governor, a public divorce and what he’s focusing on today at 76. Here are five major revelations from Schwarzenegger’s first motivational book, Be Useful

‘Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life’ by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He’s striven to make ‘amends’ in his ‘fourth act’
In his 2023 documentary Schwarzenegger reluctantly discussed the affair with housekeeper Mildred Baena that broke up his marriage to Maria Shriver

In Be Useful, he explains why he’s chosen not to focus on the painful period, saying such rehashing feeds the “gossip machine” and brings more pain to his loved ones. “It’s been a long road to repair those relationships,” Schwarzenegger writes. 

But he is willing to share where he found himself after his revelation became public: rock bottom. “I was face down in the mud, in a dark hole, and I had to decide whether it was worth it to clean myself up and start the slow climb out, or to just give up,” he writes.

In the years since, he writes, he has striven to “make amends.” Today, he told PEOPLE, his relationship with Shriver is warm, and the two make an effort to spend holidays together with their children. “My chapter with Maria will continue on forever,” he told PEOPLE. “Even though it’s a different relationship, there’s no reason for me to feel anything other than love for her.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.
J. Redmond/WireImage

He had to ‘earn’ breakfast as a child in Thal, Austria 
Growing up in the remote town of Thal, Austria, his father, who fought with the Nazis in WWII, became an alcoholic prone to violence in the war’s aftermath, striking Arnold, his brother and mother. 

“My father had a hot-and-cold-shower kind of a treatment,” Schwarzenegger told PEOPLE of those early years. “When he was drunk, he was not forthcoming with his emotions. He was angry. And when he was not — two, three days later, he would maybe feel guilty and buy us ice cream and take us out, hugging, kissing and all that stuff.”

His father also policed mealtimes. “I had to do two hundred knee bends every morning just to ‘earn’ my breakfast,” he writes in Be Useful

Still, he told PEOPLE, “I always will have fond memories of my dad. And I don’t blame him for anything, simply because he did not know any better. He was beaten when he was a kid. It was just a tradition.”

Six-month-old Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

A third open-heart surgery was ‘scary’ and unplanned 
In his book, Schwarzenegger expands upon his recent revelation about undergoing an unplanned third open heart surgery.

The star shared his recovery from the surgery in his newsletter Arnold’s Pump Club, saying it was intended to be a non-invasive procedure. With his 2019 start date to film Terminator 6 looming, he said in the video: “I woke up and all of a sudden the doctors were in front of me saying, ‘I’m so sorry but it was unlike what we planned.’”

His doctors had made a mistake that caused internal bleeding and they “had to open me up very quickly to save my life,” he said.

In Be Useful, Schwarzenegger opens up about receiving news of the surprise surgery, saying he was scared, frustrated and “pissed off” at the extended recovery timeline, which was far from the few days he had been expecting.

Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Instagram

But then he decided to reframe his thinking. Schwarzenegger asked that a tally be started on the wall for his walking exercises with a walker and then a cane, modeling his system of counting weightlifting sets as a teenager. He returned home within a week of waking up in the ICU and a month later started lifting slowly in his home gym “with the IV stand next to me and the drainage tube still sticking out of my chest.” Ultimately, the star says he made it to Budapest to start filming the movie a month after that, on schedule.

He was in excruciating pain during his second inaugural speech as governor of California
Schwarzenegger first became the California governor after winning a recall election in 2003 and was reelected in 2006. But after he snapped his femur in a skiing accident over Christmas in 2006, his second inauguration two weeks later was in jeopardy. 

His team offered to cancel the official ceremony and simply do the swearing in at his home, but he refused. Schwarzenegger also refused painkillers, afraid he would not be as coherent in front of his constituents. “I can deal with twenty minutes of pain. I can deal with a full day of pain,” he underscores in Be Useful. Ultimately, he appeared on stage — on crutches — before giving a 20-minute speech unassisted.

Schwarzenegger, who has long backed clean energy efforts, tells PEOPLE he continues to identify as a Republican. “I’m the traditional Republican — Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Nixon, George Bush — these Republicans, I thought were great,” he said.

Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

His infamous Jan. 6 speech came to him in the Jacuzzi
In his book, Schwarzenegger shares being overcome by disbelief, anger and sadness following the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, and trying to sift through those emotions in his Jacuzzi.

The star writes that ever since he was a child he’d viewed America as the “world’s greatest democracy” and that it pained him to see the horrifying violence and bloodshed. While soaking. he began to map out what would become an almost 8-minute speech denouncing former President Donald Trump and the deadly riots, comparing the insurrection to Kristallnacht. “Wednesday was the day of broken glass right here in the United States,” he said in the video, speaking out against “elected officials who have enabled his lies and his treachery.”

“They’re complicit with those who carried the flag of self righteous insurrection into the Capitol,” he said at the time. “We need public servants that serve something larger than their own power or their own party.”

In his book, Schwarzenegger said he gave the speech “in the hope that, by talking directly to the people who were hurting the most, I could help them and maybe they could heal.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Image Press Agency/NurPhoto/Shutterstock 

Earlier this year, the star once again took to social media to address anti-Semitism after visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp, warning in a 12-minute video speech that those on a “path of hate” could end up a “loser” like his Nazi father. “I don’t know the road that has brought you here, but I’ve seen enough people throw away their futures for hateful beliefs,” he said in the video. “So I want to speak with you before you find your regrets at the end of that path.” 

Schwarzenegger told PEOPLE that former neo-Nazis were among those he and his team consulted with on building effective messaging.

“They’d say, ‘No, I wouldn’t say that, I would say it this way.’ My idea is to communicate well,” Schwarzenegger told PEOPLE. “But even though I’m a fanatic about communication, I’m not always the best at it. But I’m trying.”

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life is out now.

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