Imagine You’re Running For President (Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s Career Advice To Will Smith)

At the grand opening of Planet Hollywood, business partners Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar were hanging out alone. Poised like gods on a superhero mountaintop at a backroom table, they’re approached by a young upstart actor named Will Smith, who jumps right in with this question:

What’s it take to be the biggest movie star in the world? You know, one like them. And, if he wanted to, how would he go about doing it? 

They look at each other. They look at Will. Like some type of all-knowing elder counsel, Arnold glances at both of his peers and speaks (insert your own accent while reading):

You are not a movie star if your movies are only successful in America. You are not a movie star until every person on earth knows who you are. You have to travel the globe, shake every hand, kiss every baby. Think of yourself as a politician running for Biggest Movie Star In The World.

Just being great at acting, picking the right movies, and having some lucky box office breaks wasn’t going to do it. Will Smith had to learn how to be an advocate for the entire system around his art that would carry his career into the stratosphere. 

You probably aren’t gunning to be the biggest movie star in the world. Odds are decent you’re not trying to be the biggest whatever your gig is either. But, think about what this lesson does say about whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. 

The “you are a politician for whatever role you want to be perceived as” mindset means you see the value you provide as part of a network. You see the network as being interconnected, and your job is not to just focus on your hub, but on adding value across each spoke. 

Will Smith realized doing press before a movie increased it’s box office sales. If he did international press too? He could double the sales of a movie, just by showing up. If he planned as meticulously around the launch as he did for his characters, he’d align his own hype with everyone elses. This was Schwarzenegger’s tip in practice, and it worked. 

We don’t all have to be politicians, but this is an excellent framework for thinking about how we can succeed in whatever domain we want.