On Sept. 13, 1969, backstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Europe’s best bodybuilder is preparing to go onstage for his first Mr. Olympia contest. Full of confidence, he is warming up and flexing in a mirror. Suddenly, Sergio Olivia, the current and three-time Mr. Olympia, quietly enters the room. Standing off to one side, Olivia casually steps out of his overalls and flexes. At that moment, Arnold realizes he is not going to win.
Franco Colombo, Arnold’s training partner sees the look on his face and says, “Come on Arnold, you can beat him — he only looked good because of a trick of the light.” Arnold shakes his head and mumbles, “No. His body is just unbelievable.” That evening, Olivia easily won his fourth Mr. Olympia title. Arnold later acknowledged that the sight of Olivia's size and definition left him feeling intimidated to the point that he lost all confidence in his ability to compete.
The importance of not being intimidated and maintaining confidence is something certification students know about. Often we dive into a new cert, thinking how great it will be to have it. Then we run up against the reality of time constraints, outside demands, and a daunting amount of information to learn. Sadly, some decide it isn’t worth the sacrifice. They let fear of failure keep them from trying. This is particularly true for those who fail in their first attempt to earn a certification. I myself have experienced these feelings — it took me three tries to pass my Microsoft Word certification.
There is no trick, or anything magi,c about earning a certification. The bottom line is be humble, learn from your failures, and keep working on improving your abilities until you succeed. Arnold learned from his failure, “My calves were my weak point. They were too small and not defined enough.” If you’ve ever done bodybuilding you know that calves aren’t a muscle people enjoy working on. The muscle fibers are so dense that it takes incredible effort to make calves grow.
Arnold was so determined to improve his calves that he read and learned all he could about the muscles there. He also cut all of his sweat pants off below the knees — that way everyone could see his “puny” calves. “I knew people would always be looking at my calves, and this was motivation for me to work harder to improve them.”
He worked much harder, did what it took to build his calves, and soon filled in his weak spot. Olympia 1969 was the last time Arnold ever lost a competition. The following year he defeated Olivia, earning the first of his seven Mr. Olympia titles. Since that time, Arnold has attributed his success in bodybuilding and life to embracing and learning from failure. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
This lesson also applies to students pursuing a certification. Don’t be intimidated and don’t give up after a setback. If you fail to pass your exam the first time, step back and assess your weak points. Honestly ask yourself what areas or topics do you need to improve on, how could you have better prepared. Then do what it takes to be ready the next time.
As the "Austrian Oak" himself once put it, “You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself. You keep pushing because you believe in yourself, and in your vision. You know that it is the right thing to do and success will come.”
About the Author — Calvin Harper is an associate editor for GoCertify and a veteran of the publishing industry. Calvin's favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is Kindergarten Cop.