The other night I watched an interview Piers Morgan did with Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote Schwarzenegger’s new book, “Total Recall.” During the interview, Piers asked Arnold to go back to the time when he was a small boy in Austria living in a tiny house with no plumbing or phone and explain his success. Arnold basically said three things: (1) he had a vision (2) he had burning ambition and talent; and (3) he was willing to work hard to achieve – to chase – his vision. In summary, Arnold said this about his life and his book:
It’s unbelievable, that ride. And the book also deals with the determination and the fanaticism and the competitiveness and always keeping the eye on the ball, and I even have — you know, the 15 Arnold Rules and all of those things that helped me get through and to get the way I am today. So that’s what the book is about.
I found 6 of those 15 rules Arnold mentioned. Arnold’s Six Rules for Life are:
- Trust Yourself – Ask yourself who you want to be and what will make you happy.
- Break the Rules (not the laws) – Think outside the box.
- Don’t be Afraid to Fail – Don’t be paralyzed by fear or failure; believe in your self-vision.
- Don’t Listen to Naysayers – Don’t believe people when they tell you something can’t be done.
- Work Hard – Leave no stone unturned. If you are partying and horsing around, someone else is working hard. Sleep six hours not eight. If you need eight hours of sleep, sleep faster.
- Give Back – Find time to give something back. Giving back brings more satisfaction than anything.
I’ve been trying to process Arnold’s rules for life alongside Psalm 131 that says:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
David, in his song, seems to say the opposite of what Arnold says. He does not have an ambitious or striving spirit set on fame and acclaim. Instead his soul is calmed “like a weaned child with its mother”.
Some Thoughts About Weaning
When I was thinking about this psalm, I thought about my own grandchild who had an especially difficult time with the weaning stage. In the midst of being weaned she was anxious and demanding of her mom. If she was with me and it was getting close to nursing time, she fretted about where her mom was. Now that she has successfully found her way through that stage, she is a calmer and more satisfied child. She enjoys the companionship of her mom and others without fretting. She knows her needs will be met but in a different way.
Is Ambition Wrong?
David seems to speak about weaning as a metaphor for giving up obsessive lofty ambition along with the striving and pridefulness that goes with it. So is David saying all ambition is wrong? I don’t think so. The Apostle Paul said, in Romans 15:20, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel.” So there is an ambition that is biblical, and, for more on that topic, I refer you to Dr. John Piper’s sermon “Holy Ambition” and his book, “A Holy Ambition.”
I think what David is saying here is that, despite compulsive tendencies toward grandiose self-achievement, he has chosen not to involve himself in obsessive ambition that leads to anxious striving (verses trusting striving). He does not choose to waste time daydreaming about exalted positions. Instead of trusting in himself to realize pompous dreams, David chooses to set his hope on the God who forgives (see Ps. 130) and rest his soul in God’s purpose for his life – purposes that God will surely bring about.
Arnold’s Six Rules Revised
Because I think that God’s glory is important and that to trust God with our success glorifies God (since it shows the world that we think God is capable of taking care of our reputation) I applied my understanding of Psalm 131 and rewrote Arnold’s 6 rules:
- Trust God – Ask yourself what God’s wants you to be and what will please him (Eph. 5:1-21).
- Follow God’s rules – Think inside Scripture (Rom.15:4).
- Don’t be afraid to fail; know that it is God who brings success – Fear the Lord (Is. 41).
- Don’t listen to culture – Listen to God’s word (2 Cor. 10:5).
- Work hard – Work as if you are working for the Lord (Col. 3:23-24). Outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10-11), but don’t loose sleep to anxious toil (Ps. 127:2).
- Give – But don’t give back as if to repay a debt instead, give because all that you have has been given to you (1 Cor. 4:7; 1 Pet. 4:10) and all that you will have depends on a faithful God who loves you (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 100:5).