Life can be a complicated and difficult place to navigate, and no one really gives us any concrete instruction on how to do so. That’s why many of us turn to famous people from history, business and the media as role models to provide blueprints for how to get what we want from life. These are inspirational people that we admire that have managed to make the most from themselves that they possibly can and achieve great things – often despite insurmountable odds. Depending on who you are, different people will inspire you – whether you’re driven by fame and fortune, by creative achievements or by doing good and giving to charity. Below are a few inspirational people that you may not have considered, who have often slipped under the radar despite achieving great things and providing great role models that we all can learn from. Hopefully they will inspire you, and perhaps you will notice common trends between these four unlikely candidates that you can apply to your own life.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – A controversial first choice perhaps, and many people fail to take the ‘Governator’ seriously, taking his thick Austrian accent and stilted English to be a sign of stupidity. This is unfortunate as Arnold is anything but stupid and may well be a genius in many ways. Certainly he has achieved more in one lifetime than most of us put together and has the drive and determination to achieve much more before he’s finished.
Arnold grew up in a small town in Austria where no one had particularly high expectations for what they would achieve. Schwarzenegger soon departed from this view however when he became fascinated with the ‘muscle mags’ from America and decided he wanted to imitate them and become the bodybuilding champion. His determination was such that he would break into gyms so he could train on Sunday’s and once even snuck out of his barracks during his compulsory stint in the Austrian army to attend a competition. Like all inspirational people he was possessed with incredible drive and vision from a young age. To this end he travelled to America with no concrete plan and no where even to stay in order to fulfil his dream with his friend Franco Columbo (with whom he is still friends today).
Not many people know however that Arnie was already financially very successful before he even won Mr Olympia – setting up first a brick laying company and then selling pamphlets about bodybuilding to secure his wealth and make the rest of his multiple careers just… well sport – for as he says himself he’s never needed the money, he just loves a challenge.
Predictably Arnie’s hard work and natural charisma took him to the top of his game and soon he had won the Mr Olympia competition a record amount of times. He’d done that and now he wanted a new challenge so he told his contemporaries he had his sights on Hollywood. Due to his strong accent and difficult name (which he refused to change despite advice from agents) he was mostly ridiculed (again a trend with inspirational people). Before long though, and helped by the success of bodybuilding documentary ‘Pumping Iron’, Arnie found himself the highest paid actor in America, starring in such hit films as: the Conan series, the Terminator series, True Lies, Total Recall, Commando, Twins and Kindergarden Cop. It seems that Arnold had a knack for sniffing out box office hits and for self promotion, and even managed to cleverly change his image for more comedic roles thereby increasing his audience tenfold.
After serious heart surgery Arnie went quiet for a few years and his return to the box office was largely lacklustre, not one to be put off however he then went on to get back the exact shape pound for pound that he’d achieved for Terminator 2 for his last big hit Terminator 3. This put him in the spotlight once again and gave him the foothold he needed to launch his next campaign – for Governor of California.
Having dabbled in politics before due to his impact on national fitness, and due to his marriage to a Kennedy (also interesting seeing as Arnie is Republican), Arnie surprised everyone by stating he had his sights set on becoming Governor in a career that beggars belief. Despite having made a name for himself blowing things up and posing in briefs, and despite a serious list of past misdemeanours – any one of which would ruin any other candidate – Arnie won the election. And the recall election. Using his skill for self promotion and slogans along with his lack of allegiance to anything other than what he thinks is the best course of action for his people to succeed in yet another very diverse field. Business man, to bodybuilder, to film star to Politian. And who knows, maybe one day president? If any one has the power to change the constitution is Arnold, he is truly one of life’s inspirational people.
Richard Branson – Richard Branson is one of the most inspirational people in business having gone from nothing to owning one of the largest corporations on the planet through use of his intuition, energy, innovation and unique strategy.
Though today most of us think of Branson as a tycoon, he began life as a young kid (like most of us) with dyslexia and few grades to his name. Despite this he showed an early flair for business when he began his paper ‘Student’ which sold well with young people in the area and helped him identify his target demographic – other young people. It was from this starting point that he would move into music just as records were kicking off in a big way. By acquiring records directly from the manufacturers, Branson was able to sell them at a low price and in much better condition and it was this ‘freshness’ that earned the company it’s title ‘Virgin’. While this would upset many organisations who felt the word too provocative to be registered as a business name, Branson was savvy in realising that ‘edgy’ and ‘provocative’ was exactly what was needed to succeed in this market. And succeed he did, eventually opening his own recording studios, record label and retail outlets. The first big hit on the virgin label being a new and unusual artist around the time that prog rock ruled supreme named Mike Oldfield – composer of the massive hit Tubular Bells.
From here Branson began to diversify into travel and mobile phones, the latter fitting the mould of providing for the youth market in an up-and-coming market but the former representing quite a departure. In this way Branson’s strategy differed greatly from other businesses as rather than focussing on a single market he aimed instead to provide a quality brand across markets, and keeping each business separate as far as possible. For this reason the Virgin brand became all conquering and ended up being much better equipped for something like an economic crisis – where even if one arm of the corporation suffered the brand as a whole would likely be safe. Branson also strayed from conventional business wisdom in other ways too, pulling fantastic promotional stunts and issuing public challenges and insults to his competitors. By retaining the spirit of fun the company had in its early days he manages to keep the public on his side.
Like many inspirational people however Branson also enjoyed making a splash in other areas of his life – most notably in his leisure time which often finds him breaking world records and flying balloons around the globe. Like a real-life Tony Stark Richard Branson is just as likely to be found up the side of a mountain as he is in a board room. As the latest Virgin Planes advert shows Branson certainly still has his finger on the pulse and is now looking to take his brand to dizzying new heights by spear heading privatised space flight and supporting plans to bring internet access to third world countries. By driving innovation and tackling large-scale problems Branson is certainly a worthy addition to our collection of inspirational people.
Tony Stark – Tony Stark may be a fictional character (he’s the alter ego of Iron Man), but that doesn’t mean he can’t be one of our inspirational people, and all the things that make him one represent real characteristics and attributes that many people today possess.
Tony Stark inherited his business so didn’t build his millions from the ground up. However he did take Stark Industries international (becoming Stark International) and diversified from producing weapons to producing useful appliances and software. Here he utilised his own genius to turn a company global but wasn’t satisfied with that.
When captured by terrorists Stark then turned his genius to saving his own life and built himself a suit of armour (with parts they expected him to use to build them a weapon) that would act as a life support and enable him to escape. Resourcefulness – another aspect of most inspirational people. From here he then began developing his armour into the ‘Iron Man’ and turned it into a force for good (much like the charitable billionaires around in the real world). In addition to doing good himself he other inspired and lead others by forming the superhero squad ‘The Avengers’. Of all the comic book characters Tony Stark’s evolution has been the most organic and he’s played the most proactive role in shaping their world, much like the inspirational people in our world do such as Churchill, Obama or Alexander the Great.
From here however he would suffer many set backs, including a bout of alcoholism (which he used his determination and courage to bounce back from) and a spinal injury that required him to re-learn to walk (and in the meantime he made do with suites of armour he controlled remotely). Unlike most comic book heroes Iron Man got political when he became the minister of defence – a natural role for the character and later spearheaded a movement that encouraged superhumans to register and won (as well as securing himself a position at the secret organisation SHIELD). A playboy millionaire, CEO, Superhero and head of SHIELD; he is certainly not shy of multi-tasking or overachieving despite the heavy toll it takes on him personally and the controversial decisions it forces him to make.
Currently Tony Stark is facing public disgrace in the comic’s universe and is on the run from authorities while his brain deteriorates after a DIY attempt to erase his own memories (to hide government secrets). As he flees through his old labs and bases though it becomes instantly apparent that he has planned for such an event – indeed inspirational people plan for any event. Tony Stark is a futurist and a Tran humanist who’s forwards thinking as well as ahead of his time. He’s also practical, pragmatic and determined. For inspirational people these are key points to success.
Sylvester Stallone – Sylvester Stallone is another unlikely candidate for a list of inspirational people, but this is only because he is underrated, not because he is unworthy, and makes his inclusion all the more important.
While most people assume Stallone is a slow-witted strongman or a poor-man’s Arnie, neither of these labels are at all true. Actually Stallone came before Arnold Schwarzenegger, single-handedly creating the trend for over-the-top 80s action movies and did so through his writing and acting skills. It is his character of Rocky for which he is so famous, and its his immaculate impersonation of the punch-drunk hero along with the nerve damage that gives him his slurred speech that fools many into thinking him to be slow witted himself. Actually however Stallone is one of the most intelligent and inspirational people in Hollywood, and it was his own creativity and drive that got Rocky made in the first place. Not many people would guess that Stallone has an IQ of 160, that he paints in his spare time, that he considers himself a writer and director before an actor, or that his personal hero was Edgar Allen Poe.
Stallone at the time of writing Rocky had nothing; he was a struggling writer who at the time was so poor he’d briefly been homeless, but it was that script that would turn around his fortunes. When he got an opportunity to show the script to producers they were impressed that they offered him increasingly large sums of money that could set him up for life to buy the rights. Stallone was more savvy and more determined than that however and he held out on the offers saying that he would only sell the script if he could play the lead role. Eventually he did, and received only minimal payment for his hard work. It was a gamble that paid off however, and when his lovingly crafted creation was an instant classic his gamble paid off and opportunities presented themselves everywhere for the young actor. The story of Rocky mirrored that of Sly at the time and embodied the spirit of never giving up and going after your dreams in such a way that Rocky himself is considered by many to be one of fiction’s most inspirational people.
More hits penned by Stallone followed, notably First Blood, the first in his second massive franchise ‘Rambo’. For these films and for subsequent Rocky films, Stallone got himself into the kind of shape that had rarely been seen before – dropping his body fat below that of even Bruce Lee’s by applying the same kind of drive and determination to his workouts.
Eventually though, like many inspirational people, Stallone’s star faded and his films began to make less and less of a splash at the box office following his last big hit ‘Cliffhanger’. During these quieter years Stallone kept himself busy with a supplement company ‘Instone’, a book ‘Sly Moves’ and the TV programme ‘The Contender’. It wasn’t until his 60s that he would decide to make an epic comeback with a 6th Rocky – ridiculed by the media for even thinking of it. When he got into the same kind of shape he’d been for Rocky 4 however (an incredible feat and there has likely never been anyone so physically impressive at his age) and wrote another great script that again mirrored the comeback he was attempting in real life, he silenced his critics once again with yet another critically acclaimed box office hit. Since then he’s filmed Rambo 4 and is now preparing for the ultimate 80s action comeback alongside Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Ludgren, Micky Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Steve Austin.