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When you began bodybuilding…

When you began bodybuilding, did you have any idea you would go on to win the Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe titles and essentially set the standard for the Arnolds and Ronnies of this world? What were your intentions at the time?

Me? Mr. America and a “standard setter?” In a word, no.

To elaborate, I hadn’t a clue. I was a 20-year-old welder in a factory snuggled in the swampy meadows of New Jersey, 30 minutes from cozy Newark. Swell place to swat mosquitoes in the summer and unbury your car from snow in the winter and raise my then-six-month-old daughter.

One day, while picking up a pair of 45-pound plates at Weider Barbell Company in neighboring Union City, Joe Weider offered me a job at his new California outlet in Santa Monica. Visions of bright sunshine and blue skies and clean, clear water filled my imagination. Six weeks later my imagination became a reality.

My intentions were to make it from one day to the next, train and work and learn and grow and grow up with my family. Ambition wasn’t absent. It was wrapped up in survival and always has been.

Thank God for hard work, determination and perseverance. Thank God for God. My life mostly happened. I learned how to put one step before the other by noticing with acumen where the last step had been. Still do.

I call this singular methodology “learning from my mistakes.”