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Knowledge is Power!

Notes on Negotiation

by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

I recently read mega movie star and former California Governor and Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book “Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life.” Interestingly, I found a lot of negotiation nuggets in it, all of which were couched as life lessons. Of course, negotiation is a huge part of life, so this should not be surprising.

Here are several that stood out, along with my own comments.

• “Vision is the most important thing. . . . To have a clear vision is to have a picture of what you want your life to look like and a plan for how to get there.”

The negotiation lesson? Substitute the word "negotiation" for "life" and you have the starting point for all successful negotiations – an aggressive and clear goal and a plan to accomplish it.

• Schwarzenegger wrote that he learned early on that “the world was the ultimate classroom, and that we needed to be like a sponge, soaking up as much of it as we could. . . . [A]nd the way to become the kind of sponge that absorbs only the most useful knowledge was to always be curious. To listen and look more than we talked. And when we did talk, it was better to ask good questions than to make smart statements. . . . [W]e could be certain that knowledge is power, and information makes you useful.”

The negotiation lessons? Absorb all you can about the issues and interests on the table, be curious, listen and ask more than you talk and state, and information is power – so get it!

• “We just needed to find a way to turn one nay-sayer [studio] into a yea-sayer [for the movie Twins]. Our solution was to reduce the studio’s risk as much as possible by taking no up-front money [even though the three of them – Schwarzenegger, comedian Danny DeVito, and director/producer Ivan Reitman – were at the “top of our game” and able to command huge upfront salaries]. Instead, we would take a [rarely offered] piece of the net profits, called “backend” in Hollywood language. We would only make money if the studio made money.”

The negotiation lesson? Recognize your counterpart’s main objection – here the risk involved with their upfront salaries – and creatively devise a way to address it while also satisfying your fundamental interests. Doing this turned into the movie where Schwarzenegger “made the most money in [his] entire career.”

• "If there is one unavoidable truth in this world, it’s that there is no substitute for putting in the work. There is no shortcut or growth hack or magic pill that can get you around the hard work of doing your job well, of winning something you care about, or of making your dreams come true. . . . Work works. That’s the bottom line. No matter what you do. No matter who you are. My entire life has been shaped by that single idea."

• "[B]eyond simply reading the script and knowing my lines [for] Twins, it was dance and improv lessons. On The Terminator, it was becoming a machine: blindfolding myself until I could do every gun stunt with my eyes closed, and shooting so many rounds at the range that I no longer blinked when my gun fired. On Terminator 2, it was practicing the shotgun cocking flip so many times my knuckles bled – for what amounted to two seconds of screen time.”

The negotiation lesson? Comprehensively prepare and practice for your negotiations on the substantive issues and on the process based on the experts’ proven research. The homework and planning you do in advance of the actual negotiation works!

• “It’s not always obvious who you need to move toward a yes and who you need to move away from a no. Unless you pay attention to who is paying attention to you, it’s impossible to know for sure who your vision is attracting positively or who it might be impacting negatively.”

The negotiation lesson? Pay super close attention and tune in to your counterparts so you can accurately ascertain a) who and how to engage, and b) the signals they send and their reactions. These can make or break you negotiations.

• “People come up to me all the time and say, “Arnold, I didn’t hit the goal I set for myself, what should I do?” …

Or, “I failed this week to get the promotion I wanted, what do I do now?” My answer to them is simple: Learn from your mistakes and then say, “I’ll be back.””

The negotiation lesson? Debrief at the end of your negotiation successes and failures. Identify what worked, what didn’t and how to improve next time. Lifelong learning!

Latz’s Lesson: Schwarzenegger set super aggressive goals, asked and listened a ton, and learned how to turn objections into opportunities with creativity. Incredible success was the result. Preparation and work works, pay super close attention to your counterparts, and learn from your successes and failures. Keep these front and center for your next negotiation


Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts' proven research. He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN • Premier Indiana CLE


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