Wake up happy - The dream big win big guide to transforming your life - Michael Strahan
If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple.
Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing.
And believe what you are doing.
-- Will Rogers
PROLOGUE: PROTECTIVE GEAR
"You look so comfortable"
If they only knew. The truth is, I’m a shy guy.
how to take that nervous energy and turn it into positive energy.
Our career choices are, by definition, limited in duration. We can play only as long as our bodies, first and foremost, and our willpower allow us to. Then we have to reinvent ourselves.
“Well, am I not trying it because I’m afraid or is it because I think I can’t do it?” After some reflection, I admitted to myself that I was afraid of trying and failing, and that wasn’t a good enough reason not to give myself a chance.
it’s something I’ve been doing since I was a child.
I truly believe there’s more power in your attitude than in your bank account.
We were talking about how it is that some people seem able to drive toward their goals with so much joy, while for others it’s struggle after struggle and setback after setback.
I saw life as a game, a puzzle that I could solve again and again to get and achieve the things I wanted the most. I never—well, rarely—allowed myself to be overcome by doubt. I just kept telling myself, “I’ll get there somehow.” Did I know the exact method or route to achieve my dreams? Absolutely not. But I created a set of tools—rituals, ideas, formulas that helped me get from there to here.
No matter what we accomplish, we’re always searching for something else. I’m not talking about money or material things. I just think we have an innate desire, as human beings, to continue to achieve. Achievement, the quest and the process of doing more and being more, is the most powerful pathway to happiness.
happiness is, in and of itself, a choice you make every day. Every morning I ask myself, “How do I get to happy today?”
Is happiness freedom? Is it honesty? Is it the passion you feel when you’re doing something you love? Is it feeling wanted? Is it feeling needed? Is it giving and being of service? Or is it all of those things?
I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself these questions because, while I work extraordinarily hard and I play hard too, I want to make sure that I’m spending the limited time and energy I have on the things that make me happy.
happiness is something that you have to find every single day.
The quest for happiness is an ongoing pursuit, maybe the most important test of our lives. Because at the end of your life, if your stack of happy days is bigger than your stack of miserable days, then yours was a life well lived. It’s that simple.
“The difficult I’ll do right now. The impossible will take a little while.”
1. WHAT I LEARNED FROM HERSCHEL WALKER
Help can—and will—come from the most unexpected places. Be open to everything around you.
Tell me about the solution, not the problem.” But to come up with the solution, I needed to define the problem.
When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a big boy. So how was I going to fix it when I couldn’t even see it?
My dad is not my mother. My dad will tell you the truth, even if it hurts.
“Dad,” I asked. “Do you know why my brothers call me Bob?”
“Dad, am I fat?” I asked.
My dad didn’t look pleased to tell me, but he did anyway. “Yes, son. You could lose some weight.”
I was crushed. “What am I going to do?”
My dad shrugged. “Eat less. Exercise more.”
“Okay,” I said.
“It’s a simple formula,” he said. “But it’s not an easy one. You’re going to have to eat a whole lot less. And you are going to have to exercise a whole lot more.”
It was on those runs that I got to know who my dad really was.
I also learned that help can and will come from the most unexpected places and people.
Consequently, I make a point of not making assumptions about people and staying open to the possibility that alliances might come in the most unlikely packages.
2. A LINE IN THE WATER
Sometimes you’ll catch the big fish, and sometimes you won’t, but without a line in the water, you don’t stand a chance.
he must’ve been born with a pretty high happiness set point, because he never let his present define his future.
the story of how he persevered always made a big impression on me. I thought, “There’s no reason why you can’t do something, even if it seems hard, even if it seems impossible.” If anybody had an excuse not to go back to school, not to try, he did.
it’s the attitude with which we pursue our goals that gives us our biggest boosts of happiness. Achor says, “Happiness is the joy we feel striving toward our potential.”
I’ve seen that joy in my dad time and time again.
He takes joy in striving toward his potential, and he taught me to do the same thing.
He's not the kind of person who keep doing things the same way over and over again. He’s thoughtful. He considers things. And he always taught me that you’re not a man because you stand your ground; it takes a lot of character to say, “I used to do things this way, but I’ve learned. Now that I know better, I’m going to do better.”
I watch people play the lottery and I know that they are thinking “if” and “only.” If I could only win the lottery, I could send my kid to college. If I could only win the lottery, I’d take my wife on a cruise or a European vacation.
What I love about my father is,
he didn’t buy a lottery ticket. My father leaped toward the nearest available brass ring—the military, and then, through the GI bill, a college education.
Once he became an officer,
he and my mother had raised five children, they looked at me, number six, and thought, “What can we do for this child? How can we expand his world?”
“If I take a week’s vacation and we pile up the camper, we can get from Germany all the way through France to Spain and all of that fine fishing.” He made something out of nothing.
What could you do with your kids, your loved ones, your friends, in five days with a car and a couple of hundred dollars in the kitty? How creative could you get? How much fun could you have? How many memories could you make? Those are the questions my parents asked, and the answers they found, sitting over our kitchen table late at night with a calculator and a calendar, created a sense of possibility that shapes my life to this day.
You couldn’t tell me anything when I was out in a boat in Spain with my dad. I felt like the big man on campus, years before I went to college. My father created a sense of adventure with every road trip, and he gave me his undivided attention. He’d ask me to talk about my dreams; then he’d push me to dream a little bigger.
t’s a good way to relax, and maybe it’s a lesson on life. Throw the line out in the water, and every once in a while you get a little nibble that gives you hope that a big one is coming. That “sometimes” is all you can hold on to. Sometimes you’ll catch the big fish, and sometimes you won’t. At least having your line in the water gives you a shot.
When I left the NFL, I put a lot of lines out in the water, as I discuss in later chapters. Not all of them were successful, including a little-known sitcom I did called Brothers. It was canceled after just one season. Some people might consider that a failure. But in my mind, it was a line in the water.
3. GRIT, DESIRE, AND DISCIPLINE
Grit, desire, and discipline are free and the only equipment you need to start just about any endeavor you’ll set out to do.
Herschel Walker, my hero from the fitness books, came to Germany.
What was the one thing I could say or ask him that would matter?
In his book, he’d written that as a kid, he’d transformed his body with “grit, desire and discipline as my only equipment.”
When I was sixteen years old, my dad said, “I think you want to play football.”
my dad saw something in me.
My dad knew that I lacked the technical skill to play football competitively, but he had also seen how determined I was once I set my mind to something.
It wasn’t just the weight I’d shed with that Jane Fonda video or the muscles I’d sculpted by my careful studying of Herschel Walker’s training book.
I had this ridiculous hand-me-down bike. It looked like Frankenstein had found all these random pieces and put them together to make a bike. My father refused to buy me a new one.
“Twelve hundred dollars? Boy, are you out of your mind? My first car cost less than that.”
“How about this? If you can earn half the money, then I will pay for the other half.”
First, I tried babysitting, at which, admittedly, I failed miserably. The parents would go out, not far, just somewhere on the base. They would come home, and I’d be asleep on the couch while the kids were still awake!
Next I started cutting grass.
I had signed up over a dozen yards by offering to “cut your lawn once a week for twenty dollars.”
I was meticulous in my work, and even though it was hot and I was miserable, I kept going. I had done the math in my head and knew that enough lawns, with enough repeat business, would get me my bike.
The Friday before Labor Day, I showed up at the dinner table with six hundred dollars.
My mother gave me a big hug. “That’s my baby.”
My father took the stack of bills and began to count them carefully. I don’t think he ever intended to spend even a hundred dollars on a kid’s bike, much less six hundred dollars. But when he counted the money and saw it was all there, he said, “A deal is a deal. Just give me a couple of days to pull together my share.”
The day that we drove into town to buy that BMX bike was one of the happiest in my life. I learned that you’ve got to work for everything and you’ve got to work hard. It also taught me that it’s different when you’re spending your own money as opposed to spending someone else’s.
And I think it taught my father that although I was the baby of the family, I was also maybe the most determined kid in a bunch of strong-willed Strahans. I think it was the bike as well as the five-mile morning training runs that made my dad think that if I got a chance to play football, I could be good. Maybe even great.
After a lot of late-night conversations, my father came up with a plan. He would send me to Houston for the first semester.
How could it be that when I finally got a girlfriend, a really beautiful girlfriend, I had to leave her in Germany for six whole months? By the time the plane landed, I knew every word to every song on those mix tapes.
I understood neither the game nor the technique. I had the work ethic, and I had the desire, but I didn’t have any skills to speak of. I had to figure it out.
When you’re close to your parents, no one can take their place.
When you have a high school stadium that holds thirty thousand people, then you know—it’s more than just a game.
I got a crash course in dealing with the pressure.
the difference between playing football and watching it on television is like the difference between watching a guy drive a race car on TV and trying to drive that bad boy yourself.
You think, “I know how to drive. He’s just going fast and going in circles.” But you get into that car and all of a sudden you get it: he’s not just going fast, he’s going really fast, and every hairpin turn, every fun-looking donut requires a mathematical level of precision.
Yet as my dad had seen, and as I would continually prove to myself, I’m not someone who’s afraid of a challenge. I try to see an obstacle not as an issue or a problem, but rather as something interesting to solve.
Getting good enough to be an asset to the team was a puzzle to solve.
I also learned to convert the boos into a kind of juice that would drive me. I’d go straight to the place of “You’re doubting me? Let me show you what I can do.”
I just kept my eyes on the prize of getting incrementally better, of getting good enough, contributing enough to the team, so that when I went home at Christmastime, I’d have a college scholarship in hand.
I got good enough that one school, Texas Southern University, a Division I-AA program, offered me a scholarship. It’s kind of like somebody buying your house. You don’t need a hundred offers. You just need one. Using all the grit, desire, and discipline I could muster I got my one chance.
4. WORK HARDER
It’s natural to have doubts. But hit pause before you out-and-out quit.
Home was my dad, ready to take me fishing. Home was my mom, cooking up a storm. Home was Wanda, still in love, still beautiful, still wanting to be with me. Just as important, I came home with a huge sense of pride and accomplishment. Bringing home a full-ride scholarship to an American university was, for both my parents and me, bigger and better than any gift I could put under the Christmas tree.
“Isn’t it time for you to go back?” my dad asked.
I tried to make my voice a little deeper so that my dad would know that there was conviction behind my words. Then I told him, “I’m not going back to Texas.”
At eighteen years old, I wasn’t going to out-man him. He made his voice even deeper than mine. And when he spoke, he spoke slowly.
"So, what are you going to do?"
“My brothers work for you. I want to work for you in the trucking company too.”
He could see that I had talent, but he could also see how lonely and homesick I was. I sat looking at him, nervous and scared about what he might say next.
“No, Michael. Listen to what I’m asking you. What are you going to do for you?”
My father had a vision for me and a plan, but he couldn’t do it for me. Your parents can’t take care of you forever. I had to do it. I came back to school, not because my father wanted me to, but because I wanted to.
Other people can spark a vision for your life, but until you can hold that dream in your own head and your own heart, it’s never going to come true.
We think that we have to sell others on our worthiness, but the first—and most important—person we need to convince is ourselves.
I reasoned I just had to work harder to stand out. The upside was that I got a lot of personal attention from the coaches that I probably wouldn’t have gotten at a bigger school.
Under J.W.’s coaching, I reconnected with that impulse that earned me that bike. I already had my desire. I rekindled my grit and discipline and developed the mental toughness that I would need to play the game professionally.
The great thing about my dad was that he told us early and often that no good ever comes of drug use. You never hear, “Oh yeah, that guy started snorting cocaine and things got better and better.” I was lucky that we’d had those conversations. I always managed to be independent. I’ve never been intimidated into doing something that I didn’t want to do because other people were doing it.
She said, “Well, take the front seat out and sit in the back and drive. You will drive that little car until you buy your own. I told you to go look at the car first.”
I’ll never forget that one day I was getting into the car and some cute girls were watching me. They said, “Hmmm, that must be his mama’s car or his girlfriend’s car that he’s riding around in.”
I said, “One day I will be able to get any car I want. You will never say that about me again. It will be my car and it won’t look like this.” Once again, the negativity, the boos, only fueled my desire to achieve.
Eventually, I decided that instead of saying, “I’m alone for the holidays,” I was going to say, “I’ve got extra training time that the other guys don’t have.”
I would put on my roommate’s weighted shoes and run the football stadium steps. I would run the empty streets. I would run laps around the gym and go back into the stadium and run the steps again.
When I would call home, my father would encourage me and say, “Son, it will pay off in the end.”
There’s no one who can tell my father something he doesn’t know about working hard to get what you want. Dad used to say, “Just thinking about it ain’t gonna make it happen. Wanting it to happen ain’t gonna make it happen. Expect it to happen and work every day to make it so.”
I’ve used that work ethic in every serious pursuit I’ve aimed for.
5. ARE YOU YOUR WORST ENEMY?
Too many of us count ourselves out before we even give ourselves a chance. Do the work. Be excellent. You’ll find your place, and it may just be where you least expect it.
I was twenty years old and I was going to have a baby.
My fiancée was back home in Germany, and I wished I had figured out a way to get home for the birth.
We had always planned to be together, but I had hoped to have a pro contract in my hand when I asked her to be my wife.
Knowing that I had a child on the way made my longing to go pro cut even deeper.
Every practice, I rushed harder,
I would soon have a wife and child to support. An NFL contract would help me start off my family life on a more secure path.
“They called,” he said cryptically.
What I said was “Cool.” What I wanted to say was “I’m a dad. I’m a dad. I’m a mother…ing dad.”
“I would’ve liked for you to have a few more years without the responsibility,” my father said. “The timing is not ideal, but this is not a tragedy. You are about to become a father, but you are still my child. As long as I have breath, I will do for you what I can.”
I had wanted to be great, to make it to the pros and see how far I could go, but now I needed to be great. Football was everything. There was no plan B.
I couldn’t believe it. On some level it was inconceivable.
I willed myself not to panic. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I was good. It took teams of guys to stop me. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
There’s not a person alive who’s not experienced the sting of rejection.
There’s always somebody—in the workplace, in your personal life—who passed on you because they didn’t know that you’d be that good.
Other people’s choices and actions are entirely out of our control. But how we view ourselves is entirely up to us.
Too many of us count ourselves out before we even get a chance. We can be our own worst enemies. Do the work. Be excellent. You’ll find your place, and it may just be where you least expect it.
6. WHAT DID YOU DO TO GET BETTER TODAY?
The juice is worth the squeeze. When we push ourselves, sometimes it hurts. But when we realize we’ve got more to give, we put ourselves in the position of getting more.
Without him, I wouldn’t have been in the league very long. I would have been that average player with three years before I was out.
Earl Leggett took me under his wing, but this is the thing: he knew I was willing—and happy—to do the work—and there was an excessive amount.
He’s one of those believers in repetition. If you do it so many times, it will come off automatically. He was absolutely right.
He had a lot to give. The only thing he required from you was that he needed you to come ready to work.
Earl wasn’t the coach you’re glad you have, he’s the coach that—one day—you’ll be glad you had.
Every day I’d come home beat up physically, broken down mentally. But the next morning, I’d wake up feeling whole and stronger.
“I want to get you as tired as I can before practice starts. And I want to test your bloodliness. I want to see what your momma and your daddy are made of. I’m going to test your grandparents and your great-grandparents and see what they’re made of. I’m going to work you so hard that if they weren’t made of much, you ain’t going to be made of much.”
Often when I was lying out on the field, gasping for breath, hoping for some kind of natural disaster, for the ground to just start quaking so that I could get up and go the hell home, I thought of something my mother always told me.
“Don’t ask anybody to give you anything, just ask them to give you an opportunity. You can be anything you want to be, just know you’re going to have to work for it.”
I knew that was what Earl was offering me, the opportunity to do the work that this would take me where I wanted to be in this sport.
Although our training and experience were different, Marcus and I were both steeped in the art of mental toughness. It’s about finding the focus and confidence to attack whatever challenge arises with everything you’ve got and then some.
Earl Leggett taught me how to find that “then some” when I thought my tank was completely empty.
We’ve all got it, the ability to push ourselves to the next level—whatever the next level might be—but not all of us are accessing it.
“That juice is worth the squeeze.”
When we push ourselves, sometimes it hurts. But when you acknowledge that you’ve got more to give, you put yourself in the position of getting more.
A little less sleep. A little harder workout. A little more time preparing and studying for whatever you want to excel at instead of zoning out after work when you just want to collapse on the couch.
All of it is worth it because it gets you that much closer to your dreams. Earl used to have a sign in his office that read, “What did you do to get better today?”
7. FATHERHOOD (OR, THANKS, DAD, FOR SETTING THE BAR SO HIGH)
Ask yourself, “Am I the man or the woman that I hoped to be?” If you want to be more, then you’ve got to do more.