5 Questions for Michael Strahan on Overcoming Fear and Finding Happiness

Photo by Peter Yang
The athlete-turned-talk-show-host offers his fans some tips on chasing happiness in his new book, Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life.

A quick tally of his countless achievements leads to one of two conclusions: 

Either Michael Strahan—whose part-goofy, part-nerdy and all kinds of sexy charm own daytime TV—is the luckiest brother on the planet or the rest of us can actually learn a thing or two from his against-all-odds success.  

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Michael proves the latter in Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life—a New York Times bestseller. From the book’s first pages, a sweet look at one of his many Proud Papa moments, the Emmy Award-winning cohost of Live with Kelly and Michael makes one thing clear. His get-happy mojo cannot be found in fame and fortune. With easy-like-a-Sunday-morning warmth and candor, Michael—who just launched Collection by Michael Strahan, a suit line available exclusively at JCPenney—sits down with ESSENCE.COM and explains how to recover fumbles, the blessing of good home-training and that thing women do that drive him crazy! 

From NFL Hall-of-Famer to popular television personality, you seem to have it all. Cynics could say, “Of course he’s happy. What would he know about my average life?”
Happiness comes from inside. Believe me, I know what it’s like to have all kinds of material things and be miserable. Just like you can be in a room full of people and feel lonely. Usually life falls in line with your expectations—with your thinking. For me, and this makes me very fortunate, my parents were always positive. My dad never said “if” you make it. He always said “when.” My mom brought the humor. To this day, there is nothing more fun than sitting down with her and playing cards. She is hilarious. More than anything, my outlook on life was shaped by their example.

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So if the key to happiness is a sunny attitude does that mean you always knew you’d be successful? 
I said my parents believed in me. I didn’t say I believed in me. I doubted myself all the time and still do. My biggest fear is that I won’t measure up. Initially I turned down Good Morning America, because I was scared. I thought, “Me up there with real journalists? No way!”

Fear is very real. What advice can you offer to overcome that?
I stop and ask, “What are you afraid of?” Then I try to walk through it. I ask myself what I can learn from a new experience because I always need a new challenge. Sometimes people see more in you than you see in yourself. Not just with TV or sports—even on your job, if your employer offers you a chance at a promotion don’t talk yourself out of it.

Self-talk is a big theme in the book. Right? Why is that so important?
Affirmations helped motivate me as a player every Sunday. Music does that for me as well. If you’re not careful with your thoughts you can totally sabotage yourself. Find a personal source of inspiration so you can build up armor against the negativity around you in life—including your own self-doubt.

That’s tough, though, when—like most women—you’re taking care of little people, struggling. What advice can women and non-athletes take from your book?
Women are naturally strong and resilient. I look at my mom and see that everyday. But women are especially good at ignoring their own needs—especially you moms. You will love on your kids, telling them: “Baby, you can do it. I believe in you,” but then turn around and put your own dreams aside. That frustrates me to watch. I am a big proponent of hard-working, loving women. I would like to see you encourage you the way you do others. Be nice to yourself. Women are born nurturers but lots of times don’t put themselves on their list of people to love.

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