Michael’s Required Reading: “Herschel Walker’s Basic Training”

As human beings, I think we have an innate desire to achieve, to pursue the quest of doing more and being more. In my book Wake Up Happy, I wanted to take a look at the set of tools I used to do that—the rituals, ideas, and formulas that helped set me up for the personal and professional wins in my life. In the book, I turned to other experts and people who’ve thought deeply and written about the power of positive thinking and transformation, and I’ve come up with a list of books that have become like sacred texts to me. For one reason or another, at some point in my life, these books have all helped me to develop a winning attitude, and to put my most productive habits to work to craft the life of my dreams. And now I’m hoping these books might do the same for you, too.

THE BOOK: Herschel Walker’s Basic Training, by Herschel Walker

In 1985, the Dallas Cowboys signed a player named Herschel Walker. I hadn’t grown up in Texas, but the Cowboys were a big part of our household because my parents are Texans through and through. Unlike a lot of pro athletes, Herschel never bragged about the hours he logged in the weight room. Instead, he had always been—since he was a kid my age—into exercises that used his own body weight. I was amazed to learn that at the age of 12, Herschel weighted only 100 pounds and was just five feet, three inches tall. He’d had the exact opposite problem from mine (my brothers’ childhood nickname for me was “Bob,” which translated to “Booty on the Back”). Creating his own routine of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and quick sprints, he’d built his body up into a muscle machine. By the time he’d reached ninth grade, he was a high school football all-star and weighed an impressive 185 pounds—all muscle with impossible-to-beat speed.

Now, Herschel didn’t have a video like Jane Fonda (another fitness hero of mine at that time), but he had a book called Herschel Walker’s Basic Training that helped me get serious about losing weight and building muscle. Long before I ever had an inkling I’d one day play the game professionally myself, football great Hershel Walker taught me that help can and will come from the most unexpected places and people.