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.
When I played professional football, I would get to the stadium two-and-a-half hours early to gather my strength, and I used the same routine to transform my mind before the game: I would stand in the tunnel alone, listening to music. Everybody thought I was listening to gangster rap, but really, it was mellow R&B artists like Alicia Keys, Dave Hollister, Mary J. Blige, and Keith Sweat. I’d take my time and then slowly walk out onto the field. The music was my playlist, my mood music, with which I could take it all in, getting the feel of the environment so that when I did come out officially, it wasn’t overwhelming. That was my calm. Then I’d go back to the locker room and change the music and change the mood. I’d up the tempo with some hip-hop and begin the steps, both physical and mental, that would get me ready for the game.
It turns out researchers have long believed that music has the power to reduce stress, increase focus, and bring more productivity to the task at hand. Elena Mannes, author of The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song, discovered that “listening to music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.” Scientists agree that music can help lower blood pressure, reduce cardiac complications, and increase our immunity. We know that music makes us feel good, and that’s because listening to an artist we love ups the flow of dopamine, the chemical that makes us feel pleasure. But music is one of the greatest tools we have in fighting the symptoms of our overbooked and overscheduled lives, too. A great playlist can give us the thing that we all crave—more energy—by drowning out the messages of exhaustion our brain starts sending when we are tired. We don’t hear them and therefore aren’t affected by them.
I still use music to set the tone for my day. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is listen to music. It’s the key to starting my day off right. The truth is that I’m a pretty happy guy now. And my morning music ritual today, as it was when I played professional football, is one of the keys to making sure that each day is as good as it can possibly be.