He was thirteen and doing all he could to keep up with his brothers and the neighborhood kids. His siblings shouted their encouragement “Keep up Bob! Come on Bob!” That sounds like a brotherly thing to do – until you realize his name is Michael. Bob was an acronym for “Booty On Back”, a passive way of saying “You’re fat!” He’d never considered himself fat, he just considered himself – well, himself. He spoke with his Mother who referred to him as husky. His dad however, pulled no punches. “Yes. You’re fat”. He went on to tell Michael that if he wanted to change that he’d have to eat a lot less and exercise a lot more.
He did just that. He began to limit the portions he ate – which was near torture as his mother was an amazing cook and an even better baker. Having purchased a Jane Fonda workout tape, he began to exercise. He began to incorporate Herschel Walker’s workout routine into his own. Within six months, his brothers quit calling him Bob.
Michael was committed, determined and positive he would succeed, regardless of the hard work and long odds. He’d learned the power of consistent hard work from watching his father. His dad was career military but realized to advance and become an officer he would need a college degree. He took a leave of absence, earned his degree and went back to the army attaining the rank of Major. When Michael was nine, his dad was assigned to the Army post in Mannheim, Germany. Michael benefitted as the youngest of six kids, by having more of his father’s time. They went on trips throughout Europe together to fish and see new sites, but the main benefit was the quality father-son time.
The two decided that for his senior year of high school, Michael would move to Houston, Texas and live with his uncle Art – a former NFL football player. His father saw his potential and mentioned that he might be able to earn a scholarship to college and perhaps even follow his uncle into the pros. Michael had not played organized football since Peewee games, but he had an interest and he had that determination. Better stated, he was able to see the possibilities of things and accept the work it took to realize those opportunities.
The social scene and culture in Houston was vastly different from what Michael had known on base in Mannheim. That would have been adjustment enough for most kids, but Michael set out to learn how to play football at the same time. His performance on the field in his lone year of high school football resulted in that scholarship – a full ride to Texas Southern University, a historically black university. During his four years there, he learned a great deal about how to play football at a high level, he earned Defensive Player of the Year awards, was named to the All-America team, all while setting school records.
Playing professionally in the National Football League was a goal he had worked very hard to achieve. Additionally, he had become a father himself. He and his high school love from Germany had married and had a little girl together. Now he needed to provide for his family – football was his answer – his only answer – there was no Plan B.
The New York Giants selected him in the second round of the 1993 player draft. Once again, he had his doubts – once again he looked at the possibilities, the potential for achievement. Once again, he embraced hard work, it took a great deal of commitment to play – and succeed – at such an elite level. Could the boy whose own brothers once called him Bob overcome the long odds of becoming a success at the professional level?
Boy could he. He retired after fifteen seasons with the Giants, the only NFL team he ever played for. He had won a Super Bowl, been first team All-Pro four times, set the single season record for sacks and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993. After retiring he has become co-host of a national talk show, part of the team at ABC’s Good Morning America and one of the mainstays on Fox Sports weekly NFL coverage. All of this was achieved because Michael Strahan built himself into a fearless brand – embracing his passion, applying his talent and accepting himself for who he is.
Fearless Brands recognize their potential and put in the work required to achieve that success
Michael Strahan could easily have just accepted things as they were when he heard his brothers call him Bob. He could have continued gorging on his mother’s kitchen creations and struggling to keep up with the other kids. Instead, he did what every fearless brand does. He decided that there were things about himself that he could change – and he set out to do just that.
By all accounts, Strahan is as nice and caring and genuine as a person can be – so he has the foundation needed to build a highly effective brand – authenticity. He was able to recognize his many gifts – he is smart, personable, has a big physique, strong family support and much more. However, he was also able to recognize that to really be the person he wanted to be, he had to make some changes. He did so, and by doing that, was able to ignite the passions which have driven his success.
What can you learn about your brand from a Hall of Fame football player, an actor, a sportscaster, a news anchor a talk show co-host and an author? More than I can list here. I’ll focus on two very key principles which Michael Strahan demonstrates.
Embrace yourself for who you are – In addition to being a fat kid, Strahan was bullied about the gap in his front teeth. In his interview for the organization Anything Is Possible he puts it this way “We’re all individuals we all have flaws — that’s the great thing about it. You don’t want to be like everybody else you want to be who you’re meant to be. And for me I’m meant to be the guy with the gap tooth smile. Something that used to be the curse — that got me made so much fun of — is now the gift.”
Turn negatives into positives – We all have flaws. Many we have to accept as is. Many we can do something about. “Bob” transformed himself back to “Michael”. He learned to channel his efforts into doing whatever it took to improve, to achieve his goals, to realize his ambitions. He saw the negatives, focused on the possibilities and had the courage to change what he could.
Given how much I admire Michael Strahan and the vastness of his accomplishments, this post could easily become a book. The good news is that Strahan has already written that book – it’s called Wake Up Happy. It’s a powerful book and one I highly recommend to anyone who wants to upgrade their brand and achieve dream results.
Some will consider it bad news that in all likelihood, they’re not going to match Michael Strahan’s accomplishments. The great news however, is that Strahan shows us the principles needed to become our own fearless brand and achieve those goals for which we strive.