“Knowledge is power.”
I’ll never forget the movie Higher Learning (1995), where one of the first black professors I ever saw on television had two favorite phrases: “What’s your plan, Mr. Williams?” and “Knowledge is power.”
After my first year in the NFL, when I was extremely bored, that second phrase came back to me. In college, even in the off-season, you have class and you have workouts. When I hit the NFL, believe it or not, nobody cared what I did in my free time, so I decided to read.
Some of the books I found made me millions and changed my life.
My father always encouraged me to read, and in Islam, which has a long and respected tradition of learning, they ask you to read and recite. I decided I liked reading about people who were smart with their money, about leadership, and about achievers.
Here are three of my favorite books, ones that changed both my attitude and my life. Let me know what you think.
1. ABOUT MONEY: THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR
Every day, USA Today was delivered to the NFL teams. And every day, guys would read the sports section, the front page, or music. It blew my mind that no one would touch the money section. Dozens of men making huge salaries who refused to read the money information that’s out there?
Don’t be one of these people. The number one book I recommend is The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. Most of us assume millionaires pop champagne, drive fancy cars, golf after the first meeting of the day and go home early. But that is rarely, rarely the case. This book was incredible with its insights into who millionaires really are, not just who we think they are.
People who make the most money are folks you have never heard of. Your next door neighbor, for instance, who decided to save money when you spent it. The book gives incredible insight on the habits of wealthy people, too. It explains how everyday ordinary people became millionaires by making small adjustments—minuscule shifts to the way they perceived, spent, and thought about money. It showed me how often the choices I made regarding my money were backwards.
This book didn’t make me millions by telling me what to do. It did give me perspective on what I don’t have to spend my money on. And showed me what smart and wealthy people spend their money on.
When I read about the huge percentage of people that never think about retirement, I started noticing in my conversations how few people planned for it. Even in the NFL, rarely were guys planning for retirement. When I tell people I’m retired, the most frequent response I get is, “I hope to retire one day.” From people who are two, three times my age! People who could have retired, had they done things differently with the money that they had.
One story made a lasting impression on me. Early in his life, successful businessman and future politician Mitt Romney lived off dividends, because of how he spent money. Small decisions make a difference.
The phrase: “big hat no cattle” made me laugh, too. The authors were talking to a rancher who often sees guys who wear big hats and shiny belt buckles but have no money. No cattle. They look like cowboy millionaires. Whereas the person who really has a million dollars, because of the cattle they own, will have dirt on their boots, dents on their truck, and grit on their hands and face. They’ve been working and they’ve been making the money.
That story stuck with me and makes me consider people I meet who have a big hat. Maybe I should check their boots for mud.
I can’t recommend The Millionaire Next Door and its insights enough. The wealthiest people I’ve met and interacted with—all of us have read this book! Not a coincidence. Read this book and start getting into the mindset of a real millionaire.
2. ABOUT MEDITATION: SUCCESS THROUGH STILLNESS
Success through Stillness, by Russell Simmons, radically changed my life during my sixth year in the NFL. This book was the first time that I felt invited into meditation, and it taught me how to meditate in a language I understood. It encouraged me to meditate practically in my everyday life.
There are so many benefits to meditation! I got to the point where I would meditate before a game, the night before games, and the morning of games. When I’m traveling, meditation often calms me down and helps me with jet lag. The most successful people you know meditate, I guarantee you. Ask them.
In meditation I can find out what’s eating at me. “Oh, this comment that I brushed off… it bothered me that this person said that. Why is that? Is it my ego? Is it my anger? Or was that something that was actually wrong about that person? Is this relationship bringing value to my life? Do I want relationships that don’t bring value to my life?
Where else can you ask yourself these questions?
Through meditation, I’m able to know what I’m feeling and what’s important in life that I never got when I didn’t take that time. Meditation allows me to see all of my feelings and priorities almost like under a river, where there’s no emotional attachment. If I think about taxes, or worry if should talk to my accountant, I get stressed. But when I’m meditating and I think “taxes,” I can understand it and realize, “Hunh, taxes are present and conscious in my mind. When I’m done meditating, I’ll do X, Y, and Z.” And I can let that thought and all the worry around it go.
Meditation alleviated the anxiety I had regarding performance and the coaching I received. At the same time, it gave me the time and space to silently find my priorities, not just on a daily basis but in an overarching sense of my bigger goals.
This book highlights other ways you can help with your health. If you’re working on your consciousness, that clearer consciousness doesn’t leave you when you decide what to eat. That consciousness doesn’t leave you when you decide how to spend your Friday, Saturday evening. You become a better person.
It’s pretty simple. I’ll sit in a chair and make sure my back’s straight and everything’s aligned, and then I’ll speak the word “hum.” I’ll make the sound that’s not attached to any feeling and I’ll sit there in silence. If something is taking the focus from my mind, I’ll hear that hum sound and it almost breaks it up for me, allowing me to carry it. In breaking it up, I can find the pieces that are still affecting me, maybe a comment, or a conversation, a relationship, or an occurrence that’s bothering me. I can flush it out and acknowledge where I am and what I’m feeling.
Ancient advice says everyone should meditate for 20 minutes a day, except if you’re busy, then it should be an hour every day. Sometimes I meditate for three breaths, other times I meditate for five breaths, other times for five minutes. And I love meditating for 20 minutes.
We’re always told to keep going, keep going. The best way to go further for me sometimes is to take a moment in silence. The fact is, Success Through Stillness has brought me increased success through stillness. Try it yourself.
3. ABOUT HAPPINESS: THE MONK WHO SOLD HIS FERRARI
We love things that remind us to find joy in our lives. We need those reminders. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, by Robin Sharma, is a phenomenal book that looks at what’s important in life. It’s about a wildly successful corporate lawyer who meets a monk and then goes on to become a monk, finally finding happiness.
This book reminded me of so many valuable things:
- To acknowledge that time is our most precious asset.
- To have a beginner’s mind when I enter a room, a conversation, or a relationship.
- To find sunlight anywhere I can, and to sing and dance and laugh.
This book shows you how to do all these, too. In each and every chapter, you will find some portion of your life that you can improve, so you can have joy wherever you go and in every conversation you have.
This book also inspired me to commit to my priorities. It’s amazing how we can feel embarrassed about our priorities! Mine include my immediate family, and the book brought me peace about that. It encouraged me to spend time with the people and things that make me happy, period. Because they make me happy. In doing that, I’ve been able to find a deeper and more wholesome success that I then get to share with the people around me I care about the most.
If it weren’t for some of the tools and tactics in this book, looking at life and what we are doing, I would never have the peace of mind to embark on some of these journeys. Rarely are we encouraged to follow our passions and find our passions and to follow what makes us happy. This book does that for me.
If you aren’t feeling happy right now, take this book for a test drive.
No matter what it is you like to read about, just read. Read about the people you admire, the places you might like, and the things you want to do. You will find the inspiration you need, and you will discover ways to add to your life—ways that are around you every day that you may not see now.
I never stop reading, so I’ll have some more books for you in another article.