I recently received the following email:
This is random but I feel like you might have some good suggestions for me. I’m 34 and have been trying to lose weight on and off for nearly twelve years. I’ve read pretty much your entire site over the past month, lol, and actually feel like I have a game plan for the first time ever (thank you!). What I need now is game time motivation, i.e. music. I generally like hip hop and rap, but my all-time favorite tracks aren’t all that motivating, to be honest. So I’m open to anything new. Looking forward to any suggestions you can make!” – Steve “Smooth” Carson
“Smooth,” you’ve come to the right guy on the right day. I have a playlist on my iPhone called “No Excuses,” designed exactly for this purpose, and I’ve been burning it up all week long. Music is a very personal choice, so you might find some of my favorites odd. But since you asked, I’m going to tell. And even though you didn’t ask, I’ll even offer you the significance of each one to me, personally!
1. Good Vibrations by Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch. This song came out during my second summer at overnight camp, back in 1991. I spent that summer with a bunch of kids who I didn’t mesh with all that well, and I was a little starved for connection. At some point during the summer, my counselor somehow got his hands on a bootleg cassette of “Music for The People” on one of his days off, and as soon as I heard this song I immediately connected with its lyrics. I was never into cigarettes or drugs, but even I couldn’t foresee just how relevant the words could be to so many readers of our site – people seeking to get off drugs and heal naturally. That’s the beauty of music – lyrics can be interpreted in different ways by different people.
No need for speed,
I’m anti d-r-u-g-g-i-e my,
Body is healthy,
And rhymes makes me wealthy,
And the funky bunch helps me,
To bring you a show with no intoxication,
Come on feel the vibration.
2. Cult of Personality by Living Colour. The first time I heard this song (a long time ago), I was in a dive bar in Toronto surrounded by kids a few years younger than me. Nobody knew who Living Colour was, which only made me like them – and this song, more. I get pumped to know that something is somewhat uniquely mine (even though it isn’t), what can I say? Anyway, this song felt fueled by rebellion and contrarianism, feelings that have admittedly driven me to rise above various challenges I’ve faced throughout my life. I was hooked from day one.
3. Going Back to Cali by The Notorious B.I.G. The actual lyrics to this song are objectively no better than decent, but the beat is extremely underrated (as far as all-time hits by Biggie go). On a personal note, back when I was in the 11th grade, my pal Pimpler would get the keys to his mom’s minivan and pack like seven or eight of us in there. We’d blast this song while heading downtown (Montreal), where we’d sneak into clubs and bars. I still know every word to this song by heart and get pumped up whenever I hear it.
4. Levels by Avicii. Every time I hear this song it reminds me of my close friend, Johan. About seven years my junior, his energy was infectious from the moment we met while working for the same company over six years ago. I can’t possibly listen to this song without thinking of him doing something goofy, wacky or fun. I’ve even got a smile on my face as I write this.
5. Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty. Mick is dead, Drago just killed Apollo, and Stallone has grown a playoff hockey-caliber beard. It’s Rocky IV! If you’ve never watched the greatest training montage in the history of sports movies, I urge you to do so below. You’ll immediately add this song to any and all of your workout playlists.
6. Lose Yourself by Eminem. There’s no way I could put together a list of songs that gets me fired up and exclude this one. This song came out shortly after I got sick. I felt incredibly alone at that time and had no outlet to burn off steam. I wasn’t exercising because I just didn’t have the strength. Then I saw the movie 8 Mile and heard this song, and everything changed. I slowly began to stretch in the mornings again. Then I started playing basketball again. Then I got back into the weight room. And suddenly, I did have the energy. I stopped making excuses. I’d look at myself in the mirror at the gym and play crazy mind games, asking myself in my head questions like “What would you do if your whole family’s life depended on you lifting this weight one more time? Lift it. Lift it. BOOM. Do it again! Another one!” It was all mind over matter back then, and this song was the background music to that entire period in my life. If the following words don’t inspire you to do whatever it is you dream about, we’re going to need to check you for a pulse.
If you had…
Or one opportunity…
To seize everything you ever wanted…
In one moment…
Would you capture it…
Or just let it slip?
7. Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper. Before you write me off as a total weirdo, hear me out. This song itself probably shouldn’t make your playlist – it’s more about what it represents. So here’s the story – I used to listen to it on CFQR 92.5 FM in Montreal while my mom would drive me to school as a young kid. Anytime I need a little extra encouragement to keep going, I think of all the sacrifices that were made by my single mother without much money who raised me in a home full of love and affection. If she could do it, so could I. That’s what I tell myself to this day. If you have your own version of this song – a tune that reminds of you how much someone else has sacrificed to provide you with the opportunities that you now have in your life, add it to your playlist.
So… “Smooth,” I hope this list provides you with some motivation. No excuses now!