BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 27: -- Pictured: TV personality Carson Daly poses for a portrait during NBC 2013 Summer Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 27, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

8 Surprising and Unexpected Life Lessons from Carson Daly

A five-year-old boy who just lost his father to cancer. An adolescent who grew and experienced life but still suffered deep down. A college dropout. Never ending anxiety. Public panic attacks. Hospital visits. Convinced he’s about to die. Letting go of a dream he always had.

Sounds like a band member from the Motley Crue, doesn’t it? Although one can argue that this person loves music as much as the Crue does, he never joined a band. His journey didn’t start while standing on stage, holding a microphone.

Instead, it started on the green, holding a golf club. Interestingly enough, that club in his hand would eventually transform into a microphone which would in turn, lead him down his path of unanticipated happiness and success.

It doesn’t sound like I’m describing Carson Daly, does it?

I was surprised too.

Stop and ask yourself what you actually know about this person America has grown to love over the years. My guess is that all you really know about him is that he hosted TRL for a loooong time. He was the guy who was always there for you when you got home from school at 3:30 and turned on MTV.

That’s all I knew. And for a while, that’s all I cared to know about Carson Daly.

That was until I made a recent visit to my parent’s house. My dad was watching sports (per usual) and I glanced over and caught Carson Daly commentating on the Golf Channel.

I burst into laughter and said something like, “What is Carson Daly doing on the GOLF Channel!? How is this guy still on TV!?”

That’s when it hit me…

I have asked myself this question about Carson Daly several times throughout my life. Why? I’m not 100% sure. Perhaps because in my eyes, he was simply just a successful person on television and when he showed up in what seemed like a random place to me, I couldn’t help but wonder how he got there. “Why Carson?”

See, the thing is…

When we don’t truly know much about a person, it is far too easy to make assumptions about who they are and what they have and have not accomplished. We generally find ourselves mocking, judging, and perhaps even laughing at a person we’ve never really taken the time to understand. As much as I hate to admit it, this is exactly what I used to do to Carson.

So, instead of judging and making assumptions about his life, I began to feel compelled to really get to know him and his journey as much as I could.

Mind you, this was unlike any interest I’ve ever had. I don’t watch cable television. I know diddly squat about pop culture and frankly, I’ve never really understood the fascination with most celebrities. There aren’t many television hosts who have caught my attention whatsoever.

Until I made this decision to really see what Carson Daly is all about.

What I discovered sort of blew me away.

In my mind, Carson Daly quickly transformed from a random television host into one of the most inspirational and admirable people of our time.


Before we get into the nitty gritty of Carson’s life, I’d like to take a quick moment to just look at a high level overview of his journey thus far:

*This may not be 100% accurate based on the sources this information was derived from but I believe it’ all pretty close… Also, this doesn’t even cover the roles he’s had in movies, etc.

chart of carson's timeline

As you can see, this guy has been ALL OVER THE PLACE.

However, what you don’t see is how he got to each of these places and how he made every gig last as long as it did.

This is what I NEEDED to know. What was Carson’s secret?

Turns out, there are 8 key factors to happiness and success that everyone on this planet should take away from Carson Daly:

1. “And to be yourself is all that you can do…”

One of the simplest answers behind Carson’s success is that he is ALWAYS just himself. Every single day, Carson Daly is Carson Daly and in turn, that got him every opportunity he has ever been presented with. People fell in love with him when he first came onto the scene because they were drawn to his laid back, gentle, kind, caring, personality.

Although it wasn’t always easy, he wholeheartedly accepted himself for who he was. Even the clothes he wore on set were the same clothes you would catch him wearing off camera.

The celebrities he interviewed on TRL quickly became close friends as they could sense how real and genuine he was at all times.

Eckhart Tolle was right when he said,

“In a world of role-playing personalities, those few people who don’t project a mind-made image—and there are some even on TV, in the media, and the business world—but function from the deeper core of their Being, those who do not attempt to appear more than they are but are simply themselves, stand out as remarkable and are the only ones who truly make a difference in this world.”

Everywhere Carson goes, the set ends up feeling like a big family and the networks love this about him. He’s always making a difference in this way.

2. “You need passion. We need passion. Can’t live without passion. Won’t live without passion.”

On top of Carson never straying from who he is at his core, he has always led with passion.

This is one of the most important traits that can guide anyone down a path of success and overwhelming joy.

In an interview with Charlie Rose back in 2001, Carson said,

“Being an MTV VJ means something to me…music is my life, it is my passion, I also care about good quality entertainment. I care about television. I love MTV.”

This passion that Carson refers to is what largely landed him in the position he is in today– an Emmy award winning VOICE host, an anchor on the Today Show, an Executive Producer, a co-host on the Rory and Carson podcast, and a loving father and husband.

You’ll see that everything else Carson has done in his life was done with an immense amount of passion.

3. “You can be a master. Don’t wait for luck. Dedicate yourself and you can find yourself.”

Leading with passion can take you a long way but it won’t take you ALL THE WAY without two other highly essential ingredients:

Dedication and hard work.

With that being said, what followed behind the passion and love for what he was doing was some serious hard work, dedication, and determination to be great and remain great through the years.

Back in 2001, Carson said,

“I am doing anything that I can to create longevity for me in this wonderful career…I am going to do this using my brain and I don’t ever want to be looked at as being lazy…I have a lot of say in everything I do because I want to make sure it’s done [right].”

Because of his willingness to work his butt off, Carson has done exactly what he set out to do in 2001. No one can call Carson Daly lazy (he has like 5 jobs right now). He’s one of the hardest working people in show business.

But, Carson being Carson, he’d never even look to be acknowledged or praised for that. It’s just how he lives his life. He shares that he adopted this trait from his step father whom he loved more than life itself.

Carson Daly leaves it all on the field. He is living proof that if you follow your passion and nurture it with your time and your best efforts, your life will transform into a life full of abundance.

4. “So if you’re gonna do it then, baby, just do it.”

Interestingly, music and television weren’t always his number one passion. Although it may seem otherwise, Carson Daly didn’t just wake up one day and know exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

Just like a lot of us, he has many interests and a few passions and there were times in his life where he wasn’t 100% sure which path to go down.

However, he did not let this get in his way of forward progress toward something.

He never fell victim to analysis paralysis, wasting time, asking himself, “Well, what should I do?” “What if the decision I make is the wrong one?” “What if the interest or hobby I choose to follow isn’t the one I’m supposed to be following?”

Again, Carson leads with his heart and one can imagine that he listens to whatever feels right at that point in his life. Once he chooses the path of passion to go down, there is no looking back.

Carson goes full speed ahead with his take-no-prisoners attitude and continues to reach his personal and professional goals so he can then just make new ones.

He quickly made a name for himself in an industry where millions of other people are chasing fame, money and success.

What set Carson apart from the others is the fact that he wasn’t chasing anything other than the future version of himself who would prove to be better, faster, smarter, and stronger than the Carson from the day before.

5. “Yeah, let yourself go, baby, follow that feeling. Maybe something new is what you’re needing.”

There was ONE thing he was even more passionate about in his younger years – so passionate in fact that he dropped out of college for it.

Can you guess what it was? No, it wasn’t a love interest. Well, not a love interest in human form at least.

This love interest came in the form of a small white ball and a long metal club.

You guessed it. Carson Daly absolutely loves golf with all of his heart.

In fact, Carson thought he would eventually become a professional golfer.

Carson was introduced to golf at an early age by his beloved and late step-father. Like I said earlier, Carson deeply cared for and respected his step-father and over time, found that he just gravitated to this sport. Carson “enjoys how it is a gentleman’s sport with a lot of great etiquette and competition.”

He says,

“the meaning of golf to me is about time spent with your family and being the best person you can be…. There’s so much about the time spent with people on the golf course and for me, it was everything! Everything I am now as a man, as a father, in some way, there’s a tentacle that goes back to golf.”

Carson loved the sport of golf so much that he even ended up trying out for the US Open.

He has played many rounds with some greats such as Tiger Woods and Brent Geiberger.

So there he was…a “college dropout,” envisioning his life as a pro, trying out for different tournaments, and loving it.

6. “Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away.”

Carson said he can’t really explain what happened between wanting to become a professional golfer and actually becoming an MTV VJ. However, he does share that he sort of ended up feeling burnt out with the sport.

This is the pivotal moment in Carson’s life where in my opinion, he sort of surrendered to a higher power.

He accepted the fact that he was good at golf but not as good as he needed to be. He realized he had other passions in his life that would provide him with just as much, if not more happiness and satisfaction. (However, he would go on to later win the 2017 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Ken Duke.)

He stopped and decided to listen to the voice within.

Carson’s love of music stemmed from his earliest years of driving around with his mother in her red Camaro, blasting 70’s jams. Through hard work and dedication, a window eventually opened up for him to become a radio DJ which he thought was the coolest job ever.

 This is where Carson’s life in media began.

Throw in some internships and more gigs at a radio station and before he knew it, Jimmy Kimmel became his peer and mentor and he was then being asked to be a VJ on MTV.

Carson never let the fact that he dropped out of college and then gave up on his golf dream deter him from becoming the greatest version of himself and accomplishing incredible goals.

7. “Shower the people you love with love.”

To this day, Carson is flying all over the country in order to fulfill his duties and accomplish his goals and dreams. He has several jobs.

 But, he says the most important job of all is being a husband and a father.

While carrying all the love in his heart, he always makes it back home to spend some quality time with his wife and their three children – the most cherished things in his life above everything else.

Carson also carries the love for his late parents everywhere he goes. When Carson was five years old, his father passed away from bladder cancer. His mother remarried and Carson was blessed with a wonderful step father who he would eventually end up calling “Dad.”

Carson loved and respected his parents in a monumental way.

The unexpected passing of his mother and stepfather back in 2017 weighed heavily on Carson and his family. Shortly after his mother’s passing, he shared in an interview that his mom must have known it was her time to go because they shared the most meaningful, loving text exchange right before her soul left this earth.

Carson’s mother was a breast cancer survivor who also had type 1 diabetes so you can imagine his shock when he found out that his mother actually died of a heart attack. Carson quickly learned about the link between diabetes and heart issues in women and then made it his goal to educate people around the world.

In almost every single interview with Carson Daly, he can be heard saying incredible things about his parents, his family, and the amount of love he has let into his life.

On your journey through life, you can have all of the money and all of the things in the world but if you don’t accept love and give love, do you really have anything at all?

8.  “If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Carson was blessed with a loving family. He has the drive to become the best version of himself every single day. He’s had tons of successes in media and in his personal life. From the outside, one can assume that his journey so far has been a walk in the park.

That’s the problem with assuming…

We’re usually wrong.

In 2018, Carson made the conscious decision to look deep within himself and share his story with the world… his story about suffering.

Carson was inspired by Kevin Love who recently shared his story about suffering from panic attacks. Carson then chose to open up and be honest, hoping it would inspire others to do the same.

“Today Show” viewers were shocked to learn that Carson has suffered from bad anxiety ever since he was a little boy.

He shared that his first panic attack happened when he was a host on MTV. He says there have been many times in his life where he couldn’t breathe and felt absolutely terrified for no reason at all. He vividly remembers times where he felt like he was dying. He describes his fear as a saber-tooth tiger sitting right next to him, about to pounce and kill him at any moment.

At one point, Carson ended up in the hospital due to his anxiety, fearful that he was about to have a heart attack. He quickly discovered that physically, everything was fine.

Carson even admits that he has had panic attacks in public such as at the playground with his family where he has had to excuse himself.

He shares that he suffers from anxiety to this day and points out that it’s actually pretty visible as he never stops moving while he’s on set.

Carson thought he was alone in the world until one day when he shared his anxious feelings with a friend who said something along the lines of, “Everything you’re feeling. I feel it too.” That’s when Carson finally realized he wasn’t alone… that generalized anxiety disorder was actually a thing.

This is the point in Carson’s life where he could have quit and given up everything. He could have easily walked away and let his fear and anxiety take over his life.

If he made that decision, none of us would know who Carson Daly is today and he would never have had such a positive impact on millions of lives around the country.

So, how did Carson win the battle against his anxiety and panic attacks?

Well, the thing is… he never won. Because he’s still dealing with it. However, he came to the conclusion that his anxiety was a part of him that he might just have to live with. So, instead, he embraces his anxiety with everything he has.

Carson believes that there is an upside to his anxiety – a blessing almost, in the way that God made him. He shares that because of his anxiety, he is sensitive, can truly FEEL music, and is able to experience euphoric moments to the highest degree. He feels deeply and he loves deeply and says this is an incredibly beautiful thing.

Although he has to work on his anxiety on a daily basis, he is grateful for the amount of love, empathy and compassion it has given him inside of his soul.

On top of Carson accepting his anxiety for the good and the bad, he also sought out some professional help. He went to a cognitive behavioral therapist who taught him about his disorder (which is extremely common) and even gave him some tools he still uses to this day when he feels his anxiety creeping back up on him.

Carson interviewed best selling author, Sarah Wilson who wrote, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety

During this interview, he says,

“Sure, I get a little nervous. I get panicky. I have tools that I have achieved that help me sort of get through those anxious spirals but the other side of it, when I accomplish something, I get the chills. My successes and victories are ENORMOUS.”

Carson wanted to share his story with the world, on live television because he knows how common anxiety is and more than anything, he wants to inspire others to step forward and talk about it so the term “anxiety” can finally becomes less stigmatized.

See? Isn’t he cool?

I’m not sure why I was so shocked to learn that Carson Daly was such a stand-up guy.

While researching and writing this piece, I traveled through a series of unexpected events and emotions. It went something like this – judgment, curiosity, discovery, inspiration, respect, admiration, love. I never would have predicted that I could have gone so quickly from judging him to loving him.

That’s the thing with judging others. It’s something most of us do every single day. It’s a bad habit that arises within our sub-conscious mind in order to boost our own ego. Judging is what we fall victim to in those moments where our consciousness either hasn’t seen the light yet or it has just stepped out for a moment.

 This judgment of others and of ourselves is what gives life to the fear in this world that deters us from pursuing our greatest wants and desires.

Learning about Carson’s life, journey and who he is as a person makes me feel pretty bad for ever questioning his credibility in the first place.

We all learn this lesson over and over again as we continue to grow and transform throughout our journey but I think it’s important to mention how shocking it is each time we realize our assumptions are incorrect.

When you find yourself judging or talking negatively about someone else behind their back, chances are, you don’t really know that person too well. Even if you think you do, you probably don’t. What are their deepest desires? What are their passions? What are their fears and worries? What is their overall outlook on life? If you can’t answer these questions, your judgments are that much more unwarranted. 

So with all of this being said, I challenge you to seek out a similar experience where you surprise yourself by taking the time to get to know someone you’ve judged.

Be careful… you might really end up loving them for who they are.

“I like to just exist…just to be. If I stumble, whatever.” – Carson Daly

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