I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I am a Tom Brady fan.
I didn’t use to be. I’ve always loved a good underdog story, and I lost count of how many times I rolled my eyes every time I heard the Patriots were going to another Superbowl. YAWN.
Until a respected colleague suggested I check out his Facebook limited series, “Tom vs. Time.” This was back in 2018. I begrudgingly watched until I heard him share he wasn’t competing against anyone else; he was competing against himself.
My ears perked up. And I’ve been fascinated ever since with the story of the big time underdog turned G.O.A.T…and more importantly, how his weaknesses – or what the world considers weaknesses – were keys to unlocking his greatest strengths.
Brady didn’t play football until he was in high school, and he rode the bench his first year. He was a pretty decent player, but not considered a top tier athlete. But he ended up in Michigan where some would argue, his career took a bit of a nose dive. Michigan head coach, Lloyd Carr, hesitated to start him his last year. He was backup QB his first two years, started his junior year, and this seeming demotion during his senior year had ripple effects going into the draft.
Carr’s hesitancy around Brady meant most of the NFL teams became unwilling to take a chance on him. Brady admitted sitting in his parents’ house unsure as to whether he would be drafted at all, losing confidence as each pick was announced in someone else’s favor. Additionally, his NFL Combine was lackluster at best. He was skinny and sluggish and had one of the worst sprint times.
He eventually got drafted in the 6th round as the 199th pick. Most people stop watching the draft way before Round 6. Yes, it’s amazing to even be drafted to begin with, but the point is – something was lit within him that day. Brady has always been very open about having a chip on his shoulder from all that rejection. “A chip on the shoulder” can be a big element of imposter syndrome. Some people feel victim to their inner imposter and take no action. Others – like Tom and even me – get angry and decide we’re going to control our destiny and prove everyone wrong.
Dude now has seven Superbowl rings. Even after he left 2 decades of Patriots play and people questioned if that success was because of the coach or him, he clarified the question by winning his first Superbowl away from the Patriots with Tampa Bay.
And while Tom isn’t known as a particularly spiritual guy, he does acknowledge elements which defy human logic.
“When it’s time for the race to start, you put one foot in front of the other. The rest isn’t up to you. Everything will happen at the pace that it needs to happen. You can’t know what it’ll be like until then. So why not appreciate and enjoy the journey?” - Tom Brady
It doesn’t matter to me where you fall on the spirituality spectrum, but even Tom acknowledges an unidentified and unpredictable factor to his success and the game of football. What do you believe in? Luck or a guiding force? They’re both elements of spirituality, because they involve things being completely outside of your control and require a degree of surrender. All you can do is bring your very best and trust it will all work out. And I suspect that Tom has done his homework in deciding what that very personal spiritual/intuitive journey of surrender looks like for him.
And his history with salary negotiations I find particularly intriguing, as he is famously known for taking less salary in order to pay other players more money. Business Insider estimated he left $60M-$100M on the table over his career! They further said while he may have been a first ballot Professional Football Hall of Famer, he would never make the Business of Football Hall of Fame.
But the proof is in the results. The Pats would not have been able to build such talented rosters if Brady had constantly maxed out his money every season he was eligible. According to Scott Pioli, the former VP of Player Personnel for the Patriots from 2002-2008, it allowed the team more flexibility to extend other people, to bring in new blood, to extend other good players that we drafted, or just to have cap flexibility to do more things.
The world views material wealth and success as a benchmark. Brady saw the bigger picture. People are particularly obsessed with achieving power and especially wealth (ahem, Russell Wilson -- how's the working out for you this year?). He has never been one of the top five highest paid QBs in the league.
While I was surprised to see him un-retire, I get it. We all have one life to live, and what I know for sure is that when I’m lying on my deathbed, I want to be able to know I left it all out on the field. Tom does too.
”At this point in my career, the only person I have to prove anything to is myself….I want to see what more I can do. I want to see how great I can be. I want to hear other people say, ‘Go, man. Now that’s what we’ve been missing. That’s what we need! That’s what we’ve been looking for! Deep down I know what I can do. I know what I can bring. Now I want to see it in action.” - Tom Brady
He said this in 2020 after 6 rings and having nothing left to prove to anyone. He was telling the world he was capable of more, and he was ready to unleash that next level.
What parts of your life are you being called to dig deeper into?
When you’re lying on your own deathbed, what are the gifts and work you were proudest of doing?
What thoughts and perceptions prevent you from unleashing the very best version of yourself?
If you want to talk through some of these questions to gain clarity around your next steps, let’s set up a virtual coffee. Book here. -