4 Tips for Success I Learned from Tom Brady

All the experts missed on Tom Brady.  But if you take a deeper look, his success was inevitable. Here are 4 things we can learn about becoming successful from Tom Brady.Full disclosure:  I’m an Eagles* fan.

… for the 5% of you that didn’t click off after reading that, you’ll be glad you stuck around for the 4th quarter.

People are calling Tom the greatest QB (if not team sports athlete) of all time.  But back in 2000, NFL teams passed on him 198 times.  Basically, he was a throwaway pick in the 6th round, where you’re not expected to contribute much if anything and are on your couch watching higher round picks play football within a few years.  Here’s how Tom Brady stacks up to Andrew Luck, who many consider to be the ideal quarterback:

  • Speed:  In football, you measure speed by how fast you run 40 yards since the majority of plays don’t reach that distance.  Brady ran it in 5.30 seconds while Luck ran it in 4.59 seconds.  Brady’s time is offensive linemen slow (those guys have an excuse – they carry around 100 more pounds).  That’s like putting your car in drive and then not pressing the gas pedal kind of slow.  
  • Explosiveness:  How explosive you are is how much energy your legs can produce in one move, so the experts measure how high you can jump as a proxy.  Brady’s vertical jump was 24.5 inches while Luck jumped a whole foot higher with 36 inches.  For a man his height (6’4″), jumping 2 feet in the air is actually worse than offensive linemen. Again, they have 100 extra pounds keeping them earthbound.
  • Intelligence:  The NFL gives an intelligence test consisting of 50-multiple choice questions called the Wonderlic.  Tom got 33 correct while Luck got 37.  Now, a 33 is a pretty good score.  It’s 93% percentile of intelligence and qualifies Tom for doing almost any job on earth (by contrast, a 37 is 98%, which qualifies you as a Mensa genius).

Put it all together and what the experts saw was a sluggish, lanky quarterback who had the athleticism of a 300 pound man yet was pretty smart.

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But they were wrong.  Really, really wrong.  He’s gone on to win more Super Bowls than any other quarterback ever.   

This article, celebrating his 40th birthday, illuminates some things about Brady that makes his success inevitable in retrospect.  

4 Tips For Success I Learned from Tom Brady:

  1. Have a Clear Plan:  As a 6th rounder, you’re picked to be the back-up to the back-up.  Tom saw it differently and was charting a path to become a starter in the NFL.  At his former roommate’s wedding, he laid out his entire plan to his roommate’s cousin.  The cousin, a big shot hedge fund guy, didn’t believe him. He would have shorted Tom if he were a stock. Don’t let “experts” deter you.
  2. ABL (Always Be Learning):  He was always learning about becoming a better quarterback.  Even when he was seventh on the depth chart in college at Michigan, he was studying game film until 11pm. If I’m 7th down the list, you know what I’m doing in college? Partying or sleeping.  You will rarely see instant payoff from your learning, but it catches up to you.  He ended up beating hot shot phenom Drew Henson to become starting quarterback his final 2 seasons.
  3. Put in the Hours:  If you showed up at the facility at 5:30am, Tom was already well into his workout.  The great thing about putting in the hours is, it’s largely within your control.  (I say this as a father of 3 with a full-time job) Most of us, if we really wanted to, can carve out enough hours to master most disciplines.  You and I can sit around dreaming all day about what goals we’d like to achieve, but unless you actually put in the time, you have actively chosen to not achieve your goal.
  4. “Practice Does Not Make Perfect. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”:  That’s a quote from Vince Lombardi, the coach after whom the Super Bowl trophy is named.  Even after Tom’s back-up, Matt Cassel, made a successful throw in practice, Tom pointed out that he missed sending a guy in motion. Perfect practice isn’t practicing without mistakes. Perfect practice is identifying your mistakes and working intentionally to correct them.

In summary, have a goal in mind.  Keep learning everything you need to accomplish that goal.  Devote many hours to it.  And when you do, make every minute count.  

(Want to learn more about setting and achieving your goal? Go here.)

Game Time

You’re not attractive or charismatic.  You don’t make six figures.  

Lucky for you, that won’t prevent you from success.  What will prevent you is not having a plan or putting in the effort and time to achieve your goals.

When you do achieve that success, you’ll look back and think it was inevitable.

This Sunday, I hope Tom Brady continues his learning. The lesson?

Losing graciously.


*Yes, I’m from Los Angeles.  But you have to remember that the Raiders and Rams moved away from LA when I was growing up, leaving me teamless.  When I moved to New York, I was adamant about not being one of those transplants who moved to NYC and became Yankee fans.  So I rooted against NY teams.  And you know who else roots against NY teams?  Philadelphians.


It was meant to be.

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