It’s not talent, skill, or even dedication that guides your path to success. It’s this.
First things first. This isn’t a Patriot-ic column. Yes, I’m from Boston. Yes, I’m rooting for the Pats this Sunday. Yes, I cannot help but be drawn into the Super Bowl frenzy. And yes, I too was wondering if Tom Brady’s gloved hand was masking surgery to implant a sixth finger.
Truth is, I’m far from a rabid sports fan. I’m that guy from Boston who can only name two players on the Patriots’ roster. And for a while that was only because I shared the same first name with one of them.
I am however, a voracious fan of success. And even more so of the people who have the courage to on take the great life-altering risks and sacrifices needed to achieve it.
Which is why, of all the things that the Patriots’ Quarterback Tom Brady has accomplished, among all the stories told by his throngs of lovers and haters, one incredibly simple story stands out in my mind as the essential ingredient in his success and what has fueled its somewhat unlikely rise.
It’s not a story of perseverance, skill, talent, dedication, or even leadership. There are plenty of those that will be regaled this weekend, each of which clearly has played a role in achieving his great success. It’s something far simpler; a story rarely told about a scrawny 22-year-old kid who made an utterly ridiculous, at the time laughable, nine-word prediction about his future.
Let’s go back 18 years. Tom Brady was the 199th overall pick in the sixth round of the draft when he joined the Patriots. Not likely someone who you would have been predicted to become one of the game’s all time greatest players.
And yet he had that one elusive and immeasurable quality that is the fuel of every successful person I’ve ever known.
As patriots owner Bob Kraft tells it, “I still have the image of Tom Brady coming down the old Foxboro stadium steps with that pizza box under his arm, a skinny beanpole, and when he introduced himself to me and said ‘Hi Mr. Kraft,’ he was about to say who he was, but I said ‘I know who you are, you’re Tom Brady. You’re our sixth round draft choice,'” recalled Kraft. “And he looked me in the eye and said ‘I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.’ ” (See the correction about word count at the end of the article.)
When Kraft tells the story today, with five Super Bowl rings in tow, he smiles. Wouldn’t you love to know what he was thinking in that moment at the audacity of that young kid?
Imagine being Brady. It’s your first day on the job. You should be gushing with gratitude to have been picked up at all. And here you are, the first time you’ve met the company’s owner, telling him that you’re the best decision he’s ever made!
Arrogance? Self assuredness? Cockiness? It would seem like all of the above. I’d like to propose that’s Brady’s comment demonstrated none of these, but something else altogether.
‘I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.’
It doesn’t matter whether you adore or despise Brady. This has nothing to do with your team allegiance. I don’t care if you come from Boston, Philly, or Helsinki, the lesson to be learned here is universal. It applies to anyone who has not only the desire to be successful but the deeply rooted need to succeed.
If that’s who you are then I can assure of one thing, you will never let yourself off the hook for not making every effort, seeking every opportunity, and dedicating your every waking moment to achieving your dreams, no matter what stood in your way.
Your Future You
What Brady did is a world removed from arrogance, which is simply boasting loud enough to be heard. Instead it seems to me that what Brady was doing, is what every successful person does at some point in his or her life, making an irrevocable commitment to become who they envision themselves as, rather than who they are.
The mantel of success is not just hard work, dedication, and relentless sacrifice in the pursuit of a goal. It is fundamentally about growth and change. Seeing yourself as you want to be, changing yourself when you need to, and then doing everything necessary in your behaviors, decisions, and actions–on a daily basis– to become that person is the only path to success.
Unafraid of Success
What successful people share is not an absence of fear regarding failure, they despise losing. Brady himself has said, “You never get over losses. I’ve never gotten over one loss I’ve had in my career. They always stick with me.” Instead what successful people posses is a fearless attitude about success, doing whatever is needed to succeed and using failures as the painful catalytic growing pains needed to learn and grow into the person they need to be.
You can come up with a very long list of why you are not that person today or you can commit to relentlessly doing everything to become that person. Think of it as being unafraid of success.
I’ll sum it up bluntly, unsuccessful people fear not only failure but also fear the sacrifice of success, successful people fear neither.
Whether you end with six (oops, sorry, five and counting…) Super Bowl rings or the simple satisfaction of having become the quarterback of your own future, I can assure you of two things; it will be the toughest thing you do in your life, but also the most fulfilling.
Correction: The original version of this article referred to a 7-word quote “I’m the best decision you ever made.” It has been corrected to the actual 9-word quote (to be precise, counting I’m as the two words “I am”), “I’m the best decision your organization ever made.” Link to 2012 news story quoting Bob Kraft
This article was originally published on Inc.
Image credit: Boston magazine
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Tom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.