CEO Shoptalk — Confidence: Expecting To Win

The other day I read some screed that attempted to describe confidence in a ham-handed and poorly written manner. Reading it felt like an intellectual barbed wire enema, but it did make me think about the subject.

Tom Brady, quarterback of the National Football League New England Patriots, expects to win every time he steps on the football field.

Not only does HE expect to win, but those who play with him, the coaching staff of the team (led by Head Coach Bill Belichick), the sports punditry, the fans, and maybe the opposition — also expect him to win.

He brings that magic bit of confidence that creates this mojo — expecting to win. He has played in nine Super Bowls and has emerged with a ring from six of them.

Stop for a second: Do YOU expect to win as a CEO? Do you?

Tom Brady doesn’t expect to win only on the football field; he expects to win in life, at everything.

This doesn’t happen by accident.

The Tom Brady Story

You know the basic facts as it relates to Tom Brady, right?

 1. Big, tall young man at 6’4 3/8″ and 211 pounds. Physical fitness devotee, careful eater.

 2. Played football, basketball, baseball in high school. Got drafted by the baseball Montreal Expos in 1995 as a hard hitting catcher with a rocket arm.

 3. Sat on the bench on his high school junior varsity team that went 0-8 until the starting quarterback was injured and he got his chance.

 4. Started on the varsity his last two years in high school — California All State, All-Far West honors. Threw for 3,702 yards while completing 236 of 447 pass attempts with 31 touchdowns.

 5. Still, he couldn’t get noticed by big college football programs. So, Tom made his own highlight tape and circulated it around. 

 6. Ended up at Michigan where he was the 8th string quarterback. An assistant athletic director took him under his wing and helped him with his confidence, poise, and throwing.

 7. As a part time starter and full time starter he became known as the Comeback Kid because of his ability to bear down and win big games in the fourth quarter.

After getting Michigan to the 2000 Orange Bowl in a come-from-behind-victory over Ohio State, Brady led Michigan to an Orange Bowl victory over evil Alabama in which he threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns, twice erasing 14-point deficits.

Michigan won the overtime game when Satanic Alabama missed an extra point that would have tied the game.

 8. Interned at Merrill Lynch in the summers. 

 9. In spite of great numbers — 5,3521 yards in two seasons, 442/710 for 62.3% completion rate, and 35 touchdowns, Tom didn’t create much buzz in the NFL draft.

 10. The New England Patriots drafted Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick in the sixth round.

 11. Coach Belichick, also new to the Patriots, said of why he picked Brady that it was his work ethic, his pocket awareness, and his raw intelligence.

This is particularly significant because both Belichick and Brady admitted that Tom didn’t exactly blow anyone away with his NFL Scouting Combine performance.

 12. Tom Brady got his chance when Drew Bledsoe, the then current New England Patriots quarterback, went down with an injury. This was Brady’s second season in the NFL.

Quarterback Tom Brady led the Patriots to the AFC East championship, a victory over the St Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, and his first Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

 13. The Belichick-Brady partnership would turn out to be the winningest coach-quarterback tandem in the history of the NFL. I will not bore you with the accolades, but they are extraordinary.

 14. In 2008, Brady would miss the entire season after an opening game knee injury. In 2009, he would roar back being named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.

 15. Today at age 42 Brady is still winning.

That’s the Tom Brady story.

What does that mean, Big Red Car?

Here’s what I think it means:

 1. Tom Brady was the only boy amongst three sisters who were all good athletes.

 2. He has always been a studious person. His teammates say he is the master of game prep, watches more film than the coaches, and keeps his instrument in top notch condition.

 3. He embraces his leadership role and will hold teammates to account for their performance.

He listens to his coaches and trusts their judgment.

 4. When life didn’t lay down in front of him, he grabbed the bull by the horns (cliche alert) and took charge — the high school game highlight video got him in at Michigan.

 5. When things were not going well for him at Michigan, he sought out assistance. He credits assistant athletic director Greg Harden with working with him to build his confidence. He credits Harden with being his mentor on and off the field.

“He [Greg Harden] will always be somebody I rely on for sound advice and mentorship. He has helped me with my own personal struggles in both athletics and in life. Greg really pushed me in a direction that I wasn’t sure I could go.”

 6. Brady expected to be drafted by an NFL team in the second or third round, so the sixth round pick was a huge disappointment. He soldiered on through the disappointment.

 7. When he was injured, he rehabbed and returned at an even higher level of performance.

 8. He knew there was more to life than just football — there was money. His decision to work at Merrill Lynch was a shrewd and calculated move. Guy is always thinking.

Now, at age 42, when Tom Brady steps onto the field, everybody on the planet expects him to win.

Me, Big Red Car — what’s the message for me?

If you want to be a confident leader able to marshal that confidence to impact the performance of your team, your company, you are going to have to do some work.

You are going to have to come to work early, stay late, study your industry, and watch more film than the coaches. Work.

Opportunity often shows up in overalls, work boots, and work gloves.

You may need to get some assistance. Find a mentor. Join a CEO group like Young Presidents Organization. There are a lot of them.

Get a CEO coach and put the issue right out there on the table. Say, “Hey, I need some help.” That’s what Tom Brady did. Do it. Stop procrastinating.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That is true.

Can you be the next Tom Brady? You will never know unless you get off your ass and break a sweat. Nobody ever drowned in their own sweat.

And that, dear reader, is where real confidence comes from. You can’t bluff it. You have to earn it.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Call the parental units. God they love that. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to for a long time. Go have a beer or a blonde latte with them.

By the way, this picture below is the woman who was Gisele’s predecessor as Tom Brady’s girlfriend. Confidence is a beautiful thing. Confidence = expecting to win.