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Lessons from the Gridiron

Happy Sunday! I hope you all had a great week (I know those who had the short week after a holiday weekend did!).

Today it’s pretty fitting that I talk about football as we are now in Week 6 of the NFL season which seems like it is flying by.

By now, you know that I am a Patriots fan. I make sure to watch every game (even if it means staying up past my bedtime!). As a fan of New England, I’ve been able to witness the greatest professional sports dynasty ever. Over the last 20 years, the Patriots have been at the top of the NFL and despite numerous personnel changes, rule modifications designed to slow them down and suspensions and fines levied against them, they continue to be the model of success. The thing that remains constant in those 20 years is head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

As a student of life, sports often shows us lessons in leadership, determination, and perseverance. I try to gobble up as much information that I can to better my life, both personally and professionally, from listening to podcasts and interviews, attending conferences and reading books.

Recently, I finished the book “Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Winning Championships and Building Dynasties in the NFL” by Michael Lombardi. Lombardi, a former NFL personnel man for three all-time greats including Belichick as well as Bill Walsh and Al Davis, gives an inside look into the lessons from the coaching greats. As a massive football fan, I ate it up, specifically the Belichick stories. What really stood out though were the lessons taught by Belichick that translate to all phases of life, not just football.

Here are six big takeaways that you apply to your life:

It’s all in the preparation

I know you’ve heard this one before, but it is truly all in the preparation. If there was a Master’s Degree or Ph.D. program in Preparation, Belichick would have his degree. He leaves no stone unturned when it comes to preparation. In the Patriots Super Bowl win over Seattle, the game-saving interception and what will go down as one of the craziest plays in NFL history was all in the preparation. New England had practiced this formation and this play before and knew exactly how to execute. In their win earlier that postseason over Baltimore, the Patriots needed to break out a few trick plays to get back in the game. Belichick implemented an unbalanced line formation which resulted in tackle Nate Solder catching two passes. He had seen it in a recent college game and made the officials aware of it so they weren’t caught off guard and called a penalty. Baltimore didn’t believe it was legal, but it was.

I could go on and on about Belichick’s preparation because his players are prepared for all situations and that’s what makes the Patriots so unique. They can morph into any type of offense or defense because they prepare, pay attention to the details and continue to practice until they execute it flawlessly.

How can you apply this to your own life? If you are failing at nutrition, chances are your preparation is subpar. If you consistently show up late to work, chances are your preparation for the day isn’t cutting it. I’m not advising you try to morph into Belichick, but a little preparation goes a long way. Whether you are working on eating healthier, trying to exercise more regularly, want to read a book, or need to do deliver a knockout sales presentation, your preparation will dictate your success. 

Treat everyone the same

This is an easy one but possibly something you may not be doing all of the time. Belichick has the greatest quarterback of all time on his roster but that doesn’t mean Brady gets the special treatment. Sure, he has more leeway, but Belichick treats everyone on the roster equally from 1 to 53. If you give preferential treatment to certain plays, this can cause resentment in the locker room and you are at risk of losing the team. The Patriot Way is built on discipline, hard work and showing up every single day. If you take a play off during the game and you’re the star player, you will hear about it in film study. If the last person on the roster makes a winning play, they will be praised. It doesn’t matter who you are, Belichick has no favorites and if you follow the Patriot Way,

How are you treating everyone in your life? One of Adam Clark Fitness’ core values is “Bring Positive Energy.” It’s smiling, high-fiving and making the best of every situation. It’s also treating everyone well. Don’t change and morph into a different person because a so-called important person is around. Whether they are the custodian in your building or the CEO of the entire company, it’s important to treat everyone the same, with respect and kindness. Always be that person.

Mistakes happen and big ones!

We all make mistakes. If you aren’t making any mistakes in life, you are taking zero risks and living in your comfort zone. In the book, Lombardi says you aren’t an NFL General Manager until you’ve made a big mistake on draft day. Mistakes happen and they happen a lot in sports. You go through the scouting process and that big-name quarterback may have the strongest arm you’ve ever seen and all of the physical tools you covet in that position. However, he may end up being a bust because he can’t grasp the offense and doesn’t have the mental make-up to play quarterback.

Belichick has his fair share of busts including Ron Brace, Dominique Easley, Chad Jackson and the list goes on. Mistakes happen. Big mistakes happen, but the quicker you recognize it, move on and learn from it, the better you will be.

Being perfect is impossible so aiming for perfection is a recipe for disaster. Aim for progress, take your shots and don’t be afraid to go for the big play. You will make mistakes along the way. Maybe you took a job that you thought was going to propel your career but it turned out it was not the right fit. It’s never too late to change. 

Be the hardest worker

It’s no surprise that Belichick is the first one into the Patriots facility and the last one to leave. It’s no surprise that he is always looking for an edge to get better and give his team that slight advantage it needs to win the game. Lombardi tells stories of the late-night coaches’ meetings before playoff games where Belichick doesn’t leave the facility for the weekend. He is so focused on giving it his all that he hunkers down and doesn’t stop until the task is complete.

To be successful and reach your goals, it won’t come easy. If it was easy everyone would do it.  At the end of the day, ask yourself have you given it your best and if you answered yes, you will have zero regrets because there is nothing more you can do.

Don’t be afraid to be different

There is no question the New England Patriots are different than most teams. The one constant that we referred to earlier has been the quarterback, the head coach and focusing on a forgotten side of the ball. Everything else has changed. At the beginning of Brady’s career, he led the team to three Super Bowls in his first four seasons. They were a team led by a lockdown defense and a ball-control offense. What followed next was 10 years without a Super Bowl victory and now they’ve won three in the past seasons. They for much of the run until this recent Super Bowl win relied on a dynamic offense and a defense that made just enough plays.

If Belichick and the Patriots followed the status quo, they wouldn’t have won as many Super Bowls. They do things differently. One area is their emphasis on special teams, the forgotten unit by many teams. Lombardi worked with Al Davis, the legendary Oakland Raiders owner, and he didn’t take special teams seriously. Belichick, on the other hand, invests draft picks in specific special teams players ranging from long snappers to punters to gunners and more. Special teams can swing the game and his and the Patriots investment in it shows. They rarely miss field goals, punt the ball well and almost never give up big special teams plays to the other team.

Stop living in your comfort zone and following the status quo. It’s time to start living more outside your comfort zone, or what I call the “Growth Zone.”  it’s important to think outside the box and challenge yourself as well. If you’re a salesperson, make an extra phone call each day and tell your supervisor you are going to hit a marker you’ve never hit before. If you’re looking to pay off a debt, do it! Set a goal, make it happen and stop complaining. If you want to run a marathon, announce it to the world, create a training plan and start executing. If you fear public speaking but want to advance in your career, it’s time to get over it and test your skills. Take a public speaking course, join a local group and work on this skill. Go for it!

It takes a full roster to win

Football is a physical sport and injuries can pile up in a hurry. That’s why no one values the entire roster quite like Belichick. As coach and GM, he is responsible for full roster construction and knows that you need a complete roster to win it all. You can have star players and have the best 1-8 players in the league but if they take up your entire payroll and you are left with a weak 9-53 spots on your roster you will fail.

Whether you are part of a sports team or your team at work or maybe you are building a team, it’s important to remember that everyone has a role to fulfill. There is an analogy, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” If you have one link that is weaker, it can bring down the entire chain. Do your job.

Which lesson do you need to focus on in your life and what is one action step you are going to take to make it happen?

#michaellombardi #billwalsh #coaching #adamclarkfitness #nfl #mindset #lessonsfromthegridiron #billbelichick

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