I recently returned from seeing the best comeback performance in Super Bowl history. Yes, I was at the Super Bowl as a birthday gift to see Tom Brady and the New England Patriots rebound from a 3-28 score in the 3rd quarter to win the title.
It was amazing and I felt an enormous range of emotions all around me. Diehard Falcon fans pivoted from confident euphoria to dismay, if not devastation, over their loss. At the same time, Patriot fans swerved from disappointed acceptance of what seemed like an inevitable loss to jubilant ecstasy over their victory.
As I reflected on the game and reactions to the results, I noted some key lessons from this incredible game worth sharing.
Having lived in Atlanta for six years, where a lot of my Falcon-loving family and friends remain, and having lived near Boston for nineteen years, where most feel Roger Goodell mistreated Tom Brady and the Patriots, I actually would’ve been happy if either team won. This would have been a historic and notably happy win for either team: the Falcons’ first ever Super Bowl and Brady’s 5th win. I’m typically up for fun competitive banter and decided to advocate for the team where I have lived the longest (New England) and, accordingly, talked ample trash. As I reflected on the game and reactions to the results, I noted some key lessons from this incredible game worth sharing.
First, competition is dynamic, complete with changing and sometimes unpredictable forces. Therefore, when you assess your opponents, be careful not to underestimate what they can or possibly will do to win. Sometimes deciding that past behaviors repeat themselves will leave you caught off guard if – or more likely, when – your opponents shift their strategy.
The Falcons quickly took control of the game. They pressured Brady by sacking him several times. By putting him off on his heels, Brady wasn’t able to perform as well as he had earlier in the season – that is, for the first half of the game. Throughout the season, the Falcons were known for their offensive strategy and the Patriots built a strong reputation for their defensive excellence. Yet in the end the opposite from what was expected occurred, as the former demonstrated their defensive and the latter demonstrated offensive prowess.
Let’s take an example away from football. The impact of competition-fueled skills and technology shifts is particularly notable within the music industry. Music manufacturers of LP records were challenged by 8-track technology (remember those), which lost out to CD production, which has largely been replaced with music streaming – all during a relatively short period of time. Those who didn’t contemplate or pay attention to budding landscape changes lost in a major way. Only the most astute and responsive leadership teams have been able to remain in a competitive industry when competitors shift what they’ve done. Xerox, which has had its challenges, did pivot and is no longer only focused on manufacturing copy machines, for example.
Allow determination and grit to meet focus, an inner belief, and perhaps some luck. Then enjoy the results.
Set conclusions and underestimating an opponent’s behavior might catch you off guard. The Falcons didn’t seem prepared for the shift in Brady’s mindset and determined strategy in the second half, in the same way that the Patriots didn’t seem prepared for the strength of the Falcon’s strong offensive AND defensive strategy.
That leads me to the second lesson: Stay focused on what is necessary to accomplish your mission, even when you are in the lead. When you are doing very well either at the height of your career or in a team sport, don’t succumb to the temptations of being complacent and lose your competitive edge. You may recall that the Falcon’s owner came down early onto the field during the third quarter, jumping up and down when his team was ahead, a move typically reserved for when the game is over. When you are in the middle of an effort to win, it is easy to become complacent, to drop your guard or to prematurely celebrate in advance of the win”, thereby diverting attention away from what is truly warranted, namely the task at hand. Allow determination and grit to meet focus, an inner belief, and perhaps some luck. Then enjoy the results.
Third, purpose is also a powerful motivator. A meaningful motivation, coupled with intense focus, creates undeniable force. Purpose motivated the Falcons, as they came determined to win and to prove they were the stronger team. And they were. As mentioned, they dominated the game and put Brady on his heels by rushing him, in a way that we haven’t seen done all season. I imagine that the Falcons went into the locker room during halftime floating on cloud nine, perhaps in a celebratory manner, happy over what they had accomplished. It’s possible that they, like many watching, thought the game was a “wrap,” as no team had come back to a win against such odds before. Sometimes that confidence, borderline arrogance, or, shall I say, assumptions can cause your guard to fall.
It appears that he decided to become extra- centered and determined to tap into his purpose-propelled drive.
On the Patriot’s side, something else was happening that was special. Tom Brady’s mother came to the game, her first attendance of the season. She had been battling cancer during the prior 18 months, which is reportedly one of the reasons Brady chose not to fight with a lawsuit against Roger Goodell. He and his family instead decided to rally around his mother and put their energy with her. She improved and was well enough to attend the game. A week before the game at a news conference, Tom shared at a that his parents have “been so supportive my entire life, it’s nice to be able to show them…to try to make them proud.” I imagine that when Tom went into the halftime, he went inside the locker room, thought about his mother, and didn’t want things to end as they had begun. It appears that he decided to become extra- centered and determined to tap into his purpose-propelled drive.
Fourth, be aware that how we process and file information can fuel how we feel, drive emotional linkages and trigger conclusions. I received a plethora of text messages and emails from those not only disappointed over the Falcons loss, which is reasonable, but also from those extremely irate that the Patriots won. A few friends shared, “it felt like election night all over again.” Wow. Another explained, “The Falcons were the team of the people” and the Patriots were “The Trumpsters.” “At least the Falcons won the popular vote” was frequently re-tweeted. These conversations felt reminiscent of when your significant other gets angry ostensibly because of something you did, but later you discover that he or she is really upset for other reasons. What happened reminds them of something unrelated to the moment and often emotions escalate. Unproductive arguments ensue as un-related conclusions are drawn.
Be aware that how we process and file information can fuel how we feel, drive emotional linkages and trigger conclusions.
Can you recall a pre-Trump period when the political views of the owners or leaders of the team mattered or factored into whether a fan would support the team or not? I can’t. Now the public views of three, albeit high profile, team members govern and paint the public view of a forty-five plus member team. We typically neither know nor care about whom the owner or team leader voted for in the last presidential election. Whether someone is a Democrat or Republican rarely enters the discourse around the merits of a basketball, hockey or soccer team’s talent. Since this recently election was so polarized and Trumps early actions have been so incredibly divisive and upsetting, it is easy to be upset over things that remind us of Trump’s role and what he is doing. I get it. However, sometimes linkages can become emotionally over-charged. I posit that recognizing and celebrating the athletic talent and mental prowess demonstrated by a strong quarterback and the team’s amazing and historic deficit reversal is a far cry from effectively endorsing Trump.
Finally, when you are down, know you don’t have to be out, because the first half of life doesn’t necessarily have to define the outcome of the second half of your life. Just because you or someone you know didn’t “have” it, didn’t do something well, fell short of goals, took a wrong path, and the like – doesn’t mean that you or someone you know can’t create a different chapter. Perhaps you lost your job, someone broke up with you, or you made a bad choice. Feel the pain, learn relevant lessons, and then do things differently going forward. Reallocate your concentration from what happened in the past to what you need to do today to achieve your goals. Many, if not most, in the Patriots 3-28 scoring position would have allowed defeatist thoughts to creep in and take control of what they would even try. Instead, stay in the game, both in attitude and in actions. Chip, chip and chip away at progress one small step at a time. Along the way, believe in what is possible as you are chipping. Had Brady allowed his head space to be filled with the odds and other noises about how it’s impossible for him to come back, that would’ve distracted his focus on doing what he had to do one step, one moment, one throw at a time, to actually win.
Stay in the game, both in attitude and in actions. Chip, chip and chip away at progress one small step at a time.
This is a Billion Dollar Mom mindset. It doesn’t take the current situation as an indication of what the ultimate conclusion will be. But rather, it creates the space to go inside, to remind yourself of what is possible, and then execute and lead. That’s what Brady did. Key to this Billion Dollar mindset is your “knowing” and inner belief that persists, often in the face of doubt. In the third quarter of that game trailing 3 to 28, most thought the game was over. It takes a true leader with a clear vision and confidence to move forward focused on the goal when the odds are against them. Many claimed that Tiger Woods had this mental intensity. His recent performance has suggested otherwise as the noise around his infidelities and the dissolution of his family seems to have thrown him off his game. When centered and mentally focused on what is important to you, you can execute towards your goal.
This is a Billion Dollar Mom mindset. It creates the space to go inside, to remind yourself of what is possible, and then execute and lead.
In conclusion, let’s stay on top of our game, pay attention to our competitors, be willing to shift when necessary, believe that being down doesn’t mean being out, and take the steps necessary – one at a time – to move forward towards our goals. To the Falcons team and to their supporters, remember this is merely one chapter in your story. Take on a Billion Dollar Mom mindset and know that there is next year. You will be even more informed, having learned the valuable lessons embedded this one life low.