Lessons from Brady
Long-time readers know that certain members of our team are unabashed Tom Brady fan-boys. How could we not be? Clearly, he’s the greatest quarterback of all time, his work ethic is unparalleled, his family life is picture-perfect, his new clothing line is on fleek, and man, those cheekbones. He is, simply put, so hot right now.
With that preamble, it won’t surprise readers that last fall, when TB12’s CEO John Burns interviewed Brady ahead of his return to Foxboro on the Keep Going podcast, we tuned in. Among the golden nuggets of wisdom imparted in the conversation, it was surprising to hear that for Brady’s high school, college, and professional football career – until he started working with Alex Guerrero – Brady dealt with ongoing elbow pain. At times, the pain was so intense that Brady was unable to play. Being in constant pain was simply an accepted part of his football experience. That is, it was until he started doing alternative pliability sessions with Guerrero. From the podcast:
BRADY: Alex said… before you throw, tomorrow at practice, come in and we’ll do like 30 minutes of pliability work and then you can go out to practice. At that time, I hadn’t practiced for like three days…. I go out to practice and I could feel 70-80% better already. And I was like, wow that doesn’t bite the way it was biting the way it did in the past. I made it through practice for the first time in probably 4-5 days.. I go back and work with him after practice and he does the same thing, he lengthens out those really tight dense muscles in my arm. Literally, the light came on and I was like – for the first time in ten years of competitive sports the pain had been reduced in my elbow.
BURNS: That’s crazy because at that time you’re conditioned to be in pain. You’re like, I’m a football player, I’m probably always supposed to be in pain, that’s your mental model. You didn’t even think otherwise.
BRADY: I didn’t think it was possible because everyone was telling me that quarterbacks’ arms are sore. The trainer would say, your arm’s sore, that’s just what happens. I thought, this makes a lot of sense… so, I worked with Alex again the next day. And then the next day. And after four days of treatment, for the first time in my entire life, I went out to practice, I threw the football for a couple hours and I was not in excruciating pain. I like to think I’m a quick learner, and at that time I realized that [it] would change my football career. I got to do something that I loved to do [and] my arm wasn’t in excruciating pain.
Brady’s elbow was in pain – real pain. He could have continued to be in pain for the remainder of his career, but that doesn’t mean it had to be that way. By being open to alternative methods and finding the right people to work with, Brady was able to find a solution that changed his reality.
There are many corollaries of the “football = pain” mental model in the world of small business operations. Small businesses are constantly understaffed; that’s just the way it is. You can’t raise prices in a small business because every customer will leave; that’s just the way it is. You can’t work on a small business because you’re too busy working in it; that’s just the way it is. At Chenmark, we refuse to accept a sub-optimal status quo as immutable. The key is to accept the reality of the present situation while maintaining the conviction that better is possible. Accept your reality, be open to alternatives, find the right people to work with, and let’s go!