Tom Brady ascribes his success to demanding to be treated like it’s his ‘first day on the job’

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Say what you will about Tom Brady, but there’s no undercutting his singularity—or the endless fascination with how he “gets it done”. 

During his momentous football career, the longtime New England Patriots quarterback won seven Super Bowl rings—the most of any player, ever—and garnered a reputation for being fastidious and disciplined. (TB12, anyone?)

In his second act, Brady has pivoted toward everything from NFTs to FTX to sports commentating to, most recently, partnering with Delta Air Lines as an advisor. He appeared opposite CEO Ed Bastian on Delta’s Gaining Altitude podcast this week to extol his virtues and values and reflect on what’s put him ahead of the pack.

“One of the key fundamentals to my personal success—and our team’s success, over a long period of time—is that nobody was afraid of constructive criticism,” Brady, 49, told Bastian. Criticism “really means you cared about the other person. I always felt like the people that I cared about the most, I was going to have those tough conversations about what I thought they needed to do to improve.”

Whether that meant Brady noticed shoddy preparation for a game, or hot-and-cold emotional approaches, he said he almost thought it would be a disservice not to call his teammates out. And the team superstar wasn’t immune. “I wanted everyone to have that with me too; I had to be open to their constructive criticism. I got that from the owner, from the head coach, and from my position coach; I never wanted to feel like they couldn’t coach me.”

Indeed, it was critical for both Brady’s bosses and peers to “feel like they were in a position of authority” to tell him he needed to up his game. Granted, he may not have needed much coaching, particularly in his highest-performing, record-breaking years. 

“The easy thing for me was to be like, Don’t you understand? I’m Tom Brady. I won this before. I’ve been MVP,” he remarked. “But that’d be the worst thing to do.” Fearing an echo chamber, where all that his peers and coaches did was indulge him, Brady told Bastian he made a point to ensure everyone in his midst knew he was open to criticism. 

“I’m always one of the teammates. I needed to relate to all the guys,” Brady said. “Maybe I did develop a higher standard of performance over a period of time, but I was lucky, because I had a lot of experience.” 

That divide led Brady to his main ethos, to which he credited his ongoing success: Never getting jaded. “Some of these guys were brand new, but I wanted them to treat me like it was my first day on the job, too,” he said.

Part and parcel of a first-day-on-the-job mentality is maintaining balance, he added. “”It’s always about regulating the inputs and outputs; when I really need to put out a lot of energy and emotion, I had to make sure I had it left in the tank,” he said. “I really had to make sure I was conscious about what I was doing the day before the game and what I was doing after the game.” 

As the undisputed star, Brady said his teams—and fans—needed him consistently at 100% in focus, determination, concentration and energy. That calls for the right food, the right hydration, the right bodywork, and critically, “the right people around me.” Ideally, people who can call him out when he’s slacking.

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