Tom Brady Embracing Failure Is A Lesson For All Of Us
The GOAT's next chapter can inform our storytelling in our companies and for our clients.
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What comes to mind when I say, Tom Brady?
Most likely, it’s things like his:
23-year career in the National Football League (NFL) with New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Legendary status as one of — if not the — greatest of all time (GOAT).
Game-winning drives in big moments.
Incredible Super Bowl wins.
“Interesting” personal life.
What about entrepreneurship? Can Brady be the GOAT in business, too?
It won’t be without trying — and applying his work ethic from the field to the boardroom.
Either way, I’d like to share a key insight from Brady — that he likely learned from both sports and business. It’s a lesson we all can appreciate—and apply.
Business advice from the GOAT
Brady already brought his skills to the business world during his playing days. He founded TB12 — a health and wellness brand — in 2013 with his Body Coach, Alex Guerrero.
In 2021, he jumped on the NFT craze — starting Autograph — which “brings together the most iconic brands and legendary names in sports, entertainment, and culture to create unique digital collections and experiences.”
So, when he gets invited to keynote 2023 eMerge Americas — a self-described “premier technology conference” in Miami Beach — we give him the benefit of the doubt and listen up.
The eMerge conference attracts startup founders, entrepreneurs, investors, and the like. It’s a great chance to network—and learn from people in the trenches.
Failure is only the beginning
Brady’s advice stressed the need for failure as a stepping stone to success.
“Whether you’re young, middle-aged or old, it’s not like we have the most confidence in everything we do; that’s impossible. It’s not whether you succeed or fail. It’s what did you learn from the success? What did you learn from the failure?”
If you remember, Brady did not go high in the NFL draft. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft — as the 199th pick. Brady even released limited edition draft apparel in 2022 — a hat tip to the 199.
There’s a teachable moment for us all here. Was Brady’s sixth-round selection — at #199 — a failure?
To many of those not “in the arena” — the answer is a resounding yes.
You want to be a top pick, right? Isn’t that where fame and fortune are?
Let’s rethink that for a moment.
Daring greatly — in the arena
The list of flame-outs and players of any sport never amounting to anything is long.
All hype — and no shine.
Instead, what we have is a story for the ages. Don’t call it a comeback — but rather a coming alive. A stepping into your role — and overcoming setbacks.
Of entering the arena — and daring greatly — as Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently put it (emphasis added):
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I always loved that one.
Instead, Brady took ownership of that 199 — and did as much as any one man could with it. He dared greatly to make the most of the opportunity — and in the hard work.
In the April 19, 2023 version of her newsletter,, quoted legendary composer, Hans Zimmer, as saying the following:
“I don’t know if I believe in talent,” [Zimmer] says in his Masterclass. “People keep saying to me, ‘Oh he’s really talented,’ or this woman is an ‘amazing talent.’ And then when I investigate a little bit further, it turns out it’s just somebody who works really, really hard.”
Hard work is something many look to avoid these days. Instead, we opt for convenience.
We even have rallying cries like “Work smarter, not harder.” The whole artificial intelligence movement is designed to make our lives easier (and maybe even replace us 😬).
But — if it’s true that what we focus on compounds — hard work has its reward. And boy do we pay ourselves interest on that return of hard work invested!
Why failure resonates
Still, we all fail — even if we work hard.
We all come up short.
Heck, we’re lucky if we’re considered in the top 200 for an open job — let alone the NFL draft.
The failure IS the story — because failure is authenticity personified.
Why do we hate social media at times? We don’t match up to the curated, filtered lives of our “friends”.
We don’t see the edits, redos, tears, doubts, and fails. What we see is fake.
But, failure — the thing we all want to run away from — is the very thing we most resonate with.
When you embrace your failure — you embrace your story. And you begin to understand how to connect with others.
From a business perspective, when you understand where your customer is failing (or at least where they THINK they’re failing), you can help them get where they want to go.
And you can guide them along the customer journey — one step at a time.