What Tom Brady Can Teach Political Candidates About Winning

This Sunday, Tom Brady will make his seventh start in a Super Bowl as the quarterback of the New England Patriots. Whether your love or hate Brady, coach Bill Belichick, or the Patriots, there is much you as a candidate can learn from Tom Brady.

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I first wrote this article last year’s after the Patriots incredible and improbable come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons. It’s definitely worth republishing.

The principles that Tom Brady lives by that have earned him five Super Bowl rings are worthy of every candidate serious about winning an election to learn.

The week leading up to Super Bowl 51, Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled “Meet Tom Brady’s Shaman.”  It offered a glimpse into Brady’s thinking processes. Processes that kept him calm, cool, and winning. Naturally I was intrigued.

It turns out one of the secrets behind Tom Brady’s success is a book titled The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

While I haven’t read the book and may never, Jason Gay’s article outlines those four agreements.

I immediately recognized these four agreements are more than the secret sauce to Tom Brady’s victories.

The people I know who succeed the most at life – and in politics – instinctively live by these four principles. Actually there’s five.

They not only offer glimpse into Tom Brady’s winning mindset, they are a guide for candidates to follow in their campaigns and political careers.

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word

The old joke goes like this: How do you know when a politician is lying?  Because his lips are moving.

Talk is cheap in our society and voters today are highly skeptical of anyone running for office.

They believe candidates will say anything to get elected, even outright lie.

Voters today are desperate for someone who will say what they mean and mean what they say.

Why would you not want to be that candidate?

You can stand out from the crowd by telling the truth.

Tell the voters what you really believe and why you believe it.

If you don’t share their point of view, say so and agree to respectfully disagree. And be realistic with your plans if elected.

Say what you want to do in office and how you plan to accomplish it.

It may not happen due to factors outside of your control, but because you stated these things as goals rather than promised to make them happen, you’ve upheld your integrity.

On a more basic and personal level, if you promise to call or email someone back who contacts you, do it.

It’ll show them that you value them, but also that you keep your word.

When voters see a person keeping their word on little things, they’ll trust them with bigger things like elected office.

Having integrity and being impeccable with your word may be the most important trait for a candidate to have.

2.Don’t Take Anything Personally

As soon as you announce your plans to run for office the haters will come out. They’ll have their knives out, typically in the form of sharp tongues.

Some people will say horrible things to your face. Don’t let it faze you. It’s part of running for office.

Often they’ll hide behind a phone or computer screen to tweet horrible things about you, rant on Facebook, or add poisonous comments to news articles.

Don’t let it bother you. Even more important, don’t respond.

They may say nasty things about your appearance, your spouse, or your children. Let it go and don’t take it personally. It brings you down to their level.

You’re running for office to be a leader, not an online troll. Our country has an overabundance of trolls.

Be a leader. That’s what the people are looking for.

As Teddy Roosevelt said: “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…”

Or woman as the case may be now in 21st Century America.

But what about Donald Trump you might ask? I’d tell him exactly the same thing if he asked me.

Responding to every insult that is hurled at him – and often being just as insulting or more so – doesn’t help President Trump look like a leader.

It encourages his critics and detractors to keep up their attacks.

At the same time I know plenty of Trump supporters who believe his comments and his tweets undermine his authority and and his presidency.

Don’t take things personally. Doing so can pull you off message which often destroys campaigns.

It may also cause you to react in a way that harms your candidacy and makes voters think you don’t have what it takes to serve in public office.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

In politics, people are always making assumptions about others and their views.

Democrats want to confiscate everyone’s guns and Republicans want to send women to prison for abortion, the talking heads would have us believe.

Yet I know plenty gun-totting Democrats and pro-choice Republicans.

Such assumptions have caused the huge division that exists in America today.

We’re watching that play out right now on TV and our social media feeds.

Hard core Democrats make assumptions about Trump supporters being racist neo-Nazis. Hard core Republicans make assumptions about Trump opponents being Marxists who despise the Constitution.

While a handful of each group might indeed fit such stereotypes, the majority do not.

I personally know unrepentant capitalists who voted for Hillary Clinton and black men who voted for Donald Trump.

They don’t fit the narrative of assumptions being made about voters choices in America today.

Not only is that bad for our country because it doesn’t show respect to each individual, their circumstances, and their personal beliefs, it also is a recipe for losing elections.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy was based in part on the assumption that she would win all of the states that Barack Obama won in 2012.

That assumption proved flawed and Donald Trump won the Electoral College because of it.

Don’t make assumptions about any voters until you’ve talked to them personally.

Engage with them and get to know the people you want to represent. You might be surprised what you’ll learn.

It’ll likely blow out any preconceived notions you might make about someone based on race, gender, class, or party affiliation.

And when such preconceptions and assumptions are eliminated, you’ll probably see a path to victory emerge that conventional stereotypical logic would never let you see.

4. Always Do Your Best

In life you always get back what you put into something. It’s true in school, marriage, and work.

If you put your best into your studies, into your relationship, and into your job, you’re likely to have success.

If you don’t do your best you could find yourself on academic probation, in divorce court, or standing in the unemployment line.

The same is true in campaigns. You must give it your all.

You must do your best win you campaign for office.

Election after election I’ve seen people put their names on the ballot and then do nothing.

They usually say something like, “I’m just throwing my name out there and see what happens” to justify their candidacy.

That’s just stupid.

If you aren’t willing to do everything you can to win, then you shouldn’t be running for office.

That also applies to candidates who are serious about running for office.

You must do your best once you’ve thrown your hat into the ring.

If you don’t then you shouldn’t be running for office either.

If you’re serious about winning your election, then you must be committed to giving it your all and doing your best throughout your campaign.

You must be willing to ask donors for money.

You must be willing to walk precincts and make phone calls to talk to voters.

You must be willing to respond to an attack from your opponent.

If you’re not willing to do those things, then you’re not doing your best on your campaign.

When you decide to run for office, know what it’s going to take to win, learn to do the things you’ll need to do to be successful, and do them to the best of your ability.

Every single day you wake up during your campaign, do your best and you’ll achieve incredible results.

I’ve seen this time and time again.

At the same time, it’s possible you’ll come up short and not win your election. It does happen and for reasons far beyond your control.

Yet if you do your best and don’t come out victorious, you won’t have any regrets about your campaign and will be able to hold your head high.

Plus, you’ll be ready for next time.

5. Never Give Up

While this isn’t one of the four agreements that Tom Brady follows, I believe it is absolutely a principle he lives by.

Because Brady never gives up, he is as successful as he is – and the Patriots are the only team to win a Super Bowl in overtime.

As a candidate you must never give up either.

Some days on the campaign will be amazing. Others will be horrible.

Sometimes a string of horrible days come at you all at once. You won’t want to get out of bed let alone make fundraising calls or knock on doors.

But you’ve got to keep going until the polls close.

On many campaigns I’ve worked on we were behind yet still won.

When it’s possible, I poll about four to five weeks before Election Day.

In many instances my candidates are behind in the polls or in a dead heat with other candidates.

More often than not this results in a come from behind landslide win. Not just a squeaker, but a landslide.

How does this happen? Because we didn’t give up and stop campaigning when there were still voters who had not cast their ballots.

Rather than panicking when reviewing the polling results, we use the data to adjust our messaging and targeting.

And because of it we win.

Last year the Atlanta Falcons were beating the New England Patriots by a score of 28-3 well into the second half of the game.

At the end of the third quarter the the Falcons led the Patriots 28-9. A comeback seemed impossible.

But Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the the Patriots refused to give up. Instead they gave it everything they had.

In the fourth quarter that Patriots scored a field goal, two touchdowns, and made two two-point conversions.

This tied the game and sent it into overtime.

The Patriots receive the ball in the sudden death fifth quarter, drove it down the field and won Super Bowl 51 by a score of 34-28.

I still don’t believe it and I witnessed it happen.

Candidate Take-Away

As a candidate for elected office, you too are in it to win it.

Should you follow these five principles as you campaign, there’s a very good chance that on Election Night you’ll be the one giving the victory speech rather than the concession speech.