Learning from Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson

Already this month the world of sports has given us two awesome “Age is just a Number” stories.

First 41 year old New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl.

And then on Monday, 48 year old Phil Mickelson winning the PGA golf tournament at Pebble Beach.

Both against competitors decades their junior!

Unlike sports, luckily business success is not so dependent on physical skills – speed, strength, reaction time, etc. – that naturally deteriorate as we get older.

However…as the years roll on there are compensations and adjustments that must be made to maximize our executive and entrepreneurial effectiveness.

Here are five of them:

#5. Not Confusing Activity with Accomplishment. A timeless business wisdom at any age, but particularly as energy and stamina levels sometimes slow down with the passing years, so does the need to concentrate and work upon only those most important things.

For more senior executives, these generally involve the more proactive aspects of modern work – relationship building, new product and service development, company culture, leadership mentoring, and of course strategy.

#4. Know Thyself. A core advantage of youth is the seemingly limitless potential of the boundless future.

A core advantage of age and experience is the awareness of the pressing importance of the here and now.

And how our years of professional experience have shown and taught us when and where we do our best work.

For some it is early in the morning.

For others, it is in intense bursts – then cycled with longer periods of time off and recreation.

Or on the road, at client sites, conferences, and just generally away from the home office.

And of course there are our predictable routines and daily habits that we lean more upon to nurture us through what can often seem a too fast changing business world.

#3. Consciously Adjust the “Risk Set Point”. Generally the older we get, the more we wax nostalgic for the world of our youth.

And in turn are reticent and almost instinctively averse to too many new and different things and ideas.

While in life this conservatism can sometimes serve us, in our roles as leaders of companies, it can often be the kiss of business death.

Here the Tom Bradys and Phil Mickelsons of the world can guide us.

Both achieved great early success, meandered through somewhat fallow mid-career periods, but then later made fundamental adjustments that led them to renewed success at a point where most of their contemporaries had retired or washed out of their games.

#2. Internalize that Business Career Trajectories Should Naturally Be UP. Here sports – where inevitably playing levels do decline at some point – is not a good analogy for business.

With our work, the expectation should be that each year, until quite old age, our performance and results should be better and more lucrative than the one before.


Because why not?

Look at it this way – one of the great advantages of growing older is how we naturally care less what others think of us.

(I know this viscerally as my two middle school sons insist I turn off my 70s and 80s rock when I drop them off at school in the morning).

So if we don’t care what others think, then let’s simply choose to believe and proclaim that this year will be better than the last.

And that next year will be the best one ever.

Of course it can’t be hot air, but the simple choosing of a progressive belief system like this naturally propels us forward in a creative, possibility – filled, and futuristic direction.

#1. Why can’t Old People Work Hard? While we will all physically slow down, the vast majority of us do not do physical work.

So there is no reason why we can’t and shouldn’t work just as hard at 55 or 65 as we did at 25 or 35.

Doing so often starts with just some shifts in mindset.

The belief that we can do it.

Letting go of the sense of entitlement that one shouldn’t “have to” work hard anymore (give me a break).

Appreciating that hard work is so blessedly its own reward.

And as we properly direct that hard work with the acquired wisdom of knowing which things to work hard at and take the right risks as we do well then…

…age truly becomes both a blessing and an advantage.

Need Some Renewed Vitality in Your Organization?

Does your organization feel fatigued?

Need a burst of energy, ideas, and vision to get your business unstuck?

If so, we should talk.

To learn more about our business planning, innovation, and execution services, click here.

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