Amazing. Unbelievable. Greatest of all time.
Those are a few words people are using to describe the New England Patriots' win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. The game set all kinds of records, as the Patriots overcame the largest deficit in Super Bowl history (25 points) to win in overtime, 34-28.
Leading the charge, of course, was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
But you might be asking yourself:
How does he do it? How does he keep performing at this level at the age of 39, when most quarterbacks are well past their prime? When all the odds are against him, when nothing seems to be going right, how does Brady manage to stay calm and deliver?
It all comes down to a single quality: Focus.
Others will point out Brady's fantastic skill, his natural leadership ability, and his incomparable experience as reasons for his success last night--and I'm not arguing that.
What I am saying is that it's Brady's amazing focus that is the foundation for everything else.
A Remarkable Year
Brady spent much of last year's offseason focused on a single task: winning an appeal to the Deflategate ruling that threatened to suspend him for four games. After losing multiple attempts to appeal, Brady could have taken the matter to the Supreme Court.
He didn't, likely considering that doing so would be counterproductive to his other goals.
Instead, he switched his focus.
"I'm going to use these days the best way that I possibly can," Brady told Fox Sports. "I'm going to try to get ready and do everything that I possibly can so I can be at my best when I have the opportunity to play in October."
But that wasn't all.
"It'll be fun to watch in some ways to see what it looks like when you're not there, because it's a different perspective," said Brady. "Hopefully, I can use that perspective and come back with better perspective, saying, 'Wow, maybe I noticed some things that I wouldn't have noticed had I been there.' "
In other words, Brady forgot about everything he couldn't control, and focused on what he could: taking advantage of his time off to learn and get better.
(If you're wondering if it helped, I'll remind you that Brady returned to football, his first professional game in nine months, with a ridiculous game: passing for 400 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Patriots to victory. But what did you expect?)
Fast forward to last night's game.
After a horrific start, Brady's Patriots found themselves down 28-3 to an opponent who seemed to be doing everything right.
In the postgame interview, a reporter asked Brady what he was thinking at that point.
"I wasn't thinking much," admitted Brady. "I was thinking, We just gotta score ... At halftime, we weren't down at all. I mean, we were disappointed in the way we played and knew that we could go out there and do a lot better in the second half."
Just gotta score. Take it one step at a time.
Single. Minded. Focus.
Play better they did, as the Patriots rattled off 31 unanswered points. Once Brady had a chance to mastermind yet another last-minute drive to tie the game, you'd be a fool to bet against him.
"That's why you play to the end," he added.
The Lesson for You
But where do you start?
Work to identify your single most important task, and focus.
- What do I want to accomplish this year? How about this month? This day? In the next four hours?
- What's going to help me the most, to reach that goal?
Make no mistake, this isn't easy.
Distractions are plenty: reading and responding to emails, checking social media, phone calls, meetings, taking time off--all of these threaten to take away your focus and doom you to another year of mediocrity. Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing any of these things--they're all necessary. But you have to limit how much time they take and focus on the more important things.
Because all great work requires extreme focus.
Don't believe me? Just ask the 2017 Super Bowl MVP.
(Hat tip to friend and fellow writer Mareo McCracken, whose excellent Super Bowl piece inspired this one.)