When it comes to embodying the quality of resilience, few do it better than National Football League quarterback Tom Brady. The orchestrator of one of the greatest comebacks in modern sports history, Brady led his team, the New England Patriots, to an unbelievable overtime victory in yesterday’s Super Bowl. Trailing the Atlanta Falcons by the score of 28-3 with less than a half to play, it appeared to everyone that the game was over at that point, and even the most die-hard Patriots fans were leaving the game because they simply did not believe that their team could come back from a deficit that large.
Whilst these people gave up on their team, Tom Brady did not. Having played in and won four of these championship games before, and endured various forms of adversity during his football career, Brady knew that as long as there was still time on the clock, there was a way back for his team. Sensing that the inexperienced Falcons were starting to feel the pressure of being so close to winning the trophy, Brady seized the momentum for his team and imposed his will for the rest of the game. Scoring the next 25 points without reply, the Patriots improbably forced the game into overtime, and when they won the toss of the coin to take the first possession of the extra period, the Falcons team had to know that they were in big trouble. With the first drive of the overtime period, Tom Brady led his team the length of the field for a touchdown. Game over! With that transcendent performance, Brady solidified his legacy as the greatest football player in history.
The remarkable thing about Tom Brady’s journey is that this was not the first time that he had overcome the doubters and hard challenges that at different stages had threatened to derail his football career. When he was first drafted into the NFL in 2000, teams selected 198 players ahead of him, and many of their scouting ‘experts’ didn’t think that Brady had the natural ability to succeed at the professional level. After enduring some very difficult Super Bowl losses in the years that followed, Brady was caught up in the ‘Deflategate’ saga that saw the NFL commissioner vigorously pursue him for his alleged role in the cheating scandal. As an outcome of the case, which many felt was built on suspect evidence against him, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, and despite him appealing to the courts to overturn the decision, the suspension was upheld. What started as a tumultuous season became an incredible triumph, with the Super Bowl game being very much a microcosm of their season.
When we talk about resilience, we are referring to a never give up attitude that originates from an indomitable spirit. For leaders like Tom Brady, possessing this quality is crucial to the attainment of success. The road to what we most desire is going to be littered with obstacles, and we can’t get around that reality. What we can do however is resolve to overcome those obstacles through the application of the significant inner resources that we have at our disposal. Having an awareness of these inner resources is therefore a critical step in being prepared for the challenges that come before us. We can’t put our gifts to use if we don’t recognise that we have them in the first place.
A large part of my research has looked at the anatomy of the human spirit, and the inner resources that I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. In addition to resilience are other resources, such as courage, confidence, commitment, love and purpose, which empower us towards the achievement of goals that are aligned with our callings in life. Nobody who sees Tom Brady play the game of football can doubt that he is called to play the game. How else could he have endured all of these setbacks to reach the pinnacle of his sport many times over? He couldn’t, and that is the point. His accomplishment is rooted in him being who he was created to be, and manifesting the qualities of spirit in the process.
Not only does resilience powerfully impact the ones who embody it, but it also works to inspire and motivate those who witness it in others. Think of someone who for years fights a serious illness, or someone who tragically loses someone that they love, and yet still finds it within themselves to move out into the world and love again. In the presence of these people, we are inspired and brought back into alignment with our spirit. If you look at the etymology of the word ‘inspire’, it means to be in-spirit. This is not a coincidence, and neither was the Super Bowl comeback by Brady’s resilient bunch. We too can traverse the peaks that we encounter along the path to fulfilling our calling through our conviction that we will prevail, and having the resolve to make it happen despite what comes before us.