Even some of Tom Brady’s biggest critics are in awe of his performance in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Like most of us, they admire two things: His ability to execute at the highest level and stay calm and focused at the end of the game; and to do all this when he is 39 years old.
Brady is a great example of a credible leader and I could write pages on why I think this is true, but I will spare you – you saw that yourself.
We also know that he keeps himself in incredible physical condition, working-out often longer than everyone else.
What gives Brady an extra leadership edge, though, are two less visible personal practices – mindfulness and diet.
Brady’s Mindfulness. It is not surprising that many of the world’s greatest all-time athletes have and do practice some form of mindfulness activity to help them get into a zone where they can give a peak performance. I remember, for example, Jack Nicklaus saying, “You must be one with the ball.”
According to an article this week by Mandy Antoniacci in Inc Magazine Tom Brady follows mindfulness advice from a book for tennis players called The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Side to the Mental Guide of Peak Performance. The author, Timothy Gallwey, gives tennis players advice on how to not let their minds get in the way of their natural talents.
Brady has credited the book’s wisdom on his Instagram page and actually used this Gallwey quote:
“…Man is a thinking reed, but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. ‘Childlikeness’ has to be restored … Perhaps this is why it is said that great poetry is born in silence. Great music and art are said to arise from the quiet depths of the unconscious, and true expressions of love are said to come from a source which lies beneath words and thoughts. So it is with the greatest efforts in sports; they come when the mind is as still as a glass lake.”
Here are five other Gallwey quotes that you might find helpful.
- It is said that in breathing man recapitulates the rhythm of the universe. When the mind is fastened to the rhythm of breathing, it tends to become absorbed and calm. Whether on or off the court, I know of no better way to begin to deal with anxiety than to place the mind on one’s breathing process.
- The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.
- But of course the instant I try to make myself relax, true relaxation vanishes, and in its place is a strange phenomenon called “trying to relax.” Relaxation happens only when allowed, not as a result of “trying” or “making.”
- Fighting the mind does not work. What works best is learning to focus it.
- It’s difficult to have fun or to achieve concentration when your ego is engaged in what it thinks is a life-and-death struggle.
Brady’s Diet. You may have read before about the unique and disciplined diet that Tom and his wife, Gisele, use for themselves and their family. About a month ago I read this Boston.com interview with the Brady’s private chef, Allen Campbell. In this interview Campbell talks about the diet in great detail.
What do they eat? Here’s what Campbell says:
“So 80 percent of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables. If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon.
“No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG. I’ll use raw olive oil, but I never cook with olive oil. I only cook with coconut oil. Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats. … I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium. I never use iodized salt.
“[Tom Brady] doesn’t eat nightshades, because they’re not anti-inflammatory. So no tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants. Tomatoes trickle in every now and then, but just maybe once a month. I’m very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation.
“What else? No coffee. No caffeine. No fungus. No dairy.”
What do they eat for fun? Campbell says, “I’ve just did this quinoa dish with wilted greens. I use kale or Swiss chard or beet greens. I add garlic, toasted in coconut oil. And then some toasted almonds, or this cashew sauce with lime curry, lemongrass, and a little bit of ginger. That’s just comfort food for them.”
Jack Nicklaus says, “Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety.” And it seems to me Tom Brady does this with his mind and his stomach – two great tips for all of us.