Lessons From “The Patriot Way”

As a very interested observer of Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots over the years, there is so much we can learn from their incredibly successful “formula” to implement during this unique stage of life that you’re experiencing right now. Here are four of them that I’ve observed:

#1. Preparation

Did you listen to the interview with Malcolm Butler, the Patriots rookie cornerback who made the game saving interception to seal the game?

It was extremely telling!

He said the team practiced against that formation and play several times over the last two weeks. When the Seahawks lined up in that goal line formation with stacked receivers, the coaching staff’s detailed scouting report and game plan prepared Butler to anticipate what the play was going to be so he could successfully react.

The result was one of the most miraculous plays in history.

The lesson, however, is the preparation that led to him anticipating what Seattle was going to do so he could “jump” the route and make the interception. If you didn’t know anything about football, you might have concluded after the play that the pass was intended for him and not the receiver!

There’s an old adage that people don’t plan to fail; they simply fail to plan. If you carefully study the characteristics of those who achieve financial independence, as I have studiously done over the last 25 years, you don’t have to look very far to determine why such a teeny, tiny percentage of Americans are financially independent when they reach “retirement age”, while the overwhelming majority are still dependent on the income from work, or from financial support from family, friends, and government.

It’s not due to a lack of ability or opportunity. They simply didn’t make the same set of choices to focus and prepare.

#2. Focus on What You Can Control

One of the behaviors that never ceases to amaze me about Bill Belichick is that his expression never changes.

Contrast his facial expression after the Patriots scored the go ahead touchdown with his expression after Kearse made that unbelievable circus catch down the right sideline at the end of the game to put the Seahawks in scoring position on the five yard line.

There was zero difference in his reaction! He has trained himself not to allow anything to distract his focus from his long term goal which is to win the game. He has learned to focus on what he can control which is to instantly turn the page and determine what his team should do next, i.e. how to intelligently (not emotionally) respond.

The other added benefit to this is not allowing his young players to see him rattled or out of control at any time. This teaches them to remain in control and focused as well so they can “do their job”.

“Focusing on what you can control” and “doing your job” is a winning formula for our Relaxing Retirement members as well. We can’t control wild swings in equity prices, interest rates, tax law changes, or poor decisions and policies by our law makers throughout history. But, what we can control is our response to them and the educated action or inaction we choose to take as a result.

#3. Ignore the Noise

Every Patriots player will attest to seeing signs that say “Ignore the Noise” everywhere in their facilities. What exactly does that mean?

Ignore the Noise means completely blocking out what others are “saying” about you or something that is important to you, either positive or negative.

As we have witnessed countless times before, athletes who get caught up in what others (i.e. media) have to say about them, either good or bad, are doomed.

As we discussed in detail with our case study a few months back, most financial “news” is really just an opinion. It’s extremely rare that anything reported today is a certified and undisputed fact.

There are numerous “opinions” about everything, all of which you can’t control.

“Ignoring the Noise” is a winning formula for our members as well. Virtually nothing that was once reported as a crisis worthy of worry actually had an impact on your financial future. Yet, when it was first reported with earthquake intensity, all of those who were not trained to “ignore the noise” reacted emotionally and paid an enormous long term price.

#4. Resiliency

This might be the most important lesson of all.

Winning is not about doing everything well. Winning is about limiting the effects of negative short term results and overcoming them, i.e. being resilient.

Please take a second to re-read that last paragraph.

Remember week four when the Patriots got blown out at Kansas City on national television? Do you recall the banter in all forms of sports media?

The Patriots are “just not good”. They’ve lost their way. Belichick drafted Jimmy Garrapolo to take over for Brady who doesn’t have it anymore and wants out.

What was Belichick’s response to the media firestorm following the game?

He didn’t slam his fist into the podium as you see other coaches do.

He didn’t call out his players.

He didn’t allow anyone’s opinion to control the inner discussion of his team.

His now famous simple response was: “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

What was Brady’s visible response to throwing both interceptions during the Super Bowl, something everyone couldn’t wait to pounce on him for especially those outside of New England?

Nothing! Instantly on to what he could control which is what he planned to do next.

The result: he completed 13 of 15 passes with two touchdowns on the final two drives of the game against the best defense in the NFL who completely shut down Peyton Manning’s record breaking offense in last year’s Super Bowl.

What Brady and Belichick have learned and taught us so well is they don’t expect everything to go well all the time. They know they won’t have a perfect result on every play.

They anticipate things going wrong and calmly deal with them.

The huge lesson for all of us is not to expect that everything will go perfectly all the time. It never has and it never will.

Anyone who has ever accomplished anything of significance will attest to the fact that the road to that result was anything but a straight line.

A bunch of things went wrong!

The key was they didn’t expect everything to go perfectly, and they built it into their game plan.

Not only did the Patriots provide us with the thrill of another Super Bowl victory, but they also provided us with lessons from their winning formula that we can all apply and benefit from.