Feb 042018 1 Response

The Coming Crisis for Tom Brady

You can’t see it yet. From the outside looking in, life has never been better for Tom Brady. His Hall of Fame career shows no signs of stopping. Somehow, Brady is in better shape at 40 than at 25. His family seems strong and his plans for after football seem to be in place with the release of the TB12 Method. As he competes in Super Bowl LII, he further extends his legendary status.

But there’s a problem. (See: Age Is Much More Than a Number)

On the horizon, a fundamental crisis is beginning to form and Brady has little chance of avoiding it. The issue–Brady’s life is defined by athletic success. He loves his family. He has a life off the field, but everyone who knows him says Brady’s life is football. And not just football, it’s about winning at football.

Some have even called it his religion. It’s fascinating what he has, and continues to, accomplish. Brady is three months older than me. As I reach my 40s, I’m ever aware of my age. I’m less likely to play a game of pick-up basketball for fear that I might pull a hamstring or rupture my Achilles Tendon. Meanwhile, Brady is standing in the pocket while the NFL’s best defenders try to chase him down. His regimen of diet, nutrition, and mental exercises have clearly changed the rules regarding how long a QB can be successful in the NFL. He has now packaged his secrets into a growing brand called TB12. He promises that others can follow his lead and experience peak performance.

The lessons he has learned is something many of us need to understand. How we treat our bodies greatly influence their productivity. Many of the limits which we assume are written in concrete are actually just perception. We can hack aspects of our lives to delay aging, increase productivity, and experience levels of success we’ve never imagined. Many of the ills we face are self-induced and should be avoided by better choices.

But what Brady, Jocko Willink, and others need to realize is that we can’t hack our way to eternity. We can figure out some secrets to make 50 the new 40 or to experience gains in muscle mass or emotional well-being, but we can’t outrun the ultimate limits placed on humanity. Football can be fun, but it can’t answer the big questions of life: Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose? While physical excellence is a worthy pursuit, it cannot be the ultimate definition of who we are. Many things are more important than our physical health. (See: Don’t Beleive the Lie ‘If You Have Your Health…’)

While these questions can easily be pushed aside in our youth and when we are experiencing success, we can’t ignore the questions forever. Eventually, life will force us to confront them. When life is defined by football, what happens when Brady can no longer play? When we define ourselves by marriage, career, or success, what happens when our spouse dies, we retire, or we fail?

Football is fun, but it’s not life. Our bodies can do amazing things, but there are limits. No matter how well one eats and exercises, their bodies will eventually fail. Then what? When the trophies are rusted, your muscle has weakened, and no one turns to you anymore as the one with all the answers, who are you?

This is the coming crisis for Tom Brady. Having placed so much identity in football and believing so much in his TB12 method, what happens as he ages? 40 might be the new 30, but he won’t be able to outrun 80. He can hack his way to better health, but he won’t be able to hack immortality. He will either learn to answer these questions or he will be haunted by them. The questions might be drowned out by trophies and fans now, but they won’t be overlooked for much longer. Eventually, Brady will have to find an identity outside of football, achievement, and physical prowess.

We all face areas which give us a false sense of security. We use our jobs, careers, marital status, or achievement as a way to define ourselves. While it’s acceptable to find meaning in these things, it is risky to be fully defined by something which so quickly can be taken away.

My hope for Brady is that even before the fans move to their next hero that he will be able to appreciate his accomplishments without being defined by them. I hope he will face the deep questions of life and understand his own limitations and need. He might have found a way to hack physical excellence at the age of 40, but his spiritual needs are not something he can manage on his own. (See: If You Tried Religion and It Didn’t Work)


Cover photo licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. It’s attributed to Keith Allison, and the original version can be found here.

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