Life Lessons from the Guru of Foxboro

I am a fan of the New York Football Giants. I am also a fan of excellent coaching and execution.

As much as I enjoyed the Giants’ victories over the New England Patriots in Superbowls XLII and XLVI, I am also a fan of the Patriots. To say the Patriots under Bill Belichick (BB) are well-coached is an understatement – they are amazingly coached.

As a big fan of American professional football I am always noticing parallels between football and life. As a coach I love watching the Patriots because there is so much in how they’re coached and play that we can learn from in our own lives.


Everyone knows the key to real estate: Location. Location. Location. For a BB coached team, it’s Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.

Everyone, from the person mixing the Gatorade to Tom Brady (the Patriots All-Pro quarterback, who came into the league via a sixth-round pick by the Patriots… ) knows that getting ready is the key to being ready.

The NFL is very competitive, and the coaches and their staffs all work extremely hard, but the messaging around preparation is different with the Patriots. The difference is that Coach Belichick consistently reinforces the idea that getting ready each and every week is absolutely fundamental.

You don’t become a New England Patriot without agreeing to the idea that, no matter your level of “football” talent, preparation is something that is done every week, for every opponent.

Importance of Language

Another agreement Patriots players (obviously) make is to mind their language when ever speaking to the public.

They don’t talk smack or trash about their abilities or that of their opponents. They don’t talk about what others might have said. They don’t talk about the game after this week’s game, or any other game in the future. They don’t talk about scoring lots of points, or shutting down the other team’s offense.

What they do do is speak in clear, humble terms about what they must do to be prepared. They speak in accurate and respectful terms about their opponent and how every week is a challenge. Even when playing a team they are (on paper) clearly superior to, they don’t get ahead of themselves and minimize the game or their upcoming opponent.

They know – and live – the truth that how you talk about something plays a large role in how you show up for a particular situation or challenge.

Culture of Excellence

The Patriots, at least during the Bob-Kraft/Bill-Belichick era have exemplified excellence.

(I’d be remiss to ignore the blemish of SpyGate (a Patriots employee was caught filming another team’s practice session), so they’re not perfect. But I truly believe that it’s truly trivial in understanding what they done and created.)

The Patriots have done some amazing things in the 13 or so years since BB arrived: seven Super Bowl appearances (three wins), won the AFC East all but two years, an undefeated regular season and never a losing record. Results like that don’t come from talent alone – whether it be players on the field or coaches on the side-lines.

Everyone in the organization works hard and expects to win. It’s only through a culture – a persistent, all-encompassing ethos – that such consistent and high results are achieved.

Strategies and Schemes

On paper, the Patriots are not always the “best team” on the field some weeks. When analysts look at the key players and positions, the Patriots sometimes “come up short” in a majority of the match-ups.

And the Patriots often go on to win anyway.

I have to believe that  such is not the result of BB’s amazing ability to motivate or will his players to victory.

It’s a question of not only preparing, but preparing in a customized way, each week, for each opponent. It’s a function of BB and his coaching staff looking at the week’s opponent, the players they will have that week and creating strategies and schemes that take away the strengths of the other team while maximizing the unique talents and abilities of both individual Patriot players and combinations of players.

Make the Most of What You Have

This follows on from the last idea. A recent Secretary of Defense said that “you don’t go to war with the army you want, you go with the army you have.” While that may have a self-serving way to deflect attention away from a lack of preparedness, it actually applies here.

BB and his coaching staff don’t worry about what they can’t do against an opponent. They acknowledge it and finds ways to, at the very least, neutralize it.

They look – with clear eyes – at themselves and what they have and create a plan to win with that.

And most weeks, that’s exactly what they do: win.

Football for Its Own Sake (not glory or Ego)

I might be reading something of my own into this point, but I believe that BB truly loves the game of football and all that being part of a football team allows.

Yes, his agent gets him an excellent deal come contract time, but he’s usually not the highest-paid coach in the NFL (true he might be in the Top 5, but he doesn’t seem to care if he’s #1). He coaches because he loves it. He loves the competition. He loves the challenge. And I’m pretty sure he loves the “grind” of it all.

I say all this because of what he says and does. His words and actions are consistent.


How can we apply these lessons to our own lives?


The old adage that failing to prepare is preparing to fail holds. It’s true that few plans play out in real-life – exactly – the way they were envisioned on paper, but the process of planning is invaluable. It’s a way to getting yourself ready and respecting the task before you.

To extend the point: anything you can pull off on sheer talent alone isn’t all that impressive. (Even if it impresses others… )


How you think and talk about something makes all the difference in how you show up for it. This is just plain true – I’m not going to go on about it.

Your Culture

Let me challenge you: how you do one thing is how you do everything.

Because you’re always watching yourself (whether consciously or otherwise),  you either do everything to the best of your ability, at that given moment, or you don’t. Without putting to fine a point on it, everything is connected and you’re either striving for your best in each moment or you’re not.

Decide you are going to do your best at whatever it is you have in front of you – develop your own Culture of Excellence.


How do you go about things, in general? What’s your strategy?

Plans are a list of actions that one believes will result in achieving a goal.

A strategy is a description of one’s approach in the aggregate to combining skills and abilities and the desired ends, in any given moment.

It’s a high-level summary of how you’re going to execute in a given situation – an action-oriented description of in-the-moment goal attainment.

What are your strategies in the key areas of life?

The Marrow

In some parts of the world, sucking the marrow out of (cooked) bones is a delicacy. It’s a way of getting the essence, and the last little bit, out of a cut of meat. It’s getting every little bit out of what’s there…

Are you doing this in your life? Are you “sucking the marrow out of the bone that is your life?” Or are you leaving bits and pieces behind?

Or, to put it another way, are you planning and preparing in such a way, that when combined with a sound strategy you are getting the most out of what you have?

You’ll know you’re doing “this” when you do something really hard and, regardless of whether you succeed or not, you are fully drained after and later are stronger and wiser.

And finally…

For The Love of the Game

Are you doing what you do for the right reasons?

One way to ask yourself this question is 1) who decides if I’ve been successful or not? and 2) if no one is there to see me win, does it matter?

If the answer to those questions are “me” and “yes,” then you are operating intrinsically, and in a way that is truly satisfying and sustainable.

Otherwise, you’re motivated extrinsically and 1) you’ll never work as hard as you could and 2) you’ll never really enjoy your victories.


This is already one of my longest posts, ever. So I’ll sum things up with the following: there are certain truths that hold in life.

Bill Belichick and “his” New England Patriots understand, to a great degree, these truths and operate in accordance with them.

Their results speak for themselves.

If you want to achieve a similar level of (sustained) success you will have to find ways to accept these truths and apply them to your own life.

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