Bill Belichick, the man now synonymous with winning as much as any coach in American sports history, wasn’t always such a winner. He wasn’t handed a head coaching job overnight. It took him nearly to the age of 40 before someone entrusted a pro football team to his leadership. Then?
He eventually was fired several years later. But that’s surely not how we know him today.
Rather, we know Bill Belichick as one of the greatest coaches in the history of professional sports. The ultimate team sports coach who gets every ounce out of his players, leading them to victory after victory, getting them to believe in the process and to work together.
Bill Belichick’s story is most compelling for the reason that we should never let one failure, especially in our first “dream job”, ever define us. Because there’s a lot more of the story to be written.
But I’ve come to realize in learning more about the man that there are so many awesome lessons about his winning, losing and modifications to his approach that have kept him on top for so long. In David Halberstam’s brilliant book, The Education of a Coach, we gain keen insight into Belichick’s thoughts, experiences and approach that have made him a winner.
“He understood that the key to success, the secret to it, was the mastery of the grunt work, all the little details… the little things were not little things, because it was the accumulation of little things that made big things happen.” — David Halberstam, The Education of a Coach
Bill Belichick is a football coaching genius. It’s debatable whether he was born with this gift or not. What’s inarguable is his desire, work ethic, attitude and commitment to excellence. He figured out from his lessons as an assistant coach what it took to take players to fit a system that worked out to the ultimate advantage of his team. The name of the game is winning, and Belichick is obsessed with winning.
I’ve put together four inspiring lessons from the man that we can all take and incorporate into our lives. Enjoy your grind for becoming who you want to be, and learn that winning is born from hard work, perseverance and yes — losing.
1. Winning is a culture, a system and a process that must always be refined and evaluated
Early on in his career, Belichick put together a plan on how to scout players, evaluate them and determine whether they would fit well within his system. He mastered this, passing down the wisdom to every part of his organization. Everything is done in the name of winning, which is all any great competitor should ever aim to do.
“His philosophy from the beginning was ‘No stone left unturned’ and ‘No envelope unpushed in order to win.’ And the result of that was you worked to exhaustion. But he never asked you to do anything he wasn’t doing.” — Rick Venturi
He obsessed over all the small details, and looked at his head coaching job from a 360° view. It wasn’t just about the preparation for games and practices. It was about all the preparation ALL YEAR LONG in drafting players, evaluating players, motivating them, getting them to play in his system and building a culture of winning where from the top-down to the bottom-up,winning was an obsession.
If you’re aiming to start your own business, build your writing career or pick up that side hobby that will lead to your personal freedom, know that your game plan for winning should focus on an all-encompassing view. There are so many things that involve “winning” and being successful. It’s not just the “doing”, it’s the things like relationship-building, marketing, advertising and continuous learning and improving that make you a winner.
2. Losing is your best friend
The best part about Belichick as a winner is that he learned from losing what wouldn’t work, and he improved mentally as a coach to understand how to be better next time. His evolution as a coach came from the losses, the bumps he took in Cleveland as a first-time head coach. They’ve also come from his big losses in New England, which have been few and far between.
That said, it’s noteworthy to point out that he was aiming to avenge his loss in last year’s Super Bowl tonight against the Los Angeles Rams.
Losing will humble anyone, even the greatest winners of all time. What defines winners are the lessons they learn from losing. It’s said that after losing to the Giants and in Super Bowl XLII, Belichick apologized to his team for a lack of preparation and for being unable to finish off an undefeated season. The loss motivated him to come back and win again.
Some people go their whole lives thinking that losing is like a curse — that we should always avoid it at all costs and treat it like the plague when it happens. But the greatest winners know that losing is what propels, inspires and leads us to keep going and to win the next time. If you’re willing to put in the time after losses, failures, adversity and mistakes, you’ll learn one of life’s greatest nuggets of wisdom: Adversity and losing is your best friend.
Think of some of your greatest triumphs and low points. What did those losses or mistakes teach you? You probably hated them at the time, but if you were willing to put in the focus to learn how to improve, didn’t they lead to bold, powerful growth moments? If they haven’t already, I promise you they will.
3. Become obsessed with your passion and fuse it with your natural talents. Then, become the best you can be
Bill Belichick is where he is today because he is absolutely infatuated, obsessed and enthralled with the game of football. Football is his life. Within football, he satisfied his competitive desire to win, motivate, inspire and get people to work together for a common goal: winning. Everything ties back to his competitive greatness, obsession with his passion and his desire to solve problems and develop schemes that will lead to victory.
The man is a master tactician. In order to become an expert or master of what you do, you need to make a considerable investment of time and effort. You learn from experience, surely, but you also learn tremendously during the “downtime” of when you’re not actively competing for what it is that you do.
Think about what it is that you love to do. When you’re able to build the time into your schedule, become obsessed with your passion. I highly recommend that it’s a passion that melds naturally with your talents. Go “All In.” Watch what happens. And let me know if I can help you on your journey.
You are a winner. Keep going.
This article first appeared on Medium.