Happy Thanksgiving to everyone (and to our non-US readers, Happy Thursday!). Over in our free LSAT Discussion Forum, I've been trading messages with one of our students that is working towards a 170. He started at 143, and despite having increased his score over 20 points already, he's run into a few issues with confidence and having the words of others affect his perception of how he will perform. I won't recount what I've said to him publicly because it's right there on the forum, but I have also been chatting with him privately, and I mentioned an example to him that I felt was worth sharing with everyone. As you have no doubt guessed from the title of this post, it centers on Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots.
First, let me say that I'm not a Patriots fan, so this isn't some Patriots love fest (for the record, I'm a Vikings fan, as difficult as it is for me to say that this year with this terrible coaching staff
who should be fired who was thankfully fired). Second, whether or not you are a sports fan, this article will still be of value to you. You don't need to like football or know much about it to understand the message.
In my discussion with Thomas, the student in the messages linked above, we were talking about how the comments of others can directly impact how you feel about yourself. In this case, some people were telling him that there was no way he could go from 143 into the 170s, and it was undermining his confidence. As I talk about at length in our free LSAT Test Mentality Seminar, confidence and self-belief are necessary to doing well. If you don't believe you can do well, you won't do well. The conversation turned to Tom Brady, and how some of the facts of his background relate to LSAT preparation.
The first fact relates to Brady's confidence in himself. He came out of college as a 6th round draft choice in the NFL. As a reference, there are only 7 rounds in each draft, and in each round typically every team has a single choice. So, Tom Brady wasn't among the highest picks in the draft that year (2000), and overall he was the 199th pick. He certainly wasn't the first quarterback taken that year; he was the 7th QB picked in a year considered very weak at the quarterback position (the QBs selected ahead of Brady were: Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn). You might think that this would have dented his self-confidence, but you couldn't be further from the truth.
In a story told by Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, during the pre-season camp in 2000 while Brady was a rookie at the bottom of the depth chart for QBs, he ran into the owner. Brady said to him, “We’ve never met, but I’m Tom Brady.” Kraft replied, “I know who you are, you’re the quarterback from Michigan. You were our sixth-round draft choice.” Brady replied, “Yes, and I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.”
Think about that for a moment. Here's a guy struggling to make the team at that point, and he meets the owner for the first time and tells him without any hint of joking that he's the best choice the franchise ever made. That takes some confidence! Of course, thereafter he famously set out being just that, and he is certainly in the argument for being the best quarterback ever to play the game. Consider whether that would have happened if instead Brady's attitude had been, "Gee Mr. Kraft, it's really nice meeting you. I know you have no idea who I am, but I really hope I make the team—I'm not sure I will but I'll try hard!" I'd wager that if he had that attitude, I wouldn't be writing this article about him right now.
Another interesting point about Tom Brady relates to other people's initial perception of him. While in college at Michigan, he was reasonably successful, but clearly not so successful that the NFL was frothing at the mouth to draft him. In fact, the general perception given his 6th round draft position was that at best he was going to be a career backup. Football experts didn't really think he was anything special. If Brady had listened to them, it would have affected his self-belief and then ultimately his actual performance.
And this brings me to my second point: what other people think of you doesn't matter. What matters is what you actually go out and do. In Brady's case, he ignored the perceptions of others, and he went out set the football world on fire (I also think this occurred in part due to his famous competitiveness, which is another useful trait for LSAT success). And, ultimately, the opinions of the experts didn't matter because they weren't on the field; he was.
In the case of Thomas, our LSAT student, he was having some troubles shaking off the comments and views of others (and this is understandable—it's hard to ignore other people telling you that you can't do something). But, as he and I discussed, the people telling him he couldn't do it weren't going to be taking the test for him. He was taking the test, and whatever they thought was irrelevant to his actions.
In that vein, we discussed how what he had already done had beaten the expectations of others. He started at 143, and if you ask most people if someone with a starting score of 143 can hit the mid-160s, the answer is no, it probably won't happen (that's not my answer, however). Against expectations Thomas had already achieved that, and now he was pretty close to 170. But, he remained uncertain as to whether he could make it the rest of the way, in part because people had told him he couldn't make it to 170. The point I relayed to him was that, if 20 years ago you asked a panel of NFL experts whether a 6th round draft choice was going to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, they would have uniformly said no, it was extremely unlikely. Yet, that very thing happened. In Thomas' case, he's already done something that most people didn't think he could do, so what was stopping him from going just a little bit further?
In your life, you'll always have someone telling you that you can't do something or that you don't have the ability. Screw those people. They aren't the ones taking the LSAT for you or living your life, and the only limitations you have are the ones you impose upon yourself. So ignore the negative things people say, focus on working hard towards your goal, and maintain a steadfast confidence and belief that you can do it. By doing so you will increase your chances of success, and actually make it more likely to happen.
By the way, this article is called Tom Brady and the LSAT, so has Tom Brady ever taken the test? I don't know, but if he did, I bet he'd destroy it.
Have questions? Please post them in the comments below!
Photo: "Tom Brady" courtesy of Keith Allison.