When people pass away it’s only natural I think to reflect on how that person touched you as an individual. It seems selfish, doesn’t it, that we think about how they affected US rather than simply reflecting on their life. But we all do it.

So on the passing of the great Tommy Hafey, I thought I would share some of the principles I have learnt from Tommy that I shall continue to take with me for the rest of my life.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Tommy Who”, Tommy was a legend of VFL/AFL football, a four-time premiership winning coach and post his involvement in football, an inspirational public speaker, particularly to young children and sporting clubs.

What made Tommy a legend in my eyes was his possibly unrivalled dedication to get the best out of himself. Each morning at 5:20am he would embark on an 8km run, swim, 250 push ups followed by 700 crunches. No kidding! And he did this every day until his recent decline and eventual passing from cancer.

Over the last couple of years I have been fortunate to receive a phone call from Tommy every couple of months. We would often just shoot the breeze with each other, chatting about keeping fit, why people aren’t living to their full potential and why footballers don’t kick it long and direct anymore! He would ask me if I knew any clubs or schools on the lookout for a speaker as he knew I was a massive fan of the impact he had on people. It was hard not to be a massive fan of Tommy. He had that impact on people. His presence will be felt forever and ever. Here’s a sampling of what I have learnt about living an exceptional life from the great Tommy Hafey.

1. Don’t BREAK a contract

Tommy couldn’t stand it when coaches broke contracts with their clubs. “If you sign your name to something, you better make sure you commit to it,” Tommy would say. It reminds me of the Chinese proverb that goes something along the lines of, “Sometimes best not to start the thing. But once started, better finish.” Some people might say that in this day and age Tommy’s wisdom is old-school, but instead I think Tommy’s wisdom is about making LESS decisions (don’t overcommit yourself), and the ones you do make, the commitments you do make to yourself and others, make sure you honour them, because it’s when you do that you truly get the most out of yourself. If you are going to commit to exercising 5 days a week, go out and bloody well do it, don’t pike after one week and say you weren’t good enough.

In his talks to school kids Tommy would recommend they see how many push ups they could do, and then do just 1 more the next day. Most of us these days are trying to double our productivity every day rather than just making some progress, no matter how small it is.


2. “If It is to be it is up to me”

Tommy was a massive fan of this one. “10 little words, two letters each,” he would say. He was big on self-responsibility. You couldn’t shut him up about it. He never took excuses. You never heard Tommy say, “I couldn’t be bothered getting out of bed this morning.” Tommy was a true winner, and he was hellbent on teaching people that they were winners too. Our society has done a pretty good job at telling us that we are mediocre at best, and sadly 95% of people believe it. Tommy’s mission was to remind people that they really can be winners, and that the first step to feeling like one is to take responsibility for our lot in life.

3. “I just love my family”

Tommy was a great example of someone falling more and more in love with their spouse each and every day. You can tell a lot about a relationship the way they talk about their spouse. You could see a flicker in Tommy’s eyes and a feel a sense of fun and excitement in his voice when he spoke of Maureen, their children and his grandchildren. “I’m demented by family” he would say, which would often get my attention through his use of the word demented! In other words he was just head over heels for family, went cuckoo for family, would do anything for family. He loved taking his grandchildren to school, and I think he even took one to university for memory he loved it so much!

Tommy you were a sensational example of a human being. Just a brief look at Tommy’s life makes you realise quite clearly how much putting¬†quality into your quantity of life is more important than the reverse. Tommy lived a FULL life, a life full of vigour, love, dedication, passion and exemplification. Thanks Tommy for showing the way.

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