Top of the Game

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes: ‘Defeat helps you more than success’

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes reveals the secret to his successful mindset
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes reveals the secret to his successful mindset

This story is part of the Top of the Game series, where CNBC Make It delves into the habits, routines and mindsets that top athletes use to achieve peak performance and success.

With an MLB pitcher dad, Patrick Mahomes II has been training to become a professional athlete practically his whole life.

"Ever since I can remember, I was playing something. I didn't think I would be a football player, but I thought I would be a professional athlete for sure ... a baseball or basketball player," the Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback tells CNBC Make It.

Mahomes has had the same trainer since he was 10, and though he didn't focus on football until his sophomore year at Texas Tech, he's known for an uncanny ability to process what's happening around him on the field. He also practices every single kind of wild throw he might make in a game.

With that knack for peak performance, during six seasons in the NFL, Mahomes has become a five-time Pro Bowler, an MVP and a Super Bowl champion. In July 2020, he signed a deal with the Chiefs worth nearly $500 million over 10 years — and is set to lead his team against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl again on Feb. 12.

But for all his wins, Mahomes says a defeat like the Chiefs' 9-31 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January 2021 can be more useful.

"People see me on the field playing and winning a lot of football games, and [they see] the contract and the different businesses that I work with, and they think that everything I'm doing is kind of just working out," Mahomes says.

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs speak after Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9.
Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

But "I think defeat helps you more than success," he adds. "I just do whatever I can to be better and learn from the mistakes."

Here, Mahomes discusses his mindset on the field, his routine, the advice he would give his younger self and more.

On his game-day mindset: Leave everything on the field

Love the game that you're playing and leave everything you have on that field because you've put in that work and that time with the guys that you're playing with.

You want to make sure that you're giving everything that you have every single time that you're out there. Because you never know — it could be your last.

They usually change rosters pretty drastically every single year, so you want to make sure that you're enjoying every single moment that you have those guys on the team.

On learning from defeat: 'It drives you to be better'

When you lose on a football field or if you invest in a company that doesn't work out, or whatever it is, I think that helps you out more because it drives you to learn from your mistakes. It drives you to be better the next time.

I just continue to try to make myself better. I think that's been the biggest thing that I've done my entire life: No matter the success or the failure that I have the previous season, I just try to continue to make myself better every single day.

That's all you can do.

If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true.

On focus: Find the 5 things that make the biggest impact

When you're out there on the field, there are so many things going on. You have to focus on just a [few] things because your brain can only handle so much.

So no matter what the situation is, you have to make sure that you're focused on the five to six things that can help impact the play in the best way possible.

I feel like the score of the game, a lot of times, isn't one of those things you can focus on.

All you can focus on is having a successful play of that play. And then once that plays over, no matter if it was good or bad, you have to do it again.

On training: 'If I don't do it, I don't feel like I completed my day'

All of it's extremely important. But I would say the training, to me, has always been the thing that I've loved the most. I mean not only playing and going out there and practicing, but waking up every single day and getting in a workout in or getting in my [recovery] therapy.

If I don't do it, I don't feel like I really completed my day.

I'm big on waking up early and doing it in the morning. I usually wake up at 6 or 7 in the morning and go get a workout or get therapy. Then I go home and take care of my body which is a sauna, ice bath or hot tub, stretching or massages.

I make sure to get up to get that all done so I can be around my family and be a dad and do whatever I can to have time for myself to relax. [Mahomes is a new dad to daughter Sterling Skye Mahomes, with fiancée Brittany Matthews.]

[As for nutrition], I don't have to be a certain weight, so I can kind of be who I am. As we close this season, I'll cut back and try to figure out ways to tone down as much as possible so I can be faster.

[In the off-season], I still get a workout in every day and get my therapy in or rehab. But I'm able to be more relaxed and have a little more time where I can golf or I can go on vacation and kind of get my mind off of [things].

On where he'll be in 10 years: 'Hopefully still playing football'

Hopefully, I'm still playing football, first of all, and that I've gotten better. I've gotten better on the field and off the field. That I'm a great family man but also a great football player.

I want to be the best family man, football player, businessman that I can be, and hopefully make a great impact in this world.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It was most recently updated on Feb. 3, 2023.

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