#299 The wisdom of John Wooden

John Wooden died June 4, 2010, not quite four months shy of his 100th birthday. The revered basketball coach is still missed. In a period of twelve years, the UCLA head coach won ten NCAA national championships, seven of them in a row. From 1971 to 1973 he led his team to 88 consecutive victories.

The 2001 talk he gave on how he defines success is still a model looked to be many. Thanks to TED, everyone can hear it.

Wooden threw out old definitions of success based on money and material goods and replaced them with his own. He decided success was “Peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”

He cobbled together his personal view of success based on his father’s teachings, a lot of poetry, and his own observations. To guide his classroom teaching at UCLA, he chose this verse:

No written word, no spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they should be
Nor all the books on all the shelves
It’s what the teachers are themselves

From what I’ve heard about Coach Wooden, he had the same view of coaching. He never talked with his team about winning. He talked about doing their best, telling them, “You can lose when you can outscore somebody in a game, and you can lose when you outscore somebody.”

John Wooden coached winning teams, but the final score was the byproduct. He brought out the best in his basketball players. His string of wins has still never been matched, but what he wanted most, and achieved, was for his players to walk away as winners, no matter how the game ended.

John Wooden was the kind of mentor everyone needs, the kind who sees and nurtures whatever strengths are in those who come through his door.

Rest in peace, Coach Wooden. You changed a lot of lives.


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