by John Wooden

Read: 2/2013


John Wooden is considered the greatest coach of all time. This short book encapsulates his philosophy of success.

Notes & Quotes

"It took me a long time to understand that even a stubborn mule responds to gentleness." - Wooden on his father's example of being strong but gentle.

"He was the kind of man I set out to be. He was the model."

Father's two sets of threes:
on honesty:

dealing with adversity:

From Reverend Henry Van Dyke:
Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow-man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and Heaven securely.

On the other side of the paper, Dad wrote out Seven Things to Do:

On each of those:

Happiness, freedom, and piece of mind are always attained when we give them to others.

"Never believe you're better than anybody else, but remember that you're just as good as everybody else."

"Family is first. Always. Always."

The greatest word in the whole dictionary is love.

No written word
nor 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
- Unknown

"The goal in life is just the same as in basketball: make the effort to do the best you are capable of doing . . . The effort is what counts in everything."

Perfection is impossible. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility.

Learn Forever, Die Tomorrow - learn like you are going to live forever, don't waste time as if you were going to die tomorrow.

"You often find what you are looking for."

"I believe the greatest joy one can have is doing something for someone else without any thought of getting something in return."

"Control your temper and don't use profanity."

After college a professional basketball team offered him 5K to come play basketball. That was big money back then -- about 4x what he would make teaching. He went to his coach for advice on whether to accept the offer. Coach asked him why he came to college. Wooden then realized he came to college to become a teacher and a coach. He decided to turn down the offer and stay true to himself. "You'll usually do all right, though, if you have the courage to be true to yourself."

"I also believe that things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out."

Six ways to bring out the best in people

"Set your compass in a chosen direction and then focus your attention and efforts completely on the journey of preparation. A successful journey becomes your destination and is where your real accomplishment lies."

"I informed every player who came under my supervision that the outcome of a game was simply a by-product of the effort we made to prepare."

"You never fail if you know in your heart that you did the best of which you are capable. I did my best. That is all I could do."

"Only one person on earth knows if you made you best effort. . . You can fool everyone else."

"Learn from the past, don't live in the past."

Wooden never assume they would lose, even when they were big underdogs, but he would never assume they would win either.

Things don't always work out. If you can learn from it, fine, but never second guess yourself. Its wasted effort.

"I believe one of my strengths is my ability to keep negative thoughts out. I am an optimist. I believe this results from the fact that I set realistic goals -- ones that are difficult to achieve, but within reach. You might say I'm a realistic optimist."

"You will find that success and attention to details, the smallest details, usually go hand in hand, in basketball and elsewhere in life." For example, at the very first practice Coach would teach the youngsters how to put on their socks. Any wrinkles could cause blisters. Coach didn't overlook small details.

Don't think big, think positively. Hoping for the impossible is unproductive. If you're not seven feet tall, you're not seven feet tall. But go for the "difficult but possible."

"Mix idealism with realism and add hard work."

"What joy can be derived in sports from overcoming someone who is not as capable as you are? But there is great joy and satisfaction in competing against an opponent who forces you to dig deep and produce your best."

"Too often the big talkers are the little doers."

You cannot overachieve. You either achieve or underachieve.

Eight Suggestions for Success:

Coach Piggy Lambert of Purdue said: "The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win." The doer makes mistakes. Mistakes come from doing, but so does success.

"I think neatness and courtesy make you feel good about yourself. I believe individuals who feel good about themselves are more productive."

Nine Promises that can bring happiness:

"I never mentioned winning or victory to my players. I never referred to "beating" an opponent. Instead I constantly urged them to strive for the self-satisfaction that always comes from knowing you did the best you could to become the best of which you are capable."

"Don't measure yourself by what you've accomplished, but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities."

"Don't compare yourself to somebody else, especially materially . . . It's a guaranteed way to make yourself miserable. Envy, jealousy, and criticism can become cancerous."

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

One of coach's most common expressions was "move, move, move." He meant it physically and mentally. In practice they would do a play. Then, they would do it again but faster. Then again but faster. It to the point where games seemed like they were happening in slow motion.

"balance means keeping things in proper perspective, not permitting either excessive exuberance or dejection to interfere with preparation, performance, or subsequent individual or team behavior." In life we must have balance too.

The worst punishment of all: "Gentlemen, practice is over." Practice was a privilege.

"Develop a love for details. They usually accompany success."

"I believe performing with style and class is a first priority, especially if you're in the public spotlight. If you're in that position, you do have a responsibility."

"Don't look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time."

Talent is God-given: be humble.
Fame is man-given: be thankful.
Conceit is self-given: be careful.

How to be a champion by Grantland Rice

You wonder how they do it,
You look to see the knack,
You watch the foot in action,
Or the shoulder or the back.

But when you spot the answer
Where the higher glamours lurk,
You'll find in moving higher
Up the laurel-covered spire,
That most of it is practice,
And the rest of it is work.

Somebody told Lincoln "Mr. President, you're supposed to destroy your enemies, not make friends of them!" Mr Lincoln replied, "Am I not destroying an enemy when I make a friend of him?"

"Success is giving 100 percent of your effort, body, mind, and soul, to the struggle. That you can attain. That is success."