Sunday, June 06, 2010

Coach Wooden: Definitions of Success

I have just finished reading the fabulous Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court by the all-time greatest ever college basketball coach, John Wooden with Steve Jamison.  Apparently still alive, but gravely ill at 99, Coach Wooden was profiled in Carol Dweck's fantastic book, Mindset, which I reviewed previously, and I am now reading some of the books recommended therein.

Wooden's approach to teaching, coaching, and life, which led him to an unrivalled record as coach of the  UCLA Bruins, including 10 national championships, including a streak of 7 (the previous record was 2 in a row), was built on an unconventional but efficacious definition of success.  He disagrees with the dictionary definition:
I knew how Mr. Webster defined it: "as the accumulation of material possessions or the attainment of a position of power or prestige, or something of that sort." Worthy accomplishments perhaps, but in my opinion not necessarily indicative of success. So I wanted to come up with something of my own. ...

From those things, and one other perhaps, I coined my own definition of success. Which is: Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you're capable. I believe that's true. If you make the effort to to the best of which you're capable, try and improve the situation that exists for you, I think that's success.

The catch in this is that it leads to highly refined, systematic, and committed approach to training and learned.  It's not easy, it's not about talent, but consistent and intelligent practice and teamwork.

The ultimate accolade that Wooden received was that his past players routinely said that more than teaching them how to play basketball, he showed them how to succeed in life.  It took fifteen years for Wooden to win his first national championship, but well before then, by his own lights he was already successful.

His book is great, and you should read it.  Here's a sample of some more of his pithy wisdom:
The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning: namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition and repetition.
Needless to say, everything in the book is applicable to almost any area of endeavour.


Nancy said...

That's great sensei.

One of the problems with the modern world today is the idea that success is measured by external standards rather than encouraging each individual to find their own calling.

It is only when we can look inside ourselves and find our own authenticity do we then lead much more satisfactory lives.

Peace & love.