Leadership Reflection: The Book and the Life of John Wooden

As is written in Wikipedia:

John Wooden (October 14, 1910 – June 4, 2010) was an American basketball player and coach. Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” as head coach at UCLA he won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including an unprecedented seven in a row. Within this period, his teams won a men’s basketball-record 88 consecutive games. Wooden’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA Championships is even more remarkable and impressive because to this day no other coach or school has won the tournament more than two consecutive years.  Wooden was named national coach of the year six times.

As a 5′ 10″ guard, Wooden was the first to be named basketball All-American three times.   Wooden was named a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (inducted in 1961) and as a coach (in 1973), the first person ever enshrined in both categories. Only Lenny Wilkens, Bill Sharman, and Tommy Heinsohn have since been accorded the same honors.

One of the most revered coaches in the history of sports, Wooden was beloved by his former players, among them Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (originally Lew Alcindor) and Bill Walton. Wooden was renowned for his short, simple inspirational messages to his players, including his “Pyramid of Success”. These often were directed at how to be a success in life as well as in basketball.

One of John’s books, “Wooden, A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” is a terrific read.  The book is broken into four parts; in total, there are about 214 individual passages spread over 195 pages. So, it’s the kind of book you can put on your nightstand or throw into a briefcase for a trip and really pick up just about anywhere you want whenever you want.  

The end of the book contains a number of his favorite “maxims” including:

  • “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
  • “Be most interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.”
  • “Much can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.”
  • “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
  • “Make sure the team members know they are working with you, not for you.”

The book and the life of John Wooden have much to offer us.