John Wooden: winning and succeeding

I recently watched my son’s soccer team, they are all either six or seven years young, play their last two games of the outdoor season. Due to their low age they are not eligible to play in any official league yet, hence the trainers from all these different clubs who are participating are organising unofficial type of games during weekends.

At the end of these matches every participant got a medal. Out of the 12 or so teams there wasn’t a single player who did not get a medal and they all got the very same model. No gold, no silver, no bronze, no losers either. The message was clear: you applied yourself, you gave it your best effort, each and everyone of you contributed to the success of this league and you can be proud of your individual and your team’s progress.

It reminded me of John Wooden (October 14, 1910 – June 4, 2010), the famous “American basketball player and head coach at the University of California. Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” he won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a row. No other team has won more than four in a row in Division 1 college men’s or women’s basketball. Within this period, his teams won an NCAA men’s basketball record 88 consecutive games.“ (Wikipedia entry).

I interpret his way of defining success to stem from a very similar mindset like the above soccer story: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Isn’t this beautiful? You are the only person who can truly assess if you are successful or not.

I recommend his book “Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization” and here is a TED talk in which he is describing his philosophy regarding winning and success. Let me know what you think about it.