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Learning Success Techniques from a Legend

The best way to learn successful achievement techniques and philosophies is to study those who have consistently made great achievements. It would be hard to find anyone that would match the incredible accomplishments of Coach John Wooden. Wooden spent 41 years of his life coaching basketball teams and in all of those years he only had 1 losing season. While coaching the UCLA Bruins NCAA team he was able to amass some of the most incredible achievements in all of sporting history including: 10 NCAA National Championships (a record) ; 88 consecutive game wins (a record); 38 straight tournament wins (a record); and four perfect seasons with no losses (a record). He won 7 National Championships in a row and retired from UCLA after winning the Championship in his last season. To hold any one of these records would be significant, to own them all would seem impossible. Many believe that some of the records Coach Wooden set will stand forever and cannot be broken.

While Wooden quite possibly had more wins than anyone in the history, oddly enough, in all his years of coaching he rarely, if ever, uttered the word “win”, talked about “beating” an opponent, or exhorted a team to be number one. Before the start of every game, whether he was coaching the first game of a High School Season or an NCAA Championship game, his final words were always the same. “When its over I want your heads up. And there is only one way your heads can be up and that is to give it your best out there, everything you have”. That is all he ever asked of a team because it was something they had control over and it was all they could ever give. He says when you give your total effort, everything you have, the score can never make you a loser and when you do less you cant somehow be magically turned into a winner. Just accepting this philosophy dramatically improves your probability of success or winning the race.

Defining Success

Wooden defined success as:

Peace of mind which is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.

Wooden says that personal greatness is not determined by the size of the job, but by the size of the effort one puts into the job. Self-satisfaction will come from the knowledge that you left no stone unturned in an effort to accomplish everything possible under the circumstances. You and only you will know when you have achieved this success. You can fool others but you can never fool yourself. Others will attempt to force their definition of success upon you but you must never let them because success is different for Everyone.

Wooden taught that there will always be others who are bigger, stronger, quicker but there are other qualities in which you can be second to none. Among these are your dedication to the development of your own potential, your industriousness, your integrity, and self-control. Wooden said he disciplined himself and the teams he led to focus on and worry about only those things over which they had control, namely, getting as good as they could get and striving to reach their own capabilities.

Happiness is found in the Journey

Wooden says that he has always believed that success and happiness are found in the running of the race. How you run the race your: planning, preparation, practice, and performance counts for everything. The joy is in the journey of pushing yourself to the outward limits of your ability. Wooden strove to reach what he called Competitive Greatness (being at your best when your best is required) in himself and his teams. He said Competitive Greatness was “A real love for the hard battle, knowing that it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required.” The struggle itself, the test, is what gives value to the prize.

Coach Wooden saw his job of Coaching to be about much more than just teaching Basketball. He often spoke of creating balance everywhere. He said balance is one of the most important things in life and its important everywhere in everything we do.

Importance of Planning

Planning was critical to Coach Wooden. He believed that all activity must be organized with a Goal in mind. He had every team practice planned out ahead of time, in great detail, to the minute. He used 3X5 cards and was always looking at the clock to stay on time. There was complete organization and he was a master at using time efficiently. He believed that winning was the result of process and he was a master of the process. Before the first whistle blew for practice He had meticulously detailed with his assistant coaches what they would accomplish and how they would accomplish it. He would save his notes and would come back to them many years later for analysis.

Wooden said “Activity, to produce real results, must be organized and executed meticulously. Otherwise, it’s no different from children running around the playground at recess”. Lots of movement but little achievement. There is a tautness in how things are run when time is being used efficiently. He described this “tautness” as being like sailing a ship whose sails are tight in the wind rather than fluttering in the breeze.

Wooden says that he learned to “make everyday your masterpiece” from his father. He believes that perfection is not possible by mortal man but he tried to make every minute of his teaching as good as it could be and make each meeting a masterpiece, each practice a pursuit of perfection. Each minute of time offers the opportunity to get better and better, closer and closer to our goals.

Wooden stresses the importance of recording the tasks, initiatives, and actions that you need to do to perform at your peak level. Focus on those actions that you need to be most effective. Wooden said he derived great satisfaction from identifying and perfecting those “trivial” but relevant details, because he knew, without a doubt, that each one brought them a bit closer to the goal.

Adversity if Your Asset

Wooden often said that “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out”. He believes that adversity is our asset and it can make us stronger, smarter, better, and tougher. Most worthwhile things in the competitive world come wrapped in adversity. Don’t worry about those things over which you have no control. We cant control fate, only our response to it. Don’t let the things you cant control effect the things that you can control. Adversity presents the opportunity, namely, that your response can separate you from the competition who is stunned and disheartened when fate frowns. Expect the rough patches and allow them to make you stronger. You must truly welcome and embrace the trials and tribulations of competition. Regarding the competition he taught his teams to respect all, but fear none.

Setting Proper Goals

Wooden’s personal goal at the beginning of each season was always to win their conference title. This was the practical way to approach things for him. At that time only conference champions were eligible for the National NCAA tournament. The goal of winning the conference title presented a good deal of information in advance, specifically, he knew about the schedule, who they would play, coaches, venues, and even referees. He knew when they would be playing and where the game would be. This situation was very different from the NCAA tournament. He knew nothing about who the opponents would be until season concluded so instead of thinking about it and worrying about it he dismissed it from his mind. He worked backward from his long term goal (the conference championship) to the very short term steps of taking full advantage of each practice.

Wooden believes that little things make big things happen. There are no big things only a logical accumulation of little things done at a very high standard of performance. Great things can only be accomplished by doing little things right. Long Term Success Requires Short Term Focus.

You must set realistic goals but once they are achieved you must not become satisfied. Work constantly to improve. Perfection is a goal that can never be reached, but it must be the objective.

This article is reprinted from My Goal Manager which is an interactive service that follows the strategies and philosophies of some of the most respected resources throughout history to help you: identify and utilize natural talents, create a personal success roadmap, fuel the fires of motivation, keep Your finger on the pulse of progress, confidently make complex decisions, maintain complete organization over your schedule, and much more. Check out My Goal Manager and begin an exciting journey today!

One Comment

  1. I feel one needs to have a proper Goal and a strategy which leads to that in order to achieve the success you want

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