Leadership – Reflections on Coach John Wooden’s Wisdom

John Wooden, coach and mentor

John Wooden - Coach and Philosopher


Believe me it’s been a long, long time since I stepped out on the court to compete in the game of basketball.  In fact, I really only played one year in high school.  I was a skinny kid, and not very good, so the next year I opted for jazz band instead, which steered me to my eventual degree in music.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t understand the game and the strategies.  My court heroes at the time were names like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Jerry West, Bob Pettit, and Elgin Baylor.  (Am I showing my age?)  The responsibility of implementing and teaching those strategies, from the bench at UCLA, was another person that was making a name for himself,  Coach John Wooden.

John Wooden

John Robert Wooden (born October 14, 1910) is a retired American basketball coach. He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (class of 1961) and as a coach (class of 1973). He was the first person ever enshrined in both categorie…

Direction On and Off the Court

John Wooden lived to be almost 100 years old and was one of the winning-est coaches in college basketball.  But coach John Wooden wasn’t only a success in the game of basketball, he was also a success in the game of life.  He was a positive thinker, an innovator, and a motivator that was able to transform his command of the game into other areas outside basketball.

Advice From Dad

He was often heard quoting the “two sets of three” which he said he learned from his father.  “Never lie, never cheat, never steal” and “don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses”.  Timeless advice still today.  And certainly things that can be applied to entrepreneurs in their business endeavors.
John Wooden was also known to have carried in his wallet a piece of paper given to him by his father that contained the following advice:
Be true to yourself.
Make each day your masterpiece.
Help others.
Drink deeply from good books.
Make friendship a fine art.
Build shelter against a rainy day.
Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

The 9 Self Promises

John Wooden was certainly given good advice from his father, but John also came up with some pretty good insight and leadership principles on his own, which he followed and taught.  John imparted some of his leadership wisdom through the written word.  Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For a Better Life
and Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization
showcased his ability as an author.   John Wooden felt that if you made the following 9 promises to yourself, you would be well on your way in your pursuit of happiness in life.  They are:
1.  Promise yourself that you will talk health, happiness and prosperity as often as possible.
2.  Promise yourself to make all your friends know there is something in them that is special that you value.3. Promise yourself to think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best in yourself and others.4.  Promise yourself to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

5.  Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

6.  Promise yourself to forget the mistakes of the past, and press on to greater achievements in the future.

7.  Promise yourself to wear a cheerful appearance at all times, and give every person you meet a smile.

8.  Promise yourself to give so much time improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

9.  Promise yourself to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit trouble to press on you.

John Wooden: Coaching for people, not points

www.ted.com With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves. In this inspiring talk he shares the advice he gave his players at UCLA, quotes poetry and remembers his father’s wisdom.TEDTa…

An Example To Follow

Leadership is all about setting an example to inspire others to achieve their individual and team goals.  We as leaders would do well to make these nine self promises, and see how far it takes us.  It’s not about being the MVP on the basketball court. It’s about using leadership to develop teamwork that produces lasting results – something Coach John Wooden was very, very good at.
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2 responses to “Leadership – Reflections on Coach John Wooden’s Wisdom

  1. Such a amazing person. It’s great to hear from him. And i love the video clip. Thanks buddy.

  2. @ cathrin
    Thanks for the comment. How much better off we would be if we would follow his advice on a regular basis, I wonder.

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