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John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success – Try It!

basketballsuccessI am a big fan of John Wooden, longtime coach of UCLA’s basketball teams, and his philosophy of success.  I was fortunate to see his last game that he coached in San Diego when UCLA won the NCAA championship.


“Success is peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden

Coach Wooden had a Pyramid of Success which I have up in my office that consists of the following levels and items:

Top Level: Competitive Greatness
4th  Level: Poise, Confidence
3rd Level: Condition, Skill, Team Spirit
2nd Level: Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness
Bottom Level: Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm

I am not going to cover the pyramid in detail in this blog post but if you are interested in learning more check out: http://www.coachwooden.com/pyramid-of-success#Pyramid.

Here are some of my thoughts on Coach Wooden’s philosophy on success:

  1. He believed that there was no substitute for very hard work when it comes to success.  Many individuals want to take short cuts to success but that doesn’t happen.  Spend that extra hour every day learning, reading and interacting to increase your skill.  You always need to be learning.  I love this quote, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”  Skill is an ongoing and lifelong process.But hard work is not enough.  You need to have passion in that work and have enthusiasm that infuses hard work.
  2. In the center of the Wooden Pyramid of Success is loyalty. Leaders who are worthy of loyalty are capable of demonstrating they care. Loyalty from the top inspires loyalty from below.  This is missing from many companies today.  As a good friend told me and I say it often, “The secret sauce of leadership is be genuine”.  We all want to be part of an organization or team whose leadership cares about them, provides respect and fairness.”A great leader takes blame as well as gives credit to others, when deserved.  I have personally seen this often, where a boss is not involved in a project and does not listen when informed of issues but is the first to take the credit for success. Or if not a success, boss blames the Project Lead or team for its lack of success.  The boss should get the blame for not helping, not being involved and not providing the necessary items to the team.  And the credit for success should go to the team.  The boss should not be the one presenting the project update to the executive team.  Have the project lead or team do the presentation.Drastic actions such as hiring consultants, firing people or reorganizing should only be done after the boss has become involved with their team and listened to their concerns.
  3. Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do.  Have self-control.  Wooden felt you had to control yourself so others won’t have to do it for you.  Know who you are and be true to yourself.  Life is not easy.  Work is not easy.  Working with others is not easy.  Keep going.  Be determined.  Be persistent.  Easily achieved items are rarely long-lasting.
  4. My favorite John Wooden quote is “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”  There is never enough time to be sure (and if you are sure, you’re probably too late), but you must always keep your balance.  Take initiative.  Failure to act could be the biggest failure of all.  I have worked at companies where we all knew that our implementation of the CRM system was a failure.  Improper setup and bad data.  And upper management did nothing about it until it was too late and they over react.  Failure happens.  We are not perfect.  Train yourself not to fear failure.  It if far worst to be inactive when it is time to act.Andrew Hill, a former player of Coach Wooden, wrote a book titled “Be Quick — But Don’t Hurry! Finding Success in the Teachings of a Lifetime”.  I read it and found it very useful.  In this book, Andrew Hill tells the story of his friendship with Coach Wooden as well as sharing the lessons and secrets that Hill learned from Coach Wooden so that he could successfully manage others.

“Concentrate on your job, give it maximum effort, and if the rest of the organization is doing the same thing, success is virtually unavoidable.” – Andrew Hill

Coach John Wooden was the greatest college basketball coach of all time and the most successful.  He knew what needed to be done.  I hoped that the above was helpful to you and that it will interest you in learning more about Coach Wooden’s philosophy and his Pyramid of Success.  Let me know any thoughts you have on being successful.


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