John Wooden on Success

John Wooden is arguably the greatest men’s basketball coach of all time. He led UCLA to ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year span. Within this period, his teams won a NCAA men's basketball record 88 consecutive games.

Over the weekend, I was browsing YouTube and discovered his TED Talk from 2001. I watched the video twice because Coach Wooden’s views on success, leadership and winning are refreshing and inspiring, especially in an age where winning at all costs seems to be all that matters.

In this talk, he shares his own definition of success: “Peace of mind attained only through self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” I encourage you to read that one more time. Let his words sink in.

Wooden’s definition of success isn’t about winning, losing, getting to the top of the mountain or having the most money. It’s all about finding inner peace and satisfaction knowing that you did the best you possibly could. I love that.

When he was growing up in Indiana on a farm with no electricity, his father use to say to him don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses…just get out there and do the best of your ability. There was no mention of winning. Coincidentally, my parents instilled a similar philosophy in my siblings and me when we were in high school.

I believe leaders from all types of organizations can learn from Coach Wooden’s perspective on success. At the end of the day, winning isn’t only what truly matters. Just as important is knowing that everyone on the team is working hard together, growing individually and putting in right effort to achieve a common goal.