Coach John Wooden on sustainability

January 27, 2022 by Joshua
in Leadership, Models, Tips

I just finished reading Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court. His coaching tells more how to live sustainably as individuals and a culture than anything else I remember reading or hearing.

For those who don’t know, from Wikipedia:

John Wooden (1910 – 2010) was an American basketball coach and player. He won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach for the UCLA Bruins, including a record seven in a row. No other team has won more than four in a row. His teams won a record 88 consecutive games. Wooden won National Coach of the Year a record seven times and the AP award five times. They had four perfect 30–0 seasons, won 38 straight games in NCAA tournaments and 98 straight home wins.

As a 5’10” guard, Wooden was the first player to be named basketball All-American three times. His 1932 Purdue college team was recognized as national champion. The Basketball Hall of Fame inducted him as a player (1960) and coach (1973), the first person in both categories.

Here’s a post of mine with a video on Abdul-Jabbar talking about Coach Wooden’s effect on him, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on John Wooden — one of the best basketball players on one of the best coaches, that I use in my leadership classes and workshops.

John Wooden’s favorite maxims

Read the book to learn how he coached and led individuals and teams to reach their potentials. His results speak for themselves, but they’re just record after record, amid love, admiration, and respect from his players, staff, and opponents.

He ended his book with his favorite maxims. Nearly all relate to what we humans have to do to restore Earth’s ability to sustain life and keep our consumption and population within its limits if we want to avoid steep involuntary population collapse.

People learning and living these maxims will help us live joyfully sustainably more than teaching facts, numbers, and instructions. Those things are important, but they don’t change behavior. Exercise to the reader: consider how each maxim applies to leading yourself and your teams (family, community, nation, species) to living joyfully sustainably. Some are more subtle, meaningful, or useful than others.

Happiness begins where selfishness ends.

Earn the right to be proud and confident.

The best way to improve the team is to improve ourself.

Big things are accomplished only through the perfection of minor details.

Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.

Ability may get you to the top, but character keeps you there.

I will get ready and then, perhaps, my chance will come.

If I am through learning, I am through.

If you do not have the time to do it right, when will you find time to do it over?

The smallest good deed is better than the best intention.

The man who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success.

Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.

Time spent getting even would be better spent trying to get ahead.

What you learn after you know it all counts.

Consider the rights of others before your feelings, and the feelings of others before your rights.

There is nothing stronger than gentleness.

You discipline those under your supervision to correct, to help, to improve; not to punish.

Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting.

Make sure the team members know they’re working with you, not for you.

Be most interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.

What is right is more important than who is right.

You handle things. You work with people.

As long as you try your best, you are never a failure. That is, unless you blame others.

Tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember a story.

Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.

If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.

Although there is not progress without change, not all change is progress.

If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.

The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

The worst thing you can do for those you love is the things they could and should do for themselves. (Abraham Lincoln)

One of the most beautiful compensations of life is that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can.

Concern yourself more with your character than your reputation. Character is what you are; reputation is merely what others perceive you to be.

Love is the greatest word in our language.

Much can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.

Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.

Never be disagreeable just because you disagree.

Be slow to critcize and quick to commend.

Concern yourself more with what you can do for others than what others can do for you. You’ll be surprised at the results.

The more we concern ourselves with things we can’t control, the less we will with the things we can.

Don’t let fear of failure prevent effort. We are all imperfect and will fail on occasions, but fear of failure is the greatest failure of all.

Being average means you are as close to the bottom as to the top.

The time to make friends is before you need them.

We are many, but are we much?

Nothing can give you greater joy than doing something for another.

Material things are not gifts but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for another without thought of something in return.

Do not mistake activity for achievement.

You can do more good by being good than any other way.

Forget favors given; remember those received.

Make friendship a fine art.

Treat all people with dignity and respect.

Acquire peace of mind by making the effort to become the best you can.

Bonus: He also said of himself: “I am just a common man who is true to his beliefs.”

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