Coach Wooden’s Wisdom: the Difference Between Winning and Success

In 2001, Coach John Wooden spoke for a TED talk.  He discussed the definition of success and some of the “secrets” he learned as a teacher and coach.  The video is just short of 18 minutes and is a delightful and practical way to spend that time.

He defines success as “peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you were capable.”  He distinguishes between success and winning, comparing them to character (what you really are) and reputation (what you are perceived to be).  In each couplet, the former is more important than the latter.

Three “secrets” of success, according to Wooden?

1. Punctuality & cleanliness –  Never be late, be neat and clean, start on time, close on time

2. Not one word of profanity

3. Never criticize a teammate

Three more, from his father:

1. don’t whine

2. don’t complain

3. whatever you’re doing, go out there and do it to the best of your ability

Sometimes, we just need some really down to earth advice.  The sensational can disappoint.  Sometimes the way forward is the “boring,” the “routine,” the “pedestrian” things we’ve always heard but tend to ignore.  Don’t you think we have at least one book of the Bible, in part, for that very reason?  (The book of Proverbs, if you haven’t guessed.)

Take Coach Wooden’s advice to heart, and apply it to the spiritual realm as well.  Jesus asked what it profits a man if he gains the world and loses his own soul (Mark 8:36).  That’s a great distinction between “winning” and success, right there.  Eternal life, and eternal success, is to know Jesus, who has the final victory (John 17:3; Rev 11:15).

Coach Wooden carried a seven point creed his father had given him.  Here’s his description of it:

“Be true to yourself,” it says. “Make each day your masterpiece, help others, drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible, make friendship a fine art, build a shelter against a rainy day, pray for guidance, count and give thanks for your blessings every day.” From ESPN’s “Forever Coach” page


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