Practicing Success

Posted November 26, 2009
By Clay Cerny

The subject of my 100th post is a man who is nearly 100 years old, the great basketball coach John Wooden.  Wooden established records that will never be broken.  In 10 of the last 12 years he coached, his UCLA teams won the NCAA title.  During one stretch, they won a remarkable 88 games.

In his 80s, long after retiring, Coach Wooden took on a new trade, author.  He has written books on his life, coaching, and a very important topic to job seekers and career managers:  success. 

The website TED features experts from many fields discussing their projects and passions.  Wooden is featured in a section on “inspiration” (click here for the video).  He often seems a throw back to the 19th century, citing poets who haven’t been taught in schools since he was a child in the 1920s.  Even so, behind words that sometimes sound dated, there is a very relevant plan that anyone can use to be successful (or more successful).

In the 1930s, Wooden crafted a one sentence definition of success that he still advocates today:  “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”

This sentence is not nearly as simple as it seems.  Wooden is not just saying, “Do your best.”  We all tell ourselves we have done our best.  But how many of us have “peace of mind?”  How many of us feel a “self satisfaction” from our work?  Wooden offers us a road map through his “pyramid of success.”  Here we see how this great man defined and practiced a way of life that not only let him be a great coach, but a great thinker.  Wooden wrote his first book in 1997.  Over the last 12 years, he has produced 10 books, including this year’s Coach Wooden’s Game Plan for Success.  Not bad for someone in his nineties.

For John Wooden, success does not mean always winning.  It means preparing to play the right way:  having values, practicing skills, and – most importantly – pursing goals with faith and patience. 

We as job seekers and career managers can learn much from this man and his passion for success.  I’ll close with my favorite saying from Coach Wooden:  “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”