Success is a journey not a destination.
I was looking over the Greatlist’s suggestions for the 22 Best TED Talks for Fitness, Health, and Happiness Inspiration and came across #6 – John Wooden: The Difference Between Winning and Success. I am sure most of you are familiar with John Wooden, but if not, he was the first basketball player to be named basketball All-American three times and he was one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports. As the head coach at UCLA, he won 10 National Championships in a 12-year period. But it is not his record that I am most impressed with, it is his character and his patience and passion to develop character in his players.
In the TED talk, he mentions that he developed his own definition of success through the wisdom of his father, the things he learned from being a teacher, along with his faith. His father’s “words of wisdom” were:
1. Never try to be better than someone else.
2. Always learn from others.
3. Never cease to be the best you can be.
I believe his father’s words offer great advice for anyone, not just athletes. In other words – only compete with yourself, stay curious and humble, and always strive to do your best.
In his own career as a coach and teacher, he had a rule to NEVER MENTION WINNING, he considered the journey to be far more important than the end with practice being the journey and the games being the end. He also believed that there is no progress without change and besides being on time, being neat and tidy, and not using profanity, he had a strict rule that his players were never allowed to criticize a teammate.
It’s hard not to compare his approach to what is happening in youth team sports today. I have to say, I see or hear so much of the opposite – emphasis on winning, tolerance of attitude and bullying by top players, players who may be good, but not starters sitting on the bench for most of the game,etc. It’s difficult when you are relying on parent volunteer coaches to get consistency throughout a program, but the same can be said of club sports, so maybe (duh) it is the system which is broken. But who/what is driving the system? (Yes parents, the answer is most likely us.) Winning has enormous economic advantage for club teams, but certainly not for middle school teams. I recently had a middle school parent say to me, “last year my son was on a team that lost every game and he hardly played and this year he is on a team that has won every game and he has hardly played.” I know this kid, and it is ridiculous that he or any of his teammates are sitting on the bench for most of the game. My 7th grader lucked out this year, his basketball coaches (and yes, they like winning just as much as anyone) have repeatedly shown that they care more about the team, more about watching each player do their best, giving every player opportunities for success, than the final score. I have seen them explode from their seats in joy as a less skilled player made their first basket, they have enormous patience, and delight in every team member improving their own personal game. I also need to add that they have a really good team, but are ranked no where near the top. My son’s response when I asked him what has made his basketball season so fun this year, “my coaches care more about the team than winning.” John Wooden would be proud.
So, what is John Wooden’s definition of success? Success is “Peace of mind attained only through knowing you made the effort to do the best which you are capable.” May we be reminded of this in everything we do. We are successful when we do our best, not when we try to live up to someone else’s definition of success or accomplishments. My advice to you and myself – make your journey meaningful and interesting, try your best, and dust yourself off when you fall. I certainly hope this is the message that I pass on to my clients with every session. I see so much success in my clients week after week, month after month – watching change happening before my very eyes. Watching my clients try to work a little harder than they did the week before, or setting a new goal, or making a new lifestyle change. Change is certainly not easy, but it is essential to progress. If you want to “never cease to be the best you can be”, then you must always be willing to embrace change to see progress.
If you would like to listen to John Wooden’s TED talk, you can find it here, along with a few others:
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I look forward to seeing you this week!