“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

–John Wooden

“All you have to do is try your best. And don’t worry what the outcome is going to be. Just try your best.”

–John Wooden, when asked what his best coaching advice was (from the last interview he gave before he died at age 99)

The two John Wooden quotes above span decades. The first one is from his famous “Pyramid of Success.”

He developed this definition of success over a period of many years early in his career, starting when he was a high school English teacher and coach in Indiana. He was frustrated that his students and their parents focused almost solely on grades in the classroom and wins and awards on the court.

Wooden came to the realization that every individual had certain strengths, weaknesses and limitations. He also realized a lot of what society called “success” was outside the individual’s complete control. He understood that all we can fully control is our effort and attitude. And if a person gave 100% in those two areas, they were successful, no matter what the outside perceptions might be.

The second Wooden quote above is a powerful testament to the staying power of Wooden’s philosophy. The man who was voted the greatest coach of all time (across all sports), the man who won 10 NCAA basketball championships in 12 years, continued to believe until his last day on Earth that true success was trying to do your best by focusing on the things you can control: effort and attitude.

He believed that’s all anyone had the right to expect from an athlete, no matter what the scoreboard said after a game.

The beauty of Wooden’s definition of success is that it doesn’t matter if it’s sports, school, work, relationships, or anything else in life, all you’re asked to do is make “the effort to become the best you’re capable of becoming.”

Moreover, it is an egalitarian definition of success. All of us have the opportunity to meet Wooden’s standard — no matter how gifted we are athletically, how intelligent we are, or how good looking we might be.

And that realization brings peace of mind.

–Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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