What a sports weekend this one has been.
On Thursday, Chicago won the Stanley Cup, on Friday, the FIFA World Cup started with some good games all over the weekend and the NBA Finals were on, too.
A tough choice which of those three to write about today. I decided to go for Basketball, as something remarkable for this sport happened during the NBA Finals, when a true Basketball legend died on June 4: Coach John Wooden.
Coach Wooden was the most successful college basketball coaches ever (and player as well, he is one of the few members of the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and a coach). He was head coach at UCLA from 1959 to 1975. During the last twelve years thereof, the team won the National Championship ten times, going unbeaten in four of them. John Wooden died of natural causes at the age of 99 years.
One of the things that made him special was that he was not only focusing on basketball tactics, but tried to address the questions of leadership and success from a broader perspective that made his findings applicable for sports as well as for other fields like business.
As he said, Wooden based a lot of his philosophy on what his father used to teach him. One of the main pillars was that “You should never try to be better than someone else”. Sounds a bit surprising as the mantra of someone competing in sports throughout most of his life. However the idea behind it is simple yet striking: Except for when you try to learn from them, concentrate on yourself and on what you are doing, not on them. You can’t control what others are doing. But “never seize trying to be the best you could be [because] that’s under your control”.
Most of the leadership and management ideas Wooden came up with are based upon the notion of trying to be the best you could be – anytime.
Coach Wooden defines success as follows:
“Piece of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable”
What impresses me the most about this definition is that it helps getting over a short term view and gives you a perspective when things are not going into your direction. Wooden says “Don’t look at the scoreboard”: As long as you give the best you can it does not matter if you win or lose, over time the victories will come. Making piece of mind the ultimate goal gives a strong purpose. At the same time, if you don’t give your best but win anyway, there’s not too much reason to be satisfied. Do the best of which you’re capable and be patient. Can it be put any more condensed?
I’ve seen so many people that were trying to achieve what could not be achieved in the given situation, maybe because they are completely overload with work or because some circumstances beyond their control just don’t permit them to “win”. When they leave the office, they take everything home with them, it bothers them at night when they try to sleep or ruins their weekend though the reasons for not reaching the goals are not within the range of their control. That just doesn’t make sense. It burns you out and makes you lose fun and enthusiasm. No piece of mind.
To get this clear: I am not promoting not to care or just work your hours without caring about the result, but coach Wooden again hits it perfectly:
“If you become too engrossed and involved in concern in regard of the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect the things over which you have control.”
Trying to reach your full potential is hard work. However reaching your full potential does not make you perfect, but it makes you most efficient and effective.
When Wooden was talking about some of his players that came close to reaching their full potential, he said:
“Neither one of those youngsters could shoot very well, but they had outstanding shooting percentages because they didn’t force it, and neither one could jump very well, but they kept good position and so they did well rebounding”
This sports weekend gave some great examples: The Philadelphia Flyers lost the Stanley Cup Final, but they were fighting and playing at the limit of their capabilities. They were successful.
In the opening match of the World Cup, hosts South Africa were up against higher rated Mexico, but only could hold on to a draw. No victory, but a great success.
I wish you all a lot of success for the new week.
John Wooden did not only write a couple of books on the subject, he also compiled his ideas on leadership into his “Pyramid” – a great one-pager to download, print, read and put it on the wall in your office. You can find it for download here.