Happy Birthday, John Wooden

Happy Birthday, John Wooden John Wooden turns 99 on Wednesday. In those 99 years, the legendary basketball coach has imparted a lot of wisdom to a lot of people.

I am one of them.

The first seed was planted when I was about 12, and my dad introduced me to Wooden’s "Pyramid of Success" — 25 behaviors the coach believed were necessary to achieve success in anything. Wooden expressed his philosophy with a simple diagram of a pyramid. It had five levels and 15 buildings blocks.

My dad carried a picture of that pyramid inside his wallet on a piece of paper the size of a business card. One day, he pulled out the card, and I studied it. You almost needed a magnifying glass to read the fine print, but I was able to decipher every block:

Competitive Greatness
Poise, Confidence
Condition, Skill, Team Spirit
Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness
Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm

Those can be heady concepts for a kid, but each one of them made sense to me, and the pyramid stuck in my heart.

Ever since that day, I have heeded Wooden’s words and done my best to follow his advice.

The principles are always close to me. At work, I have two of Wooden’s pyramids hanging on a bulletin board at my desk. At home, another pyramid hangs on the refrigerator door. I must look at the pyramid at least 100 times a day. It offers a daily reminder on the importance of giving 100 percent even when nobody’s watching.

I am not alone. Many others have been influenced and inspired by Wooden.

It’s hard not to be.

The man knows a little bit about success. During his tenure at UCLA from 1948 to 1975, the Wizard of Westwood led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships — including seven national titles in a row from 1967 to 1973. He also won an amazing 88 straight games from 1971 to 1973.

The Sporting News recently named him the greatest coach of all time in any sport.

But more than being a winner, Wooden was, is and will always be a great teacher. He has shown others the right way to live, and his leadership continues to set an example of excellence.

That’s more important than any game.

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