The Wooden inspiration

Unless you are a big sports fan, you may have missed the passing this past weekend of John Wooden.  Who was he?

Only the most revered basketball mind to ever play or coach the game. He was inducted into the basketball hall of fame once as a player and once as a coach.  Known as the Wizard of Westwood, he coached the UCLA Bruins Men’s Basketball team to 10 national championships. He went 88 consecutive games without a loss, and had four perfect 30 – 0 seasons.

But, to say that John Wooden was an outstanding basketball coach would only be scratching the surface.

No one gets to Coach Wooden’s level of success without learning – and teaching – many valuable lessons.  He didn’t just ‘luck’ into a good program and enjoy the benefits.  His work ethic, determination and wisdom led to his success.

Those lessons translate very well off the hardwood.  Wooden was a much sought-after speaker for universities, corporations and many other groups.

And, I believe that what he had to teach works well for woodworkers.

How many times do we go to our shops looking to build the ‘perfect’ project.  One with absolutely no flaws, no mistakes, a perfect grain match and perfect finish. Or, maybe you are looking to build a commissioned project that will improve your bottom line and allow you to buy more tools.

In other words, you want to be a ‘success’ at woodworking.  But, what the heck is success?  How will you know it when you see it?

According to Wooden, success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are possible.  In other words, success is not measured in perfect projects, smiling recipients or the sale of a project.  It’s in knowing you have done the best you are capable of.

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So, how do you get there?  To climb to this zen-like state, Wooden set out a pyramid of success with each block building on the last ones.  Sure, it may look like some BS graphic created by an MBA student looking to get an A in a class, but one thing Coach Wooden did was live this, leading to the success his teams enjoyed.

At the top of the pyramid is competitive greatness – the ability to perform at your best when your best is required.  But, how do you get there?  You need to have poise (the ability to not be shaken when things go against you) and confidence (You have to believe in your abilities).  The only way to get poise and confidence is to condition yourself (get your mind right to achieve the task), develop your skills and enjoy team spirit.

Yeah, team spirit.  An ability to learn from others and share your expertise freely. The ability to work with your family to ensure everyone stays happy so there’s less friction when it comes to working in the shop.  The pyramid goes on from there…

Since I saw Coach Wooden’s pyramid of success, I have printed it out and placed it in my shop.  It’s a subtle reminder to me that I have come far with woodworking, but I still have much to learn and do to truly achieve success.

Thanks, Coach, for what you have done for sport and for life. I’ll keep putting 100% effort into improving myself, just as you taught others.

One thought on “The Wooden inspiration”

  1. Hi Tom…… in a round about way, this is a topic I am very familiar with. My foundation is built on the education one gets through athletics. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to be Coached by an indivdidual just as good if not better than Wooden. A great man who I am still in contact with.

    I have thought often about the use of sports metaphors through my working years and have come to the conclusion that they work individually but on a yearly performance basis. What is lost in your use of Wooden’s Pyramid is that it was created on a rotating basis. The Freshman athlete comes in and is taught the foundation while the Coach works his Juniors and Seniors indivdiually each at a different level. Its the constant banter in the differing levels of success amongst the group that leads to lifes lessons.

    I have found that you can apply this, but you have to remember that athletics are performed 1 season at a time. So the key to applying Wooden’s pyramid is a yearly indivdiual shop challenge and performance evaluation not just making stuff. I know you have challenged yourself in the shop enough, where I was moved to write about your success.

    As for applying it to the Internet Woodworking Community, that’s really where you would like to think it might help. The Community is fragmented and all cliqued out, every block of the pyramid tainted. Even your elbowing of the MBA didn’t show much “FRIENDSHIP”. The “CONDITION” of the community can be addressed as just recently, I’ve heard and witnessed indivduals being harassed rather than helped. Individuals seeking to be percieved as leaders when in essence its just conning themselves ahead at the expense of others. The “INDUSTRIOUSNESS” of the community needs work as it continues to copy others work then try to justify it or ignore “LOYALTY”. Those who are percieved as leaders seek to present themselves first, rather than the greater good. The Maloof DVD and other instances left unnamed kill me.

    Leaving the Village Carpenter and a few others working quietly much like my Coach aside, Wooden would be disgusted with the Internet Woodworking Community.

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