I was captivated by John Wooden’s childhood stories, especially what his Dad taught him.
In Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations & Reflections On & Off The Court by John Wooden with Steve Jamison, Wooden says his dad gave him a piece of paper with a list of things that would guide him for the rest of his life.
He would use this guidance to shape his career, marriage and general philosophy.
The list was titled: “Seven Things to Do.” And when Wooden’s dad handed it to him, he said, “Son, try to live up these things.”
Here are Wooden’s Seven Things to Do (with short comments from me after each):
At the end of the day, there is no one whose opinion matters more than your own…so be true to yourself.
And Wooden warns you not to get caught up in how you size up to others:
“Don’t compare. Don’t try to be better than someone else. But whatever you’re doing, try to be the best you can be…”
Keys to being true to yourself include:
The old saying: “Give and you shall receive” is a powerful one.
While your motivation for helping others should not depend on others helping you back, it is surely true that you will receive back more help when you take a giving attitude.
Think of this: If we all practiced helping others, we all would be helped…and we surely all need help at some point in our lives!
I love this one. A “masterpiece” of a day is of course different for all of us. As Wooden points out:
“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”
And he warns: “Never mistake activity for achievement.”
And Wooden echoes his #2 Thing to Do (Help Others) with this quote:
“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
Wooden believes reading is a key to success (you may recall that my other hero Charlie Munger echoed the same sentiment when he said:
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.” (read here for more Charlie Munger quotes)
Wooden reads the bible regularly and has said that if there were just one book someone had to read, it would be to read a little bit of the bible every day.
Friendship and family (which I find Wooden uses interchangeably) are key to success in life, but they require some work.
Wooden has these tips on friendship:
“ Friendship comes from mutual esteem, respect, and devotion. A sincere liking for all,”
Pretty self-explanatory…however, I don’t think Wooden means this literally.
A shelter could be physical, financial or emotional…family and friendship, afterall, are perhaps the most valuable shelter to be building in your life.
Wooden certainly believes in a higher power — here’s a video of Wooden reciting a relevant poem (Wooden loves to write poetry).
To see more of Wooden, check out this cool talk by Wooden at the TED conference and a John Wooden profile on Charlie Rose (including interviews with Bill Walton and Bill Russel).