I can’t take credit for the saying which is the title of this Point. They were the words of Joshua Wooden that he taught to his boys over a century ago. You’ve never heard of Joshua Wooden? Well, perhaps you’ve heard of his boy, the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. If you are a collegiate or professional basketball fan, you may know that Wooden was one of the “winningest” coaches ever, having won 10 NCAA championships in a 12 year period, seven of those in a row. Wooden coached a gambit of UCLA players, from actor Beau Bridges, Lakers’ legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes, to the Clippers’ controversial Bill Walton. He also personally mentored a number of other sports figures, both male and female, coaches of all kinds, and leadership training icons such as Ken Blanchard, Tony Robbins, and John Maxwell. Wooden died in 2010, about six months before his 100th birthday, and while he had left the basketball court decades earlier, he never stopped coaching, clear til the end.
The day I heard a montage of Wooden’s teachings, as well as extensive interviews with the people whose lives he touched, I was in great need of a little societal elegance in the recent aftermath of the election. People were being paid by George Soros to pitch fits because they hadn’t gotten what they wanted as far as their presidential candidate was concerned. Teachers were telling students that Donald Trump was like Adolph Hitler, and a woman was filmed defecating in the street and then smearing feces on a Donald Trump sign. In addition, women stood outside Trump Towers with placards that said, “Rape Melania.” Other folks were sporting safety pins on their shirts to indicate that they were “safe people,” and my husband responded by putting five safety pins on the pocket of his T-shirt in the form of a cross. It is a blessing to be married to a truly safe man, a warrior to be sure, but a safe one.
As I listened to Wooden talk about a visual he created over a 15 year period beginning in the ‘30s, the “Pyramid of Success,” I realized that he was far more than a coach, he was a philosopher, and a quiet preacher. He was a Christian, and drew out Lew Alcindor’s best, even after Lew converted to Islam and became Kareem. Kareem spoke at John’s memorial service, and said that it really was true, Wooden didn’t use foul language, and he wanted far more for his players than to just win games or titles. He spoke of the power of John’s faith, and vowed to keep Wooden’s legacy alive. It was clear that Kareem loved Coach, and that losing him was painful.
There were so many things about John that touched me, but one thing stood out as to his gentlemanliness in triumph. When the Bruins would be within 90 seconds of taking a national championship, Wooden would call a time out, the last of the game. He always made sure to save one, and during it he would tell his guys that in no way were they going to make fools of themselves as they took the title. There would be time to celebrate with abandon, but first they would shake the hands of those they had defeated while congratulating them for a game well played. Then the Bruins would walk off the court with poise, which happened to be one of the blocks located near the top of Wooden’s “Pyramid.”
While there are 25 different parts to “the Pyramid,” the whole concept can be summed up in the phrase of Joshua Wooden: “Make each day your masterpiece.” Wooden basically defined success as knowing that at the end of the day, if you can look at yourself in the mirror and know that you did your best, you are a success, period.
While we face an uncertain future as our nation moves ahead, may we make the choice, individually and as a culture, to make each day a masterpiece by doing and being our best.