Book Club

The Essential Wooden || July Book Club

July 29, 2015

My goal for 2015 is to read 30 books. But more important than cruising to my numerical finish line is retention. For about a year, I’ve been keeping a commonplace book. I got the idea from Ryan Holiday and he talks about it here, and here. I love filling in notes in the margins of my books and transferring the highlights to my cards. My box is always growing! And now that we’ve got this little family blog, I’m going to take one of the books I’ve read each month and distill it down to something a little easier to swallow. Since I’m writing about my favorites, I’d still say, go read the book!

With 10 championships in 12 years, John Wooden knows a bit about leading winners. And luckily he jotted down a few thoughts about leadership. The Essential Wooden is brimming with leadership gems you could employ at home, work, and even with your company softball team.

It reads less like a narrative book and more like a book of proverbs. You could spend 30 seconds in it each morning and always walk away inspired.

Here’s a few to get you started…

1. The star of the team is the team. I coached one team. If you were allowed to become a member of our team, you became a full member—100 percent. There were no second-class citizens—75 or 50 percent members—on any team I ever coached. It’s hard for second class citizens to do a first-rate job.

2. If you’re not making some mistakes, you’re not doing anything—not trying to make things happen. And to win basketball games, you have to make something happen. Just like anywhere else.

3. You can’t call yourself a “teacher” if those under your supervision don’t learn.

4. Dave Meyers, a member of our 1975 team, the last team I ever coached, expressed it well: “If you arrived at a 3 o’clock meeting at 3 o’clock, you were late.” Dave knew that simply complying with the minimum daily requirement was inadequate.

5. There wasn’t one second in the whole practice when anybody was standing around wondering what would come next; no one loafed and looked at others who were working. Everything had a purpose; everything was done efficient and quickly. The whole thing was synchronized; each hour offered up 60 minutes, and I squeezed every second out of every minute.

6. We see a player make a tough layup and then pound his chest in triumph. What is he saying? “Me, me, me!” Who passed him the ball? Who set the screen? Who got in position for the rebound if he missed? — If that player wished to pound on someone’s chest, he should find the teammate who assisted him on the play and pound his chest while shouting, “thank you, thank you, thank you!”

7. I never forgot that a great player who couldn’t make the team great wasn’t so great after all.

8. It is better to trust and occasionally be disappointed than to mistrust and be miserable all the time (originally attributed to honest Abe Lincoln)

9. While I did virtually no scouting of other teams, I arranged to have our own team carefully scouted about three times a year. Often you can’t see the forest from the trees, and it’s beneficial to have constructive criticism from outside neutral sources. It is perhaps misleading for me to say I didn’t scout teams. I scouted the most important team on our schedule: UCLA.

10. I believe a leader should, as much as possible, provide for the future of the team. How it does when you’re gone is a reflection of how it did while you were there. How can a leader with integrity just walk away and leave the cupboard bare?

We celebrate superstars, fame, and talent.
Wooden celebrated team, discipline, and effort.

10 championships speaks for itself.

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