The Best You Can Be
John Wooden said, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Success is not becoming a clone of someone else but doing the hard work to maximize yourself.Nobody is great without work. Nothing worth having comes without hard work. Getting the vision and plan is hard work. Getting organized to do it is hard work. Staying on track is hard work. There’s only one way to where you want to go, and that is hard work. True and lasting success can only be accomplished when you put in the work.People typically wish getting where they want to go were easier or shorter. But that way of thinking is a waste of time. Don’t wish—work. Get better. Wooden says, “Don’t wish it were easier. The people you admire, the leaders in their fields, needed years of hard work and smart choices to get where they are. As Henry Ford said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”Winston Churchill, one of the 20th century’s greatest orators, was known to rehearse his speeches over and over. No wonder he was compelling! Michael Jordan practiced intensely alone, not just with the team. Hall of Fame football receiver Jerry Rice was looked over by 15 teams because they considered him too slow, but he practiced so hard that other players would get sick trying to keep up with his pace.Even before talent and lucky breaks, hard work makes the difference, If you want to climb to the heights, you have to learn to fall in love with hard work. Though it is painful, uncomfortable, and challenging, it’s the common denominator in success. G. K. Nielson goes so far as to say, “Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose.”Some people say you don’t have to work hard if you work smart. Working hard or working smart cannot be separated. Being smart is about making the right choices. Smart people value hard work. Hard work IS a smart choice. As Oprah Winfrey shares, “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.”The importance of hard work is forever fact. Don’t fight it or look for a way around it. Choose to cooperate with it, and you won’t be disappointed. If you are willing to put in the work, your efforts will pay off.This is a philosophy John Wooden lived by and shared relentlessly with his teams. He won 10 national championships in a 12-year stretch as the head coach of the UCLA basketball team. However, prior to UCLA, Wooden had only two conference championship seasons in 18 years. But through hard work, discipline, and focus, he became one of the best and most accomplished basketball coaches of all time.He has shared widely his philosophies in interviews and books. Wooden approached work and life with great clarity, working hard with five points of emphasis: focusing on what was in his control, not overreacting to positive or negative experiences, and learning from failure. The way he lived his life is helpful far beyond basketball. If you agree that what and how you think influences how you feel and perform and ultimately determines your success, thinking carefully about the lessons he shared about life may help you.
Focus on what’s in your control.
Wooden evaluated what he could control, such as how he prepared for the game, and ignored what was out of his control, such as the outcome of the game. He didn’t worry about how much the other team prepared, whether he won or lost, or the media’s opinion about the team’s performance. Instead, he focused on the process. He shared the reason for that: “The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.”Wooden declared there are two things you can and should control every day: the actions you take, and your emotions. Your tomorrow is largely determined by the way you choose and think today. The past is the past and the future is yet to come. The place you have control of is today.“Tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. So make today a masterpiece. You have control over that,” he wrote. The past is in the past and the future is in the future. Take charge of what you do and how you think today.Regarding emotions, he said, “While you can’t control what happens to you, you can control how you react.” Wooden maintained a steady emotional state as a coach, a leader, and generally as a man. He didn’t waste his time worrying or complaining but just focused on what he could handle.
Success is doing your best.
Wooden defined success in an unusual way: “Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities. True success is attained only through the satisfaction of knowing you did everything within the limits of your ability to become the very best that you are capable of being.”You want to be happy? Wooden believed the best way to get there was by always giving your best effort in life. “Happiness is in many things. It’s in love. It’s in sharing. But most of all, it’s in being at peace with yourself, knowing that you are making the effort, the full effort, to do what is right.” He didn’t emphasize thinking or dreaming big. He said to keep your dreams difficult but possible. If your dreams are too far beyond what is realistic, you will inevitably be discouraged. But challenging goals are wise goals. Put in the work and you just might surprise yourself.
Wooden believed and taught that meaningful accomplishments take time. It’s tempting to look for shortcuts to speed up progress. But Wooden says, “Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.” He believed that there simply is no substitute for consistent work. Anything of significance has a price, and you must be willing to pay that price.
Whatever else you do, enjoy the journey.
Coach Wooden found enjoyment and accomplishment in the work itself. Some people enjoy nothing until they win. But not Wooden. “A successful journey becomes your destination and is where your real accomplishment lies,” he wrote. Even though he won ten national championships at UCLA, Wooden said he earned more satisfaction from the preparation: “Though I was pleased with the titles and championships, I mainly derived satisfaction from the preparation, and knowing I had done everything I could to get the team ready.” His goals were never centered around the end result of winning but on putting in the work to improve. He taught his players the difference between the journey and the win.He knew that the process of working for goals inevitably had setbacks. He learned that failure was an important part of the process and that the only way to be mistake free was to do nothing. “. . . losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.”Be the best YOU that you can be. That’s a good goal, and you are the one who determines your success at fulfilling it.