A Tribute to John Wooden

On June 4, 2010 the world lost one of the wisest, kindest, and inspirational people that has ever lived. John Wooden is considered by most to be the best college basketball coach of all time. He won 10 National Championships with UCLA over a 12 year span. He was the first person to be in the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Despite all of his impressive accomplishments, I don't care about those at all. The reason I am mourning the loss of John Wooden is that he was a profound thinker regarding self actualization and self improvement.

Entire books have been written by Coach Wooden and others about his philosophy and I would be at a loss to try to give an overview of everything he embodied. So, instead of trying to do that I'm going to share three of my favorite Wooden quotes.


"Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. They only true gift is a portion of thyself."

Material goods and gifts are trumped by sincere donation of time. I think John's love for coaching embodied the spirit of this quote. He put everything he had into developing the young men under his charge. Gifting a "portion of thyself" speaks to the importance of experiences instead of "things." Give yourself to your family, your spouse, or your friends; they will appreciate it more than anything you can buy them.

"Do not become too concerned about what others may think of you. Be very concerned about what you think of yourself."

This quote made me think of an article I wrote a long time ago about your most important relationship being with yourself. In my own coaching and in my own life I try to emphasize that the only things worth our attention are those that fall under our sphere of influence. If something cannot be affected by our actions, what use is it to worry about it? You can't change how others think so worrying about that is a waste of time, effort, and attention.

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

There will ALWAYS be more that you cannot do than you can do. If you let that freeze you into inaction, suddenly you aren't doing anything. For example, I am worthless with Photoshop and design but I tried to not let that prevent me from authoring and publishing an ebook. Sure, it wasn't the prettiest thing in the world and there is much room for improvement in that area, but at least I focused on what I could do; namely, write coherently about a topic I care deeply about. Instead of focusing on everything you cannot do, which of your strengths can you focus on? What do you do well that you can leverage?

Rest in peace, John Wooden. You were, and are, an inspiration to everyone.