Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

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Overview

"I am just a common man who is true to his beliefs."—John Wooden

Evoking days gone by when coaches were respected as much for their off-court performances as for their success on the court, this unique and intimate work presents the timeless wisdom of legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

In honest and telling passages about virtually every aspect of life, Wooden shares his personal philosophy on family, achievement, success, and excellence. Raised on a small farm in ...

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Overview

"I am just a common man who is true to his beliefs."—John Wooden

Evoking days gone by when coaches were respected as much for their off-court performances as for their success on the court, this unique and intimate work presents the timeless wisdom of legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

In honest and telling passages about virtually every aspect of life, Wooden shares his personal philosophy on family, achievement, success, and excellence. Raised on a small farm in south-central Indiana, Wooden learned a great deal from his parents—lessons that stayed with him not only throughout his unparalleled career at UCLA, but also as dedicated husband, father, and teacher.

These lessons, along with personal letters from Bill Walton, Denny Crum, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bob Costas, among others, mark Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and off the Court as an inspirational classic.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809230419
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 58,163
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Author Profiles

John Wooden (1910-2010), guided the UCLA Bruins to ten NCAA basketball championships over a 12-year period, including four perfect seasons and an 88-game winning streak. He was named ESPN’s “Greatest Coach of the 20th Century” and voted “#1 Coach of All Time” by The Sporting News. Sports Illustrated said it best when they said: “There’s never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach.” In 2003 John Wooden was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Steve Jamison is America's foremost author and authority on the life and philosophy of John Wooden. Mr. Jamison is a consultant to the UCLA Anderson Scool of Business’ John Wooden Global Leadership Program. He has collaborated with Coach Wooden on an award-winning PBS presentation as well as several books, including his final book, The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court.

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Read an Excerpt

Wooden

A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
By John Wooden Steve Jamison

McGraw-Hill

Copyright © 1997 Steve Jamison and John Wooden
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-80-923041-9


Chapter One

Part I Families, Values, Virtues

I am just a common man who is true to his beliefs. —John Wooden

My Roots Go Deep in America

I was born on a Friday morning in a little place called Hall, Indiana. It was just after the turn of the twentieth century—October 14, 1910.

Dad and Mother raised my three brothers and me on a small farm in the south-central part of the state, until hard times forced our family to move into the nearby town of Martinsville.

What I learned back there during those early years in Indiana—the training I got from my father and mother— has stayed with me all my life. That training started with the kind of people my parents were.

Nothing Is Stronger than Gentleness

My dad, Joshua Wooden, was a strong man in one sense, but a gentle man. While he could lift heavy things men half his age couldn't lift, he would also read poetry to us each night after a day working in the fields raising corn, hay, wheat, tomatoes, and watermelons.

We had a team of mules named Jack and Kate on our farm. Kate would often get stubborn and lie down on me when I was plowing. I couldn't get her up no matter how roughly I treated her. Dad would see my predicament and walk across the field until he was close enough to say "Kate." Then she'd get up and start working again. He never touched her in anger.

It took me a long time to understand that even a stubborn mule responds to gentleness.

My Mother's Great Example

My mother, Roxie Anna, had a hard life living and working and raising a family in our little white farmhouse outside Martinsville. She did the washing, scrubbing, ironing, cooking, mending, and canning with no electricity and no inside plumbing. She did it all herself without any modern conveniences while helping with the farming and bringing up four rambunctious young sons: Maurice, me, Daniel, and William.

At night, during the heat of the Indiana harvest season, Mother would offer us cool slices of watermelon as we sat out on our front porch looking up into the stars.

She gave me my first "basketball," a wobbly thing sewed together using rolled-up rags she had stuffed into some black cotton hose. Dad nailed an old tomato basket with the bottom knocked out to one end of the hayloft in the barn. That's how I got started playing the game of basketball.

Each day my mother demonstrated great patience and the ability and eagerness to work very hard without complaint.

I learned from her what hard work really means and that it's part of life. Hard work comes with the territory. She always knew what had to be done and she did it.

Mother provided a model for how to do my job regardless of the particular circumstances.

The Real Coaches and Teachers

A father and mother must be there to set an example for their children, strong and positive models of what to be and how to behave when the youngsters grow up.

Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. Youngsters need good models more than they need critics. It is one of a parent's greatest responsibilities and opportunities.

Too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.

Strong Inside

My father had great inner strength. He was strong in his moral principles, values, and ideals, and like any good father he wanted to instill them in his four sons.

He did that in the manner by which he lived his life.

Life's Game Plan Starts Early

Dad was one of the wisest people I have ever known, in spite of the fact that both he and Mother had only high-school educations. My father created a desire in us to learn to read (including some of the Bible every day). He was a very religious man without being overt about it. Like Mother, he believed in hard work.

He was a good man, strong and positive, who wouldn't speak ill of anyone. Dad was quiet, but when he did say something, he said something.

He was the kind of man I set out to be. He was the model.

Two Sets of Threes

My father had what he called his "two sets of threes." They were direct and simple rules aimed at how he felt we should conduct ourselves in life. The first set was about honesty:

Never lie.

Never cheat.

Never steal.

It required no explanation. My brothers and I knew what it meant and that he expected us to abide by it.

The second set of threes was about dealing with adversity:

Don't whine.

Don't complain.

Don't make excuses.

Some people today may think these are naive or kind of corny. But think a moment about what they mean and who you become if you abide by them. That isn't naive. You don't become corny.

Dad's two sets of threes were a compass for me in trying to do the right thing and behaving in a proper manner.

Pride or Punishment

Joshua Wooden was a disciplinarian, but not from a physical point of view. I'd almost rather have taken a whipping than hear him say he was disappointed in something I'd done.

I wanted to please him and not let him down with my behavior. It wasn't a fear of punishment that motivated me. It was my desire to live up to his model and expectations.

Later, as a teacher, I wanted those under my own supervision to be motivated in the same way, to strive to be their best because I believed in them rather than from any fear of punishment.

The Gift of a Lifetime

When I graduated from our little three-room grade school in Centerton, Indiana, I got dressed up in clean overalls for the big event. For my graduation present Dad gave me an old, wrinkled two-dollar bill that he probably had been hanging onto for some time.

He said, "Johnny, as long as you have this you'll never be broke," and he was pretty close to right. Eventually I gave it to my own son Jim.

Dad also gave me something that day that would shape my entire life: my work, my marriage, my goals, my entire philosophy. It was a card on which he had written a few guidelines. I still carry it with me. On one side was this verse by the Reverend Henry Van Dyke:

    Four things a man must learn to do
    If he would make his life more true:
    To think without confusion clearly,
    To love his fellow-man sincerely,
    To act from honest motives purely,
    To trust in God and Heaven securely.

The little verse was straightforward but profound: think clearly, have love in your heart, be honest, and trust in God.

On the other side of the paper, Dad had written out his creed. At the top of the paper, it said "Seven Things to Do." It read as follows:

1. Be true to yourself.

2. Help others.

3. Make each day your masterpiece.

4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.

5. Make friendship a fine art.

6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.

7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

All he said when he gave me the little note he had written was, "Son, try and live up to these things."

I wish I could say I have lived up to them. I have tried. Over the years, as I've attempted to follow his creed, I've gained a deeper understanding of it. Let me share what it means to me after all these years.

Be True to Yourself

If we are not true to ourselves, we cannot be true to others—our wife or husband, our family, our profession and colleagues.

As Polonius said to his son Laertes in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

This is so true, and I believe it is the first point in Dad's creed for a reason. You must know who you are and be true to who you are if you are going to be who you can and should become.

You must have the courage to be true to yourself.

Help Others

Oh, the great joy there is in helping others, perhaps the greatest joy! You cannot have a perfect day without helping others with no thought of getting something in return. When we are helping others with the thought of getting something back, it's not the same at all.

Sharing and giving of yourself is joyous. James Russell Lowell wrote:

    It's not what we give but what we share,
    For the gift without the giver is bare.
    Who gives of himself of his alms feeds three,
    Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.

The basic precept of all the great religions is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Simply stated, it means, "Help others."

Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." We say those words, but how often do we really believe them? They are always true.

You can never acquire happiness without giving of yourself to someone else without the expectation of getting something back.

When it comes to giving, I remind myself what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself."

Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

When I was teaching basketball, I urged my players to try their hardest to improve on that very day, to make that practice a masterpiece.

Too often we get distracted by what is outside our control. You can't do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. You can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come. However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. So make today a masterpiece. You have control over that.

This rule is even more important in life than basketball. You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better. Only then will you be able to approach being the best you can be. It begins by trying to make each day count and knowing you can never make up for a lost day.

If a player appeared to be taking it easy in practice, I told him, "Don't think you can make up for it by working twice as hard tomorrow. If you have it within your power to work twice as hard, why aren't you doing it now?"

If you sincerely try to do your best to make each day a masterpiece, angels can do no better.

Drink Deeply from Good Books, Including the Bible

Poetry, biographies, and all the other great books will greatly enrich your life. There are so many that are so good, and they are all available to you. The poetry Dad read to us when we were kids instilled a love of reading, English, books, and knowledge.

It was a priceless gift and one that has enhanced my own life so much. Drink deeply from those great books of your own choosing and you will enrich yourself.

Make Friendship a Fine Art

Don't take friendship for granted. Friendship is giving and sharing of yourself. If just one side works at it, it isn't friendship. You must work at friendship. Make it a fine art. Go more than halfway. It is two-sided, just like marriage.

Someone is not a good friend because he or she does good things for you all the time. It's friendship when you do good things for each other. It's showing concern and consideration. Friendship is so valuable and so powerful. We take it for granted, but we shouldn't.

    At times when I am feeling low,
    I hear from a friend and then
    My worries start to go away
    And I am on the mend.

    In spite of all that doctors know,
    And their studies never end,
    The best cure of all when spirits fall
    Is a kind note from a friend.

    —John Wooden

The first and most important step in friendship is being a friend.

Build a Shelter Against a Rainy Day

This is not necessarily a material shelter. Your faith, whatever it may be, is the greatest shelter of all. In many ways we've been taken in by materialism. I'm not saying possessions are unimportant, but we often put them out of proportion, ahead of family, faith, and friends.

Pray for Guidance and Count and Give Thanks for Your Blessings Every Day

So often we fail to acknowledge what we have because we're so concerned about what we want. We fail to give real thanks for the many blessings for which we did nothing: our life itself, the flowers, the trees, our family and friends. This moment. All of our blessings we take for granted so much of the time.

A wise person once observed, "How much more pleasant this world would be if we magnified our blessings the way we magnify our disappointments."

And, of course, with that we must also pray for guidance. One of my players at UCLA once told me he was embarrassed to have anyone know that he prayed. There's no shame in praying for guidance. It's a sign of strength.

Living Up to Dad's Creed

I am now in my eighth decade and I would like to be able to tell you that I lived up to Dad's creed, but I am more like the fellow who said:

    I am not what I ought to be,
    Not what I want to be,
    Not what I am going to be,
    But I am thankful that
    I am better than I used to be.

It's important to keep trying to do what you think is right no matter how hard it is or how often you fail. You never stop trying. I'm still trying.

Give It Away to Get It Back

There is a wonderful, almost mystical, law of nature that says three of the things we want most—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained when we give them to others.

Six of Life's Puzzlers

? Why is it easier to criticize than to compliment?

? Why is it easier to give others blame than to give them credit?

? Why is it that so many who are quick to make suggestions find it so difficult to make decisions?

? Why can't we realize that it only weakens those we want to help when we do things for them that they should do for themselves?

? Why is it so much easier to allow emotions rather than reason to control our decisions?

? Why does the person with the least to say usually take the longest to say it?

Trusting Others

It has been said that you will be hurt occasionally if you trust too much. This may be true, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.

Trusting is part of our higher nature. Doubting is a lower instinct. The latter is easy to do, the former more difficult—but so much more rewarding.

Politeness and Courtesy

You've heard the expression "Politeness and courtesy are a small price to pay for the goodwill of others." In fact, I've used it myself from time to time even though I don't really agree with it.

Being polite and courteous isn't paying a price any more than smiling or being happy is paying a price. You get more than you give when you are polite and courteous. You don't pay. You are paid.

What You Are

A favorite observation of my dad's was the following: "Never believe you're better than anybody else, but remember that you're just as good as everybody else." That's important: No better, but just as good!

I attempted to keep that in mind both when we weren't winning national championships and when we were. It helped me avoid getting carried away with myself.

It goes back to the importance of having strong guidance and role models in the home. That's where the standards are set.

Nellie and I Agreed to Be Agreeable

Nellie Riley caught my eye the first time I ever saw her back at Martinsville High School in Indiana. It was on a warm star-filled night at the carnival during the summer of my freshman year. I think we probably fell in love right away and didn't even know it.

Folks think Nellie and I had a perfect marriage, but it was because we worked at it. There are rough patches in any marriage. Very early we understood that there would be times when we disagreed but there would never be times when we had to be disagreeable. We kept to that rule for over half a century.

Nellie and I have a great love for one another, but we understood that even love takes some work.

Passion Isn't Love

Love is more than passion. Passion is temporary. It isn't lasting. Love, real love, lasts.

Love and Marriage

Love means many things. It means giving. It means sharing. It means forgiving. It means understanding. It means being patient. It means learning. And you must always consider the other side, the other person. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Wooden by John Wooden Steve Jamison Copyright © 1997 by Steve Jamison and John Wooden. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Part I: Families, Values, Virtues
Part II: Success, Achievement, Competition
Part III: Coaching, Teaching, Leading
Part IV: Putting It All Together: My Pyramid of Success

My Favorite Maxims

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    Wooden is true....very true.

    I have heard of John Wooden all my life but never had spent the time to see what all the talk was about. I found this book just outstanding and enlightening in the areas of leadership, family, and being true to your core belief system. I highly recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I'd give this 6 stars if I could

    Wooden is a master at not just basketball, but life itself. The wisdom here is invaluable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2013

    This book taught me a lot about life and not just basketball. Th

    This book taught me a lot about life and not just basketball. The way Wooden writes shows he truly cares about teaching people around the world about the things he has learned in his magnificent career as a basketball coach. Who better to learn from than the best college basketball coach ever? I liked this book because it had a lot of important points in it and showed me things that I need to do to become the best person possible. This is a great book overall. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2007

    Good morals and great lessons is a must read

    John Wooden writes about his life and lessons that he learned during many years of childhood and through out growing up. His life consisted of a ton of basketball and many different teams, and coaches that all had a different part in teaching him about good morals and lessons to making his life easier and better. It talks about his coaching careers and all the different players he had and how each individual wore off on him seperately and how each of them had a different impact on him. If you are looking for a book that is very inspirational and has a good lesson for life Wooden is the book for you. It tells many different individual stories of key parts of his life that he experienced and learned through. With a coaches perspecitive it has many key teaching tools that helped him win 11 national championships in the ncaa mens basketball tournament. This book needs to be read because it is great words of wisdom from a very smart and experienced man who knows many things about life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book contains many good lessons, but i thought there would be much more about his basketball teams, and there really was not very much

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2007

    Amazing

    This book has advice on nearly every situation you face in your life. Everything in here is true and will help you in the face of adversity. John Wooden is probably the wisest man in the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2005

    focus on the preperation!

    coach wooden is able to show all who read his book the value of preparing as well as one can in order to be successful. each of us are only able to the best with what we have been given. God has blessed us all with varying degrees of talent, opportunities, etc. he was able to put the focus on the journey of preparation and was able to define success in this manner. the true tangible success is obtained when an individual exhaust every opportunity and ability he may have in order to get a task done. he was able to minimize the amount of focus put on the results. this allowed those under his leadership to be shielded from unnecessary pressures and distractions. winning was simply a byproduct of the doing one's personal best. coach wooden loves the Lord and he has applied biblical truths to his prinicple of leadership. coach is a humble leader and it comes through in his writing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    pyramid of succcess

    John was truly a team player no matter what his tasks was in life. He taught many to understand others, but also taught people to understand actions in every different situation.Wooden shares his personal philosophy on family, achievement, success, and excellence on every aspect of life. John shares his teachings to others and guides them with wisdom far beyond sports. This book written by John Wooden himself with Steve Jamison will pull you in, as you read a lifetime of observations and refelctions on and off the court, and how great his success was at U.C.L.A as a basket ball coach. I mostly enjoyed the man's passion for being a better person in life, but also teaching others. He was a man of integrity with great knowledge and wisdom, he created success. What I like most about the book is that in a way to read about John, it is also a learning experience, because you are still learning about his teachings. I most respect on how John took lessons taught as a child from his parents and continued to take them with him in life. I also like how he had a pyramid of success faith and patience were at the top. He was a man of his word, but also the 'word,' that being the bible. I do not dislike anything about this book, because there are many different teachings to value. It makes you want to learn more from life everday and how you can make your work that much better. His benevolence is proudly displayed in all aspects of life, but most importantly he also learned from his players as he coached them everday. This shows that not everyone is here to teach, but many are here to listen. As Wooden did so, he lived his life with wisdom, success, and leading to your capabilities.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2002

    Greatly inspirational book for the individual and the team player.

    In this book "The Coach" explains why and how he was a winner on and off the court. You don't have to understand or be a basketball fan to appreciate this book. He explains why winning isn't everything nor the only thing. It's the effort to succeed as an individual and team player that count. "Coach Wooden" explains the why and how to set the example as a leader, that we can all be in life - for ourselves and for others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2002

    Inspirational

    This book provides so many important points about life in general. If everyone could follow this advise, what a wonderful world this would be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2002

    THE MEANING OF SUCCESS

    Great insight on life, success and what's really important... I've bought 6 copies and buying 6 more... Can't say enough good about this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2001

    Wisdom from the great teacher.

    John Wooden is a man among men in such a humble and non-assuming way. In this great book he exudes his timeless wisdom for all of us. You do not have to be a basketball fan to appreciate this book as Mr. Wooden, who is one of the greatest coaches in any sport in all of history, considers himself more a teacher than a coach. This book belongs in every home and should be shared with all children (as well as adults). For such a small and simply written book to contain such an immense volume of life-living advice is just another testament to the fact that the best things in life are the simplest. This is a book you will delve into regularly. Thanks again Coach!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2001

    book good

    it gave a lot of interesting nuggets about life and bball

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2000

    MORE THAN JUST BASKETBALL!

    This book is great reading for those who love the game of basketball.It is also a valuable piece of literature for those playing the great game we call life. The experiences described in this book,along with the great cousel and advice from this great coach/educator is a treasure for young and old. Maybe Bob Knight should pick up a copy;I'm sure glad I did!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2000

    life lessons

    This book talks about much more than basketball. It talks about the most important game of all life. It teaches you that hard work and determination can get you anywhere. It also teaches you life lessons that will make you a great player and a great person.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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