John Wooden: The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding
John Wooden was the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach. ESPN ranked him as the greatest coach of all time across all sports. In his 40 years at UCLA, he mentored legends such as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He authored several books imparting his insight on achievement, winning and success to others.
With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefined success urging all of us to pursue the best in ourselves. Here are excerpts from his inspiring TED Talk, John Wooden: The difference between winning and succeeding. In this talk he shares the values and life lessons to us all.
I coined my own definition of success in nineteen hundred and thirty-four, when I was teaching at a high school in South Bend, Indiana.
Dad tried to teach me and my brothers that you should never try to be better than someone else. Always learn from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be – that’s under your control. If you get too engrossed and involved about the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect the things over which you have control. Then I ran across this simple verse that said, “ At God’s footstool to confess, a poor soul knelt, and bowed his head. ‘ I failed!’ he cried. The Master said, “ Thou didst thy best, that is success.”
From those things, and one other perhaps, I coined my own definition of success. Which is: peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable. I believe that’s true. If you make the effort to the best of which you’re capable, try and improve the situation that exists for you, I think that is success. And I don’t think others can judge that. I think it’s like character and reputation. You reputation is what you are perceived to be; your character is what you really are. And I think that character is much more important than what you are perceived to be. You’d hope they’d both be good. But they won’t necessarily be the same. Well, that was my idea that I was going to try to get across to the youngsters.
Reminds me of another set of threes that my dad tried to get across to us. Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses. Just get out there, and whatever you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability. And no one can do more than that. I tried to get that across, too that – my opponents don’t tell you – you never heard me mention winning. Never mention winning. My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you’re outscored. I’ve felt that way on certain occasions, at various times. And I just wanted them to be able to hold their head up after a game. I used to say that when a game is over, and you see somebody that didn’t know the outcome, I hope they couldn’t tell you by your actions whether you outscored as an opponent or the opponent outscored you.
That’s what really matters: If you make effort to do the best you can regularly, the results will be about what they should be. Not necessary to what you would want them to be, but they will be about what they should, and only you will know whether you can do that. And as time went by, and I learned more about other things, I think it worked a little better, as far as the results. But I wanted the score of a game to be the byproduct of these other things, and not the end itself. I believe it was – Cervantes, who said, “ The journey is better than the end”… It’s getting the players to get that self-satisfaction, in knowing that they’d made the effort to do the best of which they are capable.
You know a number of years ago, George Joseph Moriaty, a Major League Baseball umpire wrote something he called, The Road Ahead or The Road Behind, which reads like this:
Sometimes I think the Fates must
Grin as we denounce and insist
The only reason we can’t win
Is the Fates themselves that miss
Yet there lives on an ancient claim
We win or lose within ourselves
The shining trophies on our shelves
Can never win tomorrow’’s game
You and I know deeper down
There’s always a chance to win the crown
But when we fail to give our best
We simply haven’t met the test
Of giving all, and saving none
Until the game is really won
Of showing what is meant by grit
Of fighting on when others quit
Of playing through, not letting up
It’s bearing down that wins the cup
Of taking it and taking more
Until we gain the winning score
Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead
Of hoping when our dreams are dead
Of praying when our hopes have fled
If bravely, we have given all
For who can ask more of a man
Than giving all within his span
Giving all, it seems to me
Is not so far from victory
And so the Fates are seldom wrong
No matter how they twist and wind
It is you and I who make our fates
We open up or close the gates
On the road ahead or the road behind.