Success and Winning

In July 2001, John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach, shared his thoughts on success. He was not satisfied with Webster’s: “as an accumulation of material possessions or the attainment of a position of power or prestige.”  For him, this definition spoke more about winning than success.  For Wooden, something was lacking in that definition, the element of aspiration.  Growing up he had been taught: “Never cease trying to be the best you can be – that’s under your control.” He came up with his own definition of success capturing this: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” Wooden further likened success to character and reputation: “Your reputation is what you are perceived to be; your character is what you are.” Related this back to winning he said: “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.”

Wooden’s addition of an aspirational element to success magnifies the beauty, depth and meaning of individual achievement.  The reality of life is that we are not all equally endowed with gifts, talents and skills. Who comes in first in a race may be the “winner.” The greatest success, however, comes to the runners who have given their all. Great leaders always give that something more, that above-and-beyond that is part of their life.  They live the words of George Bernard Shaw, playwright: “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” This is the joy, excitement and wonder of our magnificent journey.  Carry your torch! Make it burn brightly!  Be more than you ever dreamed you could be. This is the joy of life.

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