Wooden’s Words of Wisdom
Jun 25, 2010Posted by james

Earlier this month, we lost a legendary sports figure. John Wooden was 99 years old.

Wooden’s influence on collegiate and professional basketball, including his success at UCLA, are achievements that we recall immediately when we hear his name. He coached men’s basketball at the school for more than 25 years and, remarkably, he led the Bruins to 10 NCAA national championships. He also is enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.

During Wooden’s long life, however, it was most important to him that he lived a good life, one that he dedicated to inspiring others. So many people, even those of us who never met him, have been influenced by his dedication to achievement through hard work, his faith and his love of family.

As a young sports fan and during my lacrosse days, I always admired Wooden’s incredible sports success. But now, as a businessman and family man who is more conscious today than ever before about the importance of hard work to be successful, about having faith in my ability to carry me through good and difficult times, and the importance of having the support of loved ones, I realize that there was so much more about John Wooden that people need to remember.

Wooden’s passing gave me an opportunity to revisit his life and teachings. He never considered himself a coach. He thought of himself as a teacher. While his players were practicing their moves, jump shots and tosses from the foul line, he always imparted a thought, some encouragement and words of inspiration that go way beyond any success on the basketball court.

I’ve listed a few of his most memorable quotes here and I try to focus on one phrase of Wooden wisdom each day. His words help me improve my relationships with employees and clients, more deeply appreciate my family ties and sometimes they even help my golf game. Maybe they can inspire you.


  • Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
  • Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
  • It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
  • Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.
  • Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.


  • Do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.
  • If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.


  • Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should accomplish with your ability.
  • The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.


  • If you go as far as you can see, you will then see enough to go even farther.
  • Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.


  • Make each day your masterpiece.
  • Never mistake activity for achievement.
  • It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.