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The Pyramid of Success

For John Robert Wooden, 'being at your best when your best was needed' was just as important in the game of life as it was in the game of basketball.

Coach Wooden's 'Pyramid of Success' is his 15 building block initiative in the form of a pyramid. The cornerstones were Industriousness and Enthusiasm, climbing to such strived-for human traits as Intentness, Team Spirit, Poise and Confidence, all leading to the top of the pyramid to reach the ultimate goal of Competitive Greatness.

Just as Coach Wooden will forever be in the sports history books for leading UCLA's men's basketball teams to 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years (1964-75), his 'Pyramid of Success' has set the standard for corporate leaders in the business world and for many of us in the world of life.

The Pyramid's Beginning

Throughout his early years, even in high school, Coach Wooden was unsure about the definition of the word 'success'. What did it mean?

In 1934, as a 24 year-old high school coach in Dayton, KY, Coach Wooden began writing down his ideas that would lead to his definition of success and more importantly, how to achieve it. To Coach Wooden, it wasn't about the final score, about winning or losing. It was about the hard work and effort that was put forth in the journey to get to the final score. If you did your best in preparation and during the contest, in whatever it was you were doing, both on and off the basketball court, then it was a successful journey, regardless of the outcome.

Coach Wooden's father, Joshua Hugh Wooden, instilled this thought into his four sons as they were growing up on their farm in Centerton, IN - "Don't worry about being better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can be."

The Pyramid's Completion

Coach Wooden worked on his 'Pyramid of Success' for 15 years, while a high school coach in Dayton, KY and at South Bend, IN Central HS and for two years (1946-48) as the men's head basketball coach at Indiana State Teachers College.

Deciding to use a pyramid as its basis and deciding on what human traits and values to select to make up the pyramid, it took Coach Wooden many years to find the correct formula. In 1934 he decided on the cornerstones, Industriousness and Enthusiasm, the two most important building blocks of the pyramid. Completing the foundation of the Pyramid are Friendship, Loyalty and Cooperation.

As the years went by, Coach Wooden built his Pyramid, 14 building blocks of human determination, leading to the apex, the 15th building block - Competitive Greatness. On both sides of the Pyramid, in essence holding it together, are 10 words, including Ambition, Honesty and Integrity, once again all leading to the top, where Faith and Patience watch over Competitive Greatness.

Coach Wooden completed his 'Pyramid of Success' in the spring of 1948, and the original Pyramid drawing was on his office wall after he accepted the men's basketball head coaching position at UCLA that same spring.

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result in self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

"The best way to improve the team is to improve ourself."

"Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting."

"As long as you try your best, you are never a failure. That is, unless you blame others."

"Much can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets the credit."

(1) Facts for this article were taken from 'My Personal Best,' written by John Wooden with Steve Jamison and 'Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court,' written by Coach John Wooden with Steve Jamison.
HARD WORK - “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
Preparing for Success means you must work hard. Are you preparing to Succeed or preparing to fail? If you are looking for the easy way, a short cut or trick you are preparing to fail because success requires old-fashioned hard work. Remember: Only you know if you are working as hard as you can.

ENTHUSIASM - “Make each day special.”
You have to like what you're doing to do what you like at your highest level. Your heart must be in it. Without Enthusiasm you can't achieve your fullest potential. Hard Work combined with Enthusiasm is your powerful engine.

FRIENDSHIP - “To make friends, be a friend.”
To make a friend you must be a friend. Friends are your family, teammates, classmates and workmates. They help you succeed and achieve your goals. Friendship is mutual. It is not a one way street. Good friends do good things for each other.

LOYALTY - “Be trustworthy.”
Strive to be reliable and dependable. Keep your word by doing what you say you will do. When you have Loyalty others will be loyal to you! It means giving respect to those you work with. Respect helps produce Loyalty.

COOPERATION - “Be more interested in finding the best way, not in having your way.”
Working together with others requires teamwork. If you wish to be heard, listen. Cooperation means working together in all ways to accomplish the common goal. It also allows individuals to move forward together instead of going off in different directions. Two horses pulling a wagon must move in the same direction or the wagon does not move.

SELF-CONTROL - “Control yourself so others won’t have to.”
Discipline yourself so others don’t have to do it for you! Be in control of how you behave. Good judgment requires Self-Control of your feelings. Bad judgment comes from poor Self-Control. How can you perform at your best when you are using bad judgment?

ALERTNESS - “What you learn after you know it all is what counts.”
Pay attention to everything that is going on around you all the time. Listen with your ears and your eyes. Listen with your nose! Your hands. Don’t fall asleep on the job. Always be ‘listening and learning’ and you’ll be heading to success.

ACTION - “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
Do not sit on your hands doing nothing. Instead raise your hand and then speak up. Do not be afraid to fail. Instead be afraid of failing to act! If you are afraid to act because you fear failure you will never do the things you are capable of doing.

DETERMINATION - “Slow and steady gets you ready.”
Success takes lots of time and will bring lots of set-backs. Don’t quit; don’t back down; keep trying time and time again! You may have to start over. You may have to go around, or over, or under. But do not quit. Stay the course. Quitters will not succeed because success takes lots of Determination.

FITNESS - “Act, eat, and think right.”
To do your best – 100% – and succeed you must eat right, think right, and act right! True happiness comes from the things that cannot be taken away from you. Making the full effort to do the right thing can never be taken away from you. If you see others breaking the rules tell yourself, “They are hurting themselves but they are teaching me what not to do.”

SKILL - “Practice makes perfect.”
Be good at what you do! Learn the subject! Master the task whether its geography or gymnastics. You have to know what you’re doing and be able to do it quickly and properly. To improve your level of Skill takes practice, study, and repetition, repetition, repetition.

TEAM SPIRIT - “Be eager to help your team.”
When you are part of a team always remember that your job is to do what will help your teammates achieve success. The goals of your team come first. Figure out how you can help your team do its best.

POISE - “Just be yourself.”
Who you are is a gift, so be yourself! Do not act or pretend to be something you’re not. When you are yourself and make the effort – 100% – to be the best you can be you are a success. Your goal is not to satisfy the expectations of others but to satisfy your own expectation. So set them high! Give your total effort to becoming the best you are capable of being. It takes Poise to accomplish this.

CONFIDENCE - “You must believe in yourself if you expect others to believe in you.”
Have faith in yourself and what you can achieve. Poise and Confidence are achieved with proper preparation: The Pyramid of Success! Every block is built with the others. When all are in place, Poise and Confidence result. They happen naturally from proper preparation.

You have achieved the highest kind of Success when you have made the effort – 100% – to do the best you can do. You and only you determine whether you achieve Success: Peace of mind knowing you made the effort – 100% – to do the best you can do!