Friday, March 27, 2009

On Success: John Wooden (Part I)

I have been pining for affirmation, for assurance from someone who would provide me the true definition of success and what is it to have succeeded. The beauty of life is that in its due course, it presents you epiphanies in seemingly ordinary moments. Moments that could be inconspicuously small, yet provide you with wisdom of a lifetime. One such moment I would ascribe to was today, while I was watching John Wooden speak at TED. John Wooden speaks about the difference between winning and success, succinctly in his 17 minutes talk.

In this post I would try to distill his thoughts in my own modest way. First a few words about the living legend.

Born in 1910, Coach John Wooden is the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach, while ESPN ranks him as the greatest coach of all time, across all sports. In his 40 years at UCLA, he has mentored legends such as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His career has been illustrious to say the least, and he has created a model, the Pyramid of Success, and authored several books to impart his insight on achievement to others.

The initial words that got me hooked to this man were 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" -John Wooden.

This was so illuminating, so invigorating to the mind. Its profound simplicity hits you on your face and brings your whole pursuit of success to perspective. He derives this definition after his tryst with his moment of epiphany, which he narrates in his talk. During his early years as an English teacher, he was disappointed and delusioned when the parents of his students expected their kids to get an A or B, and thought C was ok for neighbour’s children, because the neighbours’ children were all average. This made no sense to him because for him, God in his infinite wisdom never created everyonel equal, in intelligence, size or appearance.

And so in pursuit of being a teacher where a student is not judged by higher marks in a subject or more points in an athletic contest, he came up with his own definition. He says, if you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable of and try to improve the situation that exists for you, that is success. And no one else can judge that other than you. He also compares it with character and reputation.

Reputation is what you are perceived to be and character is what you really are. And character is much more important than what you are perceived to be. You hope both are good, but it’s not necessary to be the same. You should never try to be better than someone else. Always learn from others. Never cease trying to be the best you could because that is in your control. If you are too engrossed and involved and concerned in things that aren’t in your control, it will adversely effect the things over which you have control.”

The words ring like chiming bells and though we seem to know most of these facets of worldly wisdom, it needs reaffirmation from men of his stature .

Contd…(John Wooden’s pyramid of success)


Anonymous,  Monday, March 30, 2009 9:43:00 PM  

You should never try to be better than someone else. - I am wondering if this could be sensible, where we are in a world our success most of the times measured in how well we better than someone else. Also, a milestone like "someone else" is always required to keep the game going!
Dominic Edison

Ravi Kumar Monday, March 30, 2009 10:15:00 PM  

Dominic, I feel it is sensible and I have been thinking bout it even before. Comparing yourself with others is the greatest insult you can inflict upon yourself. I feel one should compare yourself with yourself. You should always try to better today than what you were yesterday. That will give you immense satisfaction. But if you start comparing with others, you will get heartburn, jealousy, and other baser frailties of human life.
I started applying this, and I feel my thought are more healthy whenever I see something good in someone.

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