John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success
Virginia Morrow
John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success

Success comes in all flavors, but it does not come from all angles. In order to set yourself up for success, it is important to be very intentional about your practices. No one knew this better than Coach John Wooden, the superstar basketball coach at UCLA. Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships in his 12 years as their coach. Whether you know about basketball stats or not, those numbers speak for themselves. That kind of success is no accident. Wooden honed his ability to be highly effective through a model he called the Pyramid of Success.

Pyramid of Success

The pyramid is built of 15 core traits, supplemented by 10 helpful tips. On the first level are the most critical building blocks on any journey of success: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm. These basics provide the foundation of interpersonal relationships and internal motivation. Without support and intrinsic ambition, success will be much harder to attain. At the very top of the pyramid is competitive greatness, defined on as the ability to “be at your best when your best is needed. Enjoyment of a difficult challenge.” By stacking your skills and prioritizing teamwork, Wooden asserts that any average person can achieve competitive greatness and ultimate success.

How can we use the pyramid of success?

Success is the goal for many people. We work towards success in work, success in relationships, personal successes, and many more to celebrate. Without direction, however, it can be difficult to see these goals coming into our grasp. One of the most powerful tools John Wooden utilized was inner dialogue. When you change the way you think about success and value, you can set your own standards. When you end up working the best job, it can be the least satisfying, because it is not the best job FOR YOU. When you make your goals the center of your definition of success, it changes everything. Coach Wooden used inner dialogue to frame success and give direction to ambition.

The Pyramid and Leadership

As a coach, John Wooden had a lot of experience leading a team. If you are a new leader or a very experienced one, there is wisdom to be found in his words. One trick to this is implementing the principals into small success and big ones equally. A small success could be organizing your desk to maximize your efficiency, or making a planner for yourself. Here it is important to use self discipline. With small tasks, the biggest roadblock tends to be the motivation to do it. If there is no high reward, it can be tempting to just sit it out. If there is an incentive, finishing the job can be hard. When it feels complicated, we give up more often. When it comes to bigger projects, like navigating the process of onboarding remote employees or managing an office space, there are more high level responsibilities. Relying on teamwork and collaboration to get things done is essential, and establishing good management on big assignments will help. John Wooden saw the vision on the court, but we can use his knowledge and bring it to our own personal lives.

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