Thursday, December 15, 2011
One of Coach Wooden’s favorite role models was Mother Theresa, whose quote, “Unless a life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile,” served as the bedrock of Coach’s lifetime commitment to helping others. After reading about her tremendous work among the poor in Calcutta, Coach resolved to do one kind thing each day for someone who could never return the favor; and he often put that same challenge to others. Coach realized that not everyone could bring hospices, orphanages and schools to underprivileged people like Mother Teresa, but we could still make a difference in someone’s life every day. Whether serving others’ needs physically or emotionally, even the simplest acts of kindness can have a tremendous positive impact. As Mother Teresa often said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Abraham Lincoln, another of Coach Wooden’s mentors, was also an inspiration to him in this regard. Lincoln’s once remarked that, “The worst thing you can do for those you love is to do the things they could and should do for themselves.” This piece of wisdom inspired Coach to help other people find balance in their own lives. When Coach Wooden’s granddaughter was in high school, she was also working part-time to buy a car. Coach probably could have just purchased a vehicle for her, but in keeping with his philosophy, he suggested that he and her other grandfather match whatever monies Christy earned to help her save towards her purchase. From this experience, Christy learned that one can help others by helping them to help themselves, thereby making them better, stronger people. As usual, Coach gave us some great maxims to illustrate this point:
“Happiness begins where selfishness ends.”
“Forget favors given; remember those received. “
“Be more concerned with what you can do for others than what others can do for you.”
The block on the Pyramid of Success that is the best reminder of helping others is Team Spirit. Coach Wooden defines Team Spirit as: “A genuine consideration for others. An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests of glory for the welfare of all.” If you think of the human race as your team, having team spirit means helping your fellow man to succeed in life.
So, how can you start helping others today? Perhaps you might begin by being more observant of the people and situations around you. Pause each day and really look around. Do not wait to be asked for help – the very best time to help others is before they have to ask. Consider taking out the trash or making the bed or doing the laundry. Compliment a co-worker on a great idea; a pat on the back is always appreciated, and a great motivator. Mentor a child, or teach a youngster to ride a bicycle. Volunteer an hour of your time at a senior citizen’s home, church, hospital or homeless shelter. Even the smallest gesture can mean a lot.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thy self.” One way that Coach Wooden’s gave freely of himself was that, although he was arguably the most famous coach in American sports, he never had an unlisted phone number. If you wanted to reach out to Coach Wooden his number was always put there in public for anyone to find. He was committed to being available to visit with anyone who cared to pay him a visit. Similarly, Coach Wooden’s players did not leave the locker room – either at home or on the road – until (as he put it) “the orange peels, gum wrappers, towels and soap chips are off the floor.” Of course, Coach also helped with cleaning up himself. He viewed this as a common courtesy to the cleaning staff. Being considerate of others makes you naturally inclined to help others.
Strive each day to be considerate of others, giving freely of your time, energy, and resources to help them –and expect nothing in return. Trust that the joy you will experience in doing so cannot be matched. Opportunities to help others are all around you, every day, all the time. You need only to take a moment to notice them, and then act.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Coach had a great appreciation for the value of friendship. In the 1960’s Coach received a letter from his elementary school principal and coach, Earl Warriner, requesting tickets to the upcoming game UCLA was to play at Notre Dame. Mr. Warriner also included a signed and dated check but left the amount line blank. When the tickets arrived in Warriner’s mailbox, he found that the check was with them, and on the amount line Coach Wooden had written: “Friendship far too valuable to be measured in dollars.”
Coach often emphasized that we can accomplish a lot more if we open our lives to others. He often commented on friendship in speeches he gave after retirement from coaching by urging his audience to “Work at it. Don’t take friendship for granted. If you do it may not last. And don’t just work at it from one side. Friendship comes from mutual esteem, respect and devotion. Just as in a successful marriage, both sides must work at it.”
When speaking about friendship, Coach often emphasized the importance of initiating the effort to make friends; in his own words, “You may have to prime the pump first.” Perhaps his favorite illustration was the experience of a friend named Bob, who had traveled to California from Indiana to visit the Wooden family.
“Johnny, these people in California aren’t as friendly as they are back home,” Bob lamented. “Coming over here this morning I met a lot of people and not a single person spoke to me. That would never have happened back home.”
“Did you speak to any of them?” Coach asked.
“Well, no,” Bob said. “I didn’t know them.”
Coach was also inspired by historical examples of the power of friendship; he especially admired Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy on the subject. After the Civil War, many of Lincoln’s constituents felt that he was being far too generous in his offers of reconstruction and reparations to the Confederate states. One man admonished him, “Mr. President you are supposed to destroy your enemies, not make friends of them.”
Lincoln replied, “Am I not destroying an enemy when I make a friend of him?”
This was a lesson Coach took to heart. He chose kindness, instead of anger, as his reaction towards critics in the media, referees he felt were unfair, rude fans of rival teams, and even the rare disgruntled player or assistant coaches.
Two of his favorite maxims addressed this very subject. The first was a simple reminder: “Be more concerned with: Loving than being loved, Giving than receiving, Being a friend rather than having a friend.” The second was a kind of proverb: “There is a wonderful mystical law of nature that the three things that man craves the most in life—happiness, freedom, and peace—are always attained by giving them to someone else.” Both are lessons we can all live by.