Rare is the life that is lived well. Most of us, it seems, crash and bang around the pages of our personal stories, breaking glass and hearts in the process. Regrets litter the wake left behind a life full of mistakes and illusions. Through it all we grow wiser, one would hope.
Every now and then, however, someone comes along and exemplifies much of what we believe is possible, demonstrating virtues such as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Nobody is perfect, but there are people whose very walk becomes their talk, whose excellence gives power to their words in a way we can all admire.
John Wooden passed away the other day at age 99. I am glad the Lord chose to give him long years, because it was during the later of these that Wooden allowed writers to work on projects with him to capture the secrets of his success. John Wooden as a coaching legend is, well, legendary. His achievements have largely remained unsurpassed for nearly thirty-five years. But just as mighty as his coaching success is his life success. He unabashedly proclaimed his belief in Christ, demonstrated how a long and happy marriage was to be accomplished, and lived modestly and kindly till the end. In an age when athletes and superstars, movie stars and political messiahs posture and pose for our admiration, it is heart-warming and refreshing to occasionally come across the real thing; someone who is both authentic and excellent, accomplished and humble, noteworthy and praiseworthy.
Thank you Mr. Wooden for an example well given. In tribute, below are some of the best snippets from his books from which I've learned the most.
* Your family is what counts. You must always remember that as you get caught up in your own professional responsibilities.
* You must be interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.
* You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.
* Never believe you're better than anybody else, but remember that you're just as good as everybody else.
* Friendship is so valuable and so powerful. We take it for granted, but we shouldn't.
* You can never make up for a lost day.
* You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a LOT better.
* Too often we get distracted by what is outside our control. You can't do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. You can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come. However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. So make today a masterpiece. You have control over that.
* Think clearly, have love in your heart, be honest, and trust God.
* Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating.
* Even a stubborn mule responds to gentleness.
* You have little say over how big or how strong or how smart or rich someone else may be. You do have, at least you should have, control of yourself and the effort you give toward bringing out your best in whatever you're doing. This effort must be total, and when it is, I believe you have achieved personal success.
* Try your hardest in all ways and you are a success. Period. Do less than that and you have failed.
* The outcome of a game was simply the by-product of the effort we made to prepare.
* Focus all your effort on what is within your power to control.
* Team Spirit - an eagerness to sacrifice personal interests or glory for the welfare of all.
* You might say that a leader has a simple mission: to get those under his supervision to consistently perform at their peak level in ways that benefit the team.
* A leader must preserve options to be effective.
* Opponents are working very hard to defeat us. Let's not do it for them by defeating ourselves from within.
* As a leader, my job was to do everything possible to help those I allowed to join our team achieve this - to create an environment and attitude that brought out the very best in each of them. Personal greatness for any leader is measured by effectiveness in bringing out the greatness of those you lead.
(Note to readers: I would recommend that anyone involved in leadership of any sort re-read that last one again and again. Actually, one could re-read all of these again and again without harm.)