Tributes to John Wooden’s decency and integrity continue, as well they should, but let’s not forget that he was also regarded by opponents and supporters alike as a strict disciplinarian who insisted on total compliance with the rules he established and with the high standards he set. His basketball programs were not democracies. No one ran tighter, crisper, more sharply focused practices…but always for only 90 minutes, no more and no less.
He never played favorites, once leaving behind his high school team’s captain and MVP (one the son of the principal who hired Wooden) because they had not as yet arrived when the bus was scheduled to depart for a game against its arch rival. Another time he suspended the U.C.L.A. captain and NCAA “Player of the Year” (Walt Hazzard) for attitude and behavior he deemed “inappropriate.”
With all due respect to the statistics compiled by the “Wizard of Westwood” (a term he hated), John Wooden should also be remembered as a highly-principled authoritarian. If anyone did not want to practice and play his way, fine. He wished them well. There were no hard feelings but also no compromises, on or off the court. Ever.
He was a great and good man. He was also, probably, the most stubborn man any of us will ever know or hear about. If you question that, ask any of the players and staff members with whom he was associated.
I have always deeply admired John Wooden. I wrote this post about him last October, and this brief tribute after his death. But now, after a couple of days of reading/hearing a lot more about him, I want to add, or at least reinforce, a couple of observations.
#1 John Wooden was an exemplar of intrinsic motivation.
In Drive by Daniel Pink, Pink writes this:
If someone’s baseline rewards aren’t adequate, or equitable, her focus will be on the unfairness of her situation and the anxiety of her circumstance. You’ll get neither the predictability of extrinsic motivation nor the weirdness of intrinsic motivation. You’ll get very little motivation at all. But once we’re past that threshold, carrots and sticks can achieve precisely the opposite of their intended aims.
What he says is simple, and makes sense. If there is enough money to take care of the “baseline,” then money is “off the table,” and one can concentrate on what is important to that individual.
John Wooden was motivated by this: he wanted to teach.
From Wikipedia: “He never made more than $35,000 a year salary (not including camps and speaking engagements), including 1975, the year he won his 10th national championship, and never asked for a raise,” wrote Rick Reilly of ESPN.
So, yes, Coach Wooden was paid adequately, but he clearly was not motivated by money. He was motivated by his hunger and drive to teach. In his own words:
What am I? Just a teacher – a member of one of the great professions in the world.
In the Los Angeles Times article by Mike Penner, written on the 99th birthday of Coach Wooden (which I quoted in my blog post), he reported that Wooden turned down an offer to coach the Lakers from owner Jack Kent Cooke that may have been 10 times what UCLA was paying him.
Why did he do that? How could he do that? Was he crazy? Quick – name another person who would have turned down such a massive amount of money. Actually, there are others. Pat Tillman left his NFL salary to serve his country. But, admittedly, the list is short.
Wooden turned it down because he viewed himself as a teacher, and he simply was not in it for the money. His motivation came from within, from something that came close to a sense of calling. He was the exemplar of intrinsic motivation.
#2 – Coach Wooden was a great teacher.
As I read about his life after his death, here is a message that is being repeated often: he grew closer to his former players after his wife’s death. What kept them so close to him? For most of them, he was only around them for one chapter of their life – the college chapter. They had other coaches, other teachers. Why so close to him?
I think this. They remembered the impact he had made on them, and they wanted to recapture just a little more of it. Or, at least, to remember it a little better. He was a truly sincere, utterly memorable teacher. Listen to his players. They all seem to remember individual practice session, individual comments, and of course the lesson on how to put on your socks.
He loved to teach. And it has been oft reported that what he missed most after leaving coaching was the practice sessions. Not the games; not the championships; the practice sessions (the teaching sessions).
Those are just 2 observations. I could go on and on. There seems so much to learn from Coach Wooden. I hope you are reading a few of the articles out there.
The list of lessons is long – as it should be. We have lost a remarkable human being.
As I have written before, the best-seller list I pay the most attention to is the New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers list. It is updated only once a month, thus it does not demonstrate the flux of the hour-by-hour Amazon list. They just published their latest list (dated June 3). (I blogged about last month’s list here).
Observations: Except for the “finance” books, we have presented synopses of all of these books except one at the First Friday Book Synopsis. The one we have not yet presented is The Way We’re Working isn’t Working, and it is on our “to consider” list.
One other observation: I have presented The Big Short for a priviate client, and my synopsis will be available soon on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. (In fact, many of these are either now available, or will be soon, on our companion site. Each synopsis comes with audio + handout).
And one more observation. Note that this list of current best sellers has a few books that have been out quite a while. That says something about the lasting popularity, the lasting interest people have in a relatively small number of books.
Here are the fifteen business best sellers from the June 3 list.
THE BIG SHORT, by Michael Lewis
OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell
SWITCH, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
THE WAY WE’RE WORKING ISN’T WORKING, by Tony Schwartz with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy
CRISIS ECONOMICS, by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm
DRIVE, by Daniel H. Pink
THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK, by Timothy Ferriss
13 BANKERS, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak
STRENGTHS BASED LEADERSHIP, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
REWORK, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER, by Dave Ramsey
THE END OF WALL STREET, by Roger Lowenstein
HOW AN ECONOMY GROWS AND WHY IT CRASHES, by Peter D. Schiff and Andrew J. Schiff
TOO BIG TO FAIL, by Andrew Ross Sorkin
SUPERFREAKONOMICS, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Dave and Wendy Ulrich organize the material in this book within a framework of seven questions. As you review the list, I suggest that you begin to formulate your answers. Better yet, write them down.
1. What am I known for?
2. Where am I going?
3. Whom do I travel with?
4. How do I build a positive work environment?
5. What challenges interest me?
6. How do I respond to disposability and change?
7. What delights me?
The Ulrichs devote a separate chapter to each of these seven questions, focusing on real-world situations in which various people address the given issues each query raises. They characterize human beings as “meaning-making machines” who seek and often find inherent value in making sense of life. Such meaning also has market value because “meaningful work solves real problems, contributes real benefits, and thus adds real value to customers and investors.”
In this context, the Ulrichs introduce their concept of the “abundant organization” and identify its dominant characteristics: “a work setting in which individuals coordinate their aspirations and actions to create meaning for themselves, value for stakeholders, and hope for humanity at large”; an organization that “has enough and to spare of the things that matter most”: creativity, hope, resilience, determination, resourcefulness, and leadership; a profitable enterprise that concentrates on opportunities, potentialities, synergies, and fulfillment of a diversity of human needs and experiences; and especially when times are tough, a social as well as economic forces that can “bring order, integrity, and purpose out of chaos and disintegration.”
An abundant organization gives meaning to everyone involved by offering a spiritual as well as physical environment within which to thrive as human beings; their contributions, in turn, create a decisive competitive advantage for the organization while increasing and enhancing its market as well as its social value.
To become and then remain “abundant,” an organization must help its people to leverage their strengths and serve their core values, meanwhile doing so with their career objectives in proper alignment with their organization’s strategic objectives. That is the “Why” of their relationship. In this brilliant book, Dave and Wendy Ulrich also provide leaders with the “How,” the information and counsel they need, to create an abundance of purpose and meaning both for themselves and for everyone else involved, at all levels and in all areas of the enterprise they share.
Nicholas Carr is the author of the new book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, which is now on my “to think about for the First Friday Book Synopsis” list. In today’s New York Times book section, Jonah Lehrer reviews his new book in a review entitled Our Cluttered Minds. The review is worth reading.
Here’s the quote for the day:
“Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words,” Carr writes, with typical eloquence. “Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
“Learning how to think means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.”