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“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” –John Wooden

As I sat down to begin writing this, I decided I would get myself a nice cold glass of pomegranate juice.

Having removed the bottle from the refrigerator, I gave it a few good shakes. But because I did not put the cap on properly when I last used it, I sprayed pomegranate juice all over my shirt and the kitchen floor.

As I spent five minutes cleaning up the mess, while also thinking about my future dry-cleaning bill to remove the pomegranate stain from my shirt, I reflected on the idea that, if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? It might be Coach Wooden’s most useful self-coaching advice for beginning a task.

Every time I neglect doing something correctly the first time, sooner or later it creates more work for me and others involved in the task.

I am not unique in this regard. In my experience working with a number of companies, I consistently encounter frustrated administrative personnel who are redoing work because salespeople and managers didn’t get the details right the first time.

One year at the Wooden Cup, honoree Jack Nicklaus told the audience that, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” was his favorite John Wooden quote. His wife Barbara had even posted it on the refrigerator at their home. I laughed as it is also the quote my wife uses on me the most frequently.

Mr. Nicklaus emphasized the importance of this idea in the design and execution of building golf courses and in his personal routine as a golf professional, as only almost perfect practice leads to peak performance.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban said it was his experience washing cars at his father’s gas station that developed his do it right the first time habits. If a car was not washed and waxed perfectly the first time, his father would make him do it all over—starting from scratch.

Magic Johnson credits his father in the same manner, as he demanded young Earvin execute perfection in their trash pickup business. It was either do it right the first time or go back out in the snow and freezing temperatures to do it again.

Coach Wooden credited his father Joshua, who insisted that young John complete every chore on the farm properly and completely before moving on to other activities.

I am going to get another glass of pomegranate juice. It shouldn’t take as long or be as expensive. I put the cap back on properly this time.

Related: The Importance of Self-Discipline

Photo by everydayplus /

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.