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You meet the same people on the way up as you meet on the way down.

The origin of this favorite quote of Coach Wooden’s is attributed to playwright Wilson Mizner, who in 1932 gave the following advice to a young up and coming motion picture star: “Be kind to everyone on the way up; you’ll meet the same people on the way down.”

For Coach Wooden, this was sound advice for his players at UCLA, to keep things in proper perspective and not get big headed.

This statement reflected how Coach lived his life, too. Not to get some desired result but rather just doing what he enjoyed: treating all people with dignity and respect.

This story from Pat Williams’ book How to Be Like Coach Wooden: Life Lessons from Basketball’s Greatest Leader is a good example of this approach to life.

“Steve Jamison, a writer who has often worked with Coach, told me about a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach, California: ‘People started lining up at 7 a.m. for a 2 p.m. signing,’ he said. ‘The publisher had hired a driving service to escort us that day, and after the signing, we were driven to Coach’s granddaughter’s house for dinner.

“As we were getting out of the car, Coach turned to the driver; a man named Jason, and asked, ‘You’ll join us for dinner, won’t you?’ The man was startled—but wound up sitting next to Coach at the table—with a dumbfounded look on his face, as if to ask, Is this really happening?

“This is how John Wooden thinks: Everyone should be treated properly, with respect and dignity. You don’t leave a driver out in the car while everyone else is inside eating. That lesson really hit me; if the greatest coach of the twentieth century acts this way with people at all levels, I can too.”

For Coach, treating all people with dignity and respect was common courtesy, not a special event.

Read next: How to Treat Others With Respect

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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.