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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

Why Enthusiasm Is a Powerful Tool for SuccessIn 1934 when Coach Wooden began building his Pyramid of Success, he chose Enthusiasm as the second cornerstone. Although many other blocks were moved and redefined in the next 14 years as he developed his Pyramid, Enthusiasm was never moved.

Related: How Coach Wooden Created the Pyramid of Success

Enthusiasm is defined in the Pyramid of Success as this: “Brushes off upon those with whom you come in contact. You must truly enjoy what you are doing.”

Coach Wooden believed that enthusiasm was the igniter that turned hard work into industriousness. “Hard work without enthusiasm leads to tedium. Enthusiasm without industriousness leads to unrealized potential. When combined, they cement a solid foundation.”

Coach Wooden’s father, Joshua, had given his sons two sets of three rules he hoped would guide their everyday behavior. The second set of three—“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses”—was his advice on how to deal with adversity and how to always keep a positive attitude.

Related: To Succeed Under Pressure, Focus on the Experience

This advice strongly influenced Coach Wooden in choosing Enthusiasm as one of the cornerstones of his Pyramid of Success. But Wooden’s definition, that “you must truly enjoy what you’re doing,” provides a challenge to take it a step further. Choose a career that provides work that you can enjoy; Coach did not believe that you could ever reach your full potential working in a field unless you genuinely were happy with the work you had the opportunity to accomplish.

In fact, Coach Wooden’s advice was very clear for those working at a job they did not enjoy: “Complaining, whining and making excuses just keep you out of the present. If your complaints are constant, serious and genuine about your calling, then leave when practical…. If you have a job that you enjoy but there are negative external conditions that you don’t have control over, you must not let them bother you and dampen your enthusiasm.”

Coach Wooden has stated that he allowed the difficult entrance requirements and poor facilities at UCLA to bother him for the first 12 or 13 years of his coaching career. It wasn’t until he changed his attitude—or as Coach said, “Embraced my own Pyramid”—and got his enthusiasm back that he began winning national championships.

Here is some additional wisdom from Coach Wooden concerning enthusiasm:

  • “The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.”
  • “People are usually as happy as they make up their mind to be.”
  • “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Coach Wooden made it clear that he felt that an enthusiastic, positive, optimistic attitude is an absolute requirement of leadership.


“More often than we ever suspect, the lives of others we affect.”


As a leader, you should always be aware of your tone of voice and know that sometimes even a simple sentence said with a negative tone can diminish the enthusiasm of those you work with and put productive results in jeopardy.

Related: John Wooden’s Leadership Legacy


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.