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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

The seventh item of Coach Wooden’s Seven-Point Creed is, “Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.”

John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: ‘Be Thankful’

When Coach spoke on this point, he would frequently recite one of his favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes: “If we magnified our blessings the way we magnify our disappointments, we’d all be a lot happier.” Indeed, accepting disappointment without complaint is one of the key points that Coach taught on the subject of being thankful.

Related: How to Handle Adversity: Don’t Whine, Don’t Complain, Don’t Make Excuses.

Coach learned at an early age to accept disappointments with good grace because of the example set by his parents. Although his father, Joshua Wooden, lost his farm due to the mistake of another, he never complained or assigned blame. Joshua’s ability to make the best out of an adverse situation was one of the traits that Coach came to admire most in his father.

Coach also saw the same quality in his mother Roxie, after she suffered the deaths of her two daughters within a year of each other. Her first daughter, Cordelia, died from diphtheria at 2 years old, and her second daughter died at birth. Despite these tragedies, Coach never heard his mother complain, nor witness her feeling sorry for herself as she raised four spirited boys.

“The great secret of life is to cultivate the ability to appreciate the things we have.”

At times, Coach emphasized the importance of being thankful by quoting Lao Tse: “Freedom from desire leads to inner peace.” He also added his own words of wisdom: “The great secret of life is to cultivate the ability to appreciate the things we have, not compare them.” Coach often encouraged us to not take for granted the many things we have that we did nothing to earn, such as life itself, the beauty of nature, the great country we live in, or the love of our family and friends.

The second part of that advice, to pray for guidance, were also words Coach took to heart. His own faith was very dear to him and he respected the religions of all people, because he knew that faith was an important part of living a worthwhile life. He encouraged his players to have a faith and to be able to defend their beliefs, but he never encouraged them to pray to win. That would be far too selfish, he said.

Related: How John Wooden Led His Teams to a Victorious Life

In 1942, Coach received a faithful attendance pen from Frank E. Davidson, who operated an interfaith men’s club called The Forum. Men would attend during the Sunday school hour to study and pray together, and then leave to worship at their own churches. The night before receiving the award, Coach’s team won the finals in the sectional tournament against a Catholic team whose coach, Johnny Howe, also attended The Forum. The next morning, Frank Davidson joked, “There I was at the game last night and here was Johnny Wooden, who I knew was going to receive his medal for not having missed in the last year—and there was Johnny Howe with his team all blessing themselves. Now wasn’t our Lord in a heck of a spot?”

Contentment makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.

As he liked to do, Coach shared with us some great wisdom to remind us to give thanks for our blessings and pray for guidance every day: Contentment makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.

  • Take time to live, it is the secret of success.
  • Take time to think, it is the source of power.
  • Take time to play, it is the secret of youth.
  • Take time to read, it is the foundation of knowledge.
  • Take time for friendship, it is the source of happiness.
  • Take time to laugh, it helps lift life’s load.
  • Take time to dream, it hitches the soul to the stars.
  • Take time for God, it is life’s only lasting investment.  

When Coach was asked whether he was able to live up to his father’s Seven-Point Creed, he would often say, “I am not what I want to be, not what I ought to be, and not what I am going to be, but I am thankful that I am not what I used to be.” No matter how daunting the task of living up to your creed, pursuing your dreams or reaching your goals might seem, the key is that you must never stop trying. For each new day brings progress, and in doing your best you achieve success.

Related: John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: ‘Be True to Yourself’

Craig Impelman

By studying Coach’s teachings, you can discover how a return to the fundamentals could mean the difference in your ability to achieve. Sign up for the free three-part video course, Framework of Success.

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.