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Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.

This maxim represents the foundation of famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s approach as a teacher. He often reminded his players of this with his make each day your masterpiece approach and spoke poignantly on the topic:

“Don’t live in the past; you can’t do anything about the past. It will never change whether it’s yesterday or last year. The future is yet to be determined and can be influenced by what you do today. Today is the only day that really matters. That’s what I tried to teach.”

Related: Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

There is a poem that goes like this:

I’ve shut the door on yesterday,
Its sorrows and mistakes.
I’ve locked within its gloomy walls
Past failures and heartaches.
And now I throw the key away
To seek another room,
And furnish it with hope and smiles
And every springtime bloom.

No thought shall enter this abode
That has a hint of pain,
And worry, malice and distrust
Shall never therein reign.
I’ve shut the door on yesterday
And thrown the key away—
The future holds no doubt for me,
Since I have found today.

Coach Wooden often referenced his father’s example as a major influence on him. His mother, Roxie, also had a powerful impact on his focus on now, not yesterday approach. In his book A Game Plan for Life with Don Yaeger, Coach described it this way:

“I have written and talked a great deal during my long career about my father’s tremendous influence on my life, but have neglected to say much about my mother. That is a great oversight, as she was an incredible woman who managed a household with none of the modern conveniences and suffered the loss of both her daughters within a year of one another. Cordelia, who was born between my older brother Maurice and myself, died of diphtheria when she was 2; and there was a baby girl who died at birth and was never named. And yet Mother never once complained, or lost her faith, or showed any kind of self-pity. Instead, she poured herself into the lives of her surviving children with a fierce devotion that celebrated her love for us all.”

Related: Why You Can’t Find Success Without Faith

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, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.