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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

How to Be the Person Others Can Count OnOn the right side of the Pyramid of Success, below patience, there are four additional pieces of mortar: sincerity, honesty, reliability and integrity. These are qualities that, together, encompass the genuineness, strength and impact of human character.

In his book Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, with Jay Carty, Coach Wooden defined reliability and its importance in the following manner:

“When we are reliable, others know they can depend on us. They know we will make the effort to do our best, whatever the situation might be. They know we won’t run, cower or become paralyzed by fear. They have learned to count on our consistency and trustworthiness. We’ll still be there making the effort to do our best long after the weaker ones have faded. People can bet the farm on us and still be able to sleep at night. Reliability earns the respect of those around us.

“Capability doesn’t have anything to do with reliability. Some people don’t have as much capability as others have, but they make up for their lack by being reliable.”

Related: 3 Things You Need to Know About Being Loyal

Under each piece of mortar on the Pyramid, in parentheses, there is some brief application advice for that mortar. In the original version of the Pyramid, Coach had suggested that reliability was an important trait because “others depend upon you.” After revising the Pyramid years later, Coach changed the application advice for reliability to read, “creates respect.” Coach had an important motivation for this change. He wanted to make certain that we understand that reliability is necessary for us to be successful because it earns the respect and trust of others.

Coach also emphasized reliability as an important personal trait for any coach in his book Practical Modern Basketball: “Your players must know that they can depend upon you and so must all of your co-workers and neighbors.”

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”

Although he coached basketball at UCLA for 27 years, Coach never took a shortcut in his preparation for each daily practice. In his 27th season, he was still spending two hours to plan his two-hour practice session. He earned the respect of all of his teams because they knew they could rely on him to be prepared and give his best effort every practice.

Reliability is a trademark of good character. As Coach liked to say, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”

When we are reliable, we are consistent in our efforts regardless of previous achievements. Coach put it this way: “It’s so easy to relax, to cut corners, to let down after you’ve reached your goal, and begin thinking you can just ‘turn it on’ automatically, without proper preparation. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there.”

A reliable person follows two great pieces of advice from Coach Wooden:

  • Discipline yourself so others won’t have to.”
  • “Earn the right to be proud and confident.”

Related: 3 Keys to Successful Cooperation

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.