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“The goal is to satisfy not everyone else’s expectations, but your own.” –Coach Wooden

Coach said the most important things his father taught him included never trying to be better than somebody else but never ceasing trying to be the best you can be, and always understanding that you’ll never know a thing that you didn’t learn from someone else.

He would say if you get too engrossed, involved and concerned in regards to the things over which you have no control, it will have a negative effect on the things over which you have or should have control.

The expectations of others are not always under our control. Our expectations of ourselves are always under our control.

The basic idea—that the goal is to satisfy not everyone else’s expectations, but your own—raises a good question: If I don’t meet my boss’s expectations at work, I will lose my job. Shouldn’t meeting his or her expectations be a goal?

Coach’s answer: If your goal is to be a great employee and meeting your boss’s expectations is a part of that goal, you certainly should be mindful of achieving those expectations. The approach of satisfying your own expectations, however, would not allow you to be satisfied with just meeting your boss’s expectations if achieving them did not include your best effort.

You may believe you are capable of more.

On the other hand, if your best effort did not result in meeting those expectations, you would not be devastated or depressed.


In 1928, John Wooden was the captain of the Martinsville High School basketball team (The Artesians), which lost the Indiana State Championship to Muncie Central 13-12 on a last second underhanded half-court shot by Muncie’s Charlie Secrist. In his book My Personal Best, Coach described the scene in the locker room after the game:

In our locker room afterward, the Artesians, stunned and almost grieving, sat on the benches holding towels over their faces as they wept. Charlie Secrist’s last-second shot had been crushing, and all of the players just quietly lowered their heads and cried. All but one. I couldn’t cry. The loss hurt me deeply inside, but I also knew I’d done the best I could do. Disappointed? Yes. Devastated or depressed? No. Dad taught us on the farm, “Don’t worry about being better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can be.” I had done that.

Related: 20 Ways to Do Your Best and Be Successful

Photo by GaudiLab/

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.