There are five character qualities on each side of the blocks on the Pyramid of Success that Coach Wooden referred to as the “mortar” that held the other blocks together. These character qualities bond the other 15 character traits and make them sturdy, solid and unshakable.
Related: Success: What Does It Really Mean?
The mortar on the left side of the Pyramid is made up of ambition, adaptability, resourcefulness, fight and faith. The mortar on the right side is sincerity, honesty, reliability, integrity and patience.
Coach Wooden explained his strategic placement of faith and patience by describing how they are “leading up from competitive greatness to the top, success—according to my definition—at the apex. On one side, I have patience, and on the other side, I have faith. You need those two things.”
More than once, Coach said that faith and patience could have been placed at the very top or the very bottom of the Pyramid. He believed that these qualities are both the goals and the bedrock of what we need to maintain the other blocks on the Pyramid as we overcome obstacles on our journey to success.
Just as Coach Wooden made enthusiasm and industriousness the cornerstones of his Pyramid and explained that poise and confidence are a result of the blocks below them, he ultimately chose purposely to have success resting on top of nothing other than faith and patience.
Coach summed it up this way: “Distrust begets distrust; it takes trust, faith and patience to acquire peace of mind.”
If we expect people to have faith in us, we must have faith in them. Faith is required to bring out the best in people, both in others and in ourselves. Abraham Lincoln described the value of having faith in others this way: “It’s better to trust and be disappointed occasionally than to distrust and be miserable all the time.”
We have to show each person that we have faith in his or her ability to get the job done, and that we have faith in our shared vision that our efforts will not be wasted.
But faith for Coach went even further. He believed that we needed to trust in something higher than ourselves, that there was an ultimate plan at work of which we were an essential component. “We must have faith that if we do the things we know we should do, things will work out as they should,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be the way we would want them to, but as they should. We should not expect more than that.”
Coach liked to remind us that faith must be accompanied by work. “Too often we just want things to work out the way we want them to, but we don’t want to pay the price, so to speak, of doing the things that would help that become reality.” In other words, faith is not simply sitting back and hoping for a positive outcome, but rather rolling up our sleeves and investing ourselves in the matter with the faith that things will end up for the best.
As leaders, it is essential for each of us to communicate this faith to our teams. We have to show each person that we have faith in his or her ability to get the job done, and that we have faith in our shared vision that our efforts will not be wasted. As Coach liked to say, “It’s not what you think you are, but what you think.”
Whether we review the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, John Wooden or even someone like Steve Jobs, at the core of their lives, we will find that they had faith in their beliefs and their goals, and that they placed faith in others to work alongside them in realizing their vision. What a wonderful legacy each man left. That’s the power of faith.