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The future may be when you wish you had done what you are not doing now.

This favorite idea of Coach Wooden’s is designed to cause us to think about how we are approaching our lives on a daily basis.

There have been many articles written where older people are interviewed and talk about what regrets they have about the way they did things when they were younger. This advice is passed along to younger people, with the hope that they will live a happier, more productive life now, rather than later.

Here I’ve listed the eight areas of life people most commonly have regrets about, and using the Pyramid of Success, I put together some advice from Coach Wooden:

1. I regret all the time I wasted.

In the Industriousness block of the Pyramid of Success, Coach says, worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning. In the book Coach Wooden’s Leadership Game Plan for Success, hecommented on how he valued time:

One of the very few rules I enforced from my first day of coaching until my last was as follows: “Be on time.” Players—even assistant coaches—who broke this rule faced serious consequences. Being late showed disrespect for time. I felt that one of the ways I could signal my own reverence for time was to insist on punctuality. And, to be punctual myself.

If a player appeared to be taking it easy during practice, not giving it everything he had, I told him sternly, “Don’t think you can make up for it by working twice as hard tomorrow. If you have it within your power to work twice as hard, I want you to do it right now.” This was another way of telling them not to waste time; to make this practice a masterpiece.

I believe effective organization of time—budgeting and managing time—was one of my assets as a coach. I understood how to use time to its most productive ends. Gradually, I had learned how to get the most out of a minute. In return, each minute gave back the most to our team. I was never the greatest X’s and O’s coach around. Never. But I was among the best when it came to respecting and utilizing time. I valued it, gave it respect, and tried to make each minute a masterpiece.

Make Each Day Your Masterpiece. You have nothing without time. Treat it with great respect.

2. I regret not pursuing a career that I was passionate about sooner.

One of the cornerstones of Coach’s Pyramid of Success is Enthusiasm. Coach’s advice is simple: to attain peace of mind you must truly enjoy what you are doing.

Coach had some very direct advice on this topic: Complaining, whining, and making excuses just keeps you out of the present. If your complaints are constant, serious, and genuine about your calling, then leave when practical. If you lack Enthusiasm for your job, get out or at least recognize that you will never perform at your highest level.

3. I wish I had spent more time with my family and friends.

A foundational quality of Coach’s Pyramid is Friendship. As Coach liked to say: Do not get so concerned with making a living that you forget to make a life.

4. I wish I had not worried so much about what other people thought about me.

Coach’s advice on this topic requires another Pyramid block: Self-Control. Coach put it this way:

Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Character is what you really are. Reputation is what people say you are. Character is more important.

Never try to be better than someone else. But always be learning from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be. One is under your control, the other isn’t.

5. I wish I had learned earlier in life to let go of past mistakes and resentment.

Once again, Coach advises us on the need for Self-Control:

A mistake is valuable if you do four things with it: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.

The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.

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

6. I regret not taking more chances because I was afraid of failing and did not want to deal with change.

One of the blocks of Coach’s Pyramid of Success is Initiative. Coach’s advice is simple: to attain peace of mind you must cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it.

Coach had three key ideas regarding taking action and not being afraid to make mistakes:

The people who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do anything.

Don’t permit fear of failure to prevent effort. We are all imperfect and will fail on occasions, but fear of failure is the greatest failure of all.

The person who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success. The only real failure is the failure to act when action is required.

In today’s constantly evolving technology, we must embrace change, not avoid it. As Coach liked to say:

All change may not be progress, but all progress is the result of change.

7. I regret having given up on so many things at the first hurdle.

A key quality on Coach’s Pyramid is Intentness. As Coach liked to say: Set a realistic goal. Concentrate on its achievement by resisting all temptations and being determined and persistent.

When we are faced with a roadblock, the key is to try different ways around it.

Coach described the value of a never-give-up attitude this way: Self-satisfaction will come from the knowledge that you left no stone unturned in an effort to accomplish everything possible under the circumstances.

8. I wish I had saved more money.

Coach lived very modestly because he recognized that more material things would not necessarily make him happier. He received his greatest joy from helping others.

A good rule is to keep your upgrade in lifestyle two steps behind your pay raises. Consistent saving when you are young will help your peace of mind when you are older. Make it a priority!

Photo by @rohane/

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.