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serving others

Forget the favors you have given; remember those received.

This proverb was a favorite of Coach Wooden’s. It reminded him of two valuable lessons he had learned from his father’s Seven-Point Creed: Help others and give thanks for your blessings each day.

The many books written by or about Coach Wooden are filled with stories about his kindness.

There are unending tales of him always making time for people, appearing at countless charity events, and signing autographs until the last fan was happy. The books all have one common thread:

Coach never said, “I’ll be happy to do that, but remember, you owe me one.” He never reminded anyone about favors he had done in the past.

He helped others eagerly and with no strings attached.

Coach often commented that Mother Teresa was the person who lived in his lifetime for whom he had the most respect and admiration. He studied her life carefully and was inspired by her life of giving.

In his book with Don Yeager, A Game Plan for Life, Coach described it this way:

The first quote from Mother Teresa that really stayed with me was, “Unless a life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile.”

The more I thought about this statement, the more its simple truth became apparent: Each of us has a responsibility to lead our life with a focus beyond ourselves.

We cannot all start orphanages or establish clinics, of course, but every one of us can serve others, whether by meeting their physical needs or their emotional ones.

An insulated life that never reaches out is something of a waste—life should be a complex network of relationships and encounters that all serve to grow an individual and others.

She reminded us of our own ability to care and the impact of even the most simple act. “If you can’t feed a hundred people,” she often remarked, “then feed just one.”

One of Coach’s favorite quotes was, “You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone without thought of repayment.”

Pick a friend and start your own one-a-day club. You promise each other that you will do one kind deed a day for someone without thought of repayment. Check up on each other as often as possible to compare notes and keep each other on track.

As Coach liked to say, “One must assemble a life one day, and one deed, at a time.”

Image by hvostik / Shutterstock

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.