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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success
John Wooden motivational quotes

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

“Some people go through their lives like they are walking slowly into a swimming pool — the water hardly ripples. John Wooden wasn’t one of those people,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski wrote in the forward of A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring by Don Yaeger about the late coach. “His life was like a cannonball dive that sent waves across the water, affecting everyone in the pool.” Indeed, Wooden’s humble ripple became a wave of influence for many people from all walks of life.

‘Everything I Want to Be’

Sportscaster Bill Walton was touched by one such wave of influence. In the time that he played for the UCLA coach from 1971-1974, Walton found an unforgettable mentor in the man regarded as the best coach of all time. “Coach Wooden epitomized everything I want to be,” says the 2-time NCAA champion and 3-time All-American player.

From Wooden, Walton learned how to be an industrious student, so that you earn the privilege to be a UCLA basketball player. Wooden taught the future NBA coach how to act with poise when you’re at your lowest. He taught why friendship, loyalty and cooperation are the building blocks of success. Wooden even taught his players the resourceful way to put on their socks and shoes.

Related: Coach John Wooden: The 4 Things a Man Must Learn to Do

“While our practices were the most demanding endeavors that I’ve ever been a part of, so physically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically taxing, there is always the sense of joy of people having fun playing a simple game,” Walton wrote on his site

Whiddon Meet Wooden

But you didn’t have to play for Wooden to feel the ripple effect of his Pyramid of Success. The tenets he taught have touched many, far beyond that one rippling wave of influence.

Take J. N. “Jim” Whiddon of Dallas, featured in the October 2016 issue of SUCCESS, who wanted to be a basketball coach like his idol Wooden.

While assistant coaching at Texas A&M, Whiddon discovered a coach’s salary wouldn’t sufficiently pay the bills, so he left behind his dream of college ball. He shifted gears and earned a master’s degree at The American College of Financial Services instead. He founded the firm JWA Financial Group (which he sold in 2013) and hosted a radio show during his lucrative 30-year career in finance. But the influence of the legendary UCLA coach still called to him.

Related: 27 Quotes by John Wooden to Motivate You to Be Better

In his book The Old School Advantage, published in February, Whiddon describes the importance of become a life-changing leader dedicated to success as well as significance. He owes these “old school” values to Wooden’s influence. In the book, he shares the importance of “old school” communication with younger generations. “We’re manufacturing technicians in colleges across the country,” Whiddon says. “But can those technicians, who are brilliant and have such know-how, communicate those ideas? Do they have the social skills?”

Influenced by Wooden’s principled style of leadership, Whiddon’s book explores how enthusiasm and sincerity in storytelling can make you a great leader. It also presents advice for negotiating during a job interview and touts the impact of a handwritten thank-you note.

The Game of Life

That’s what Wooden did. He taught people how to be better. “Coach Wooden was a great teacher, teaching the right way to play the greatest game all people play — the game of life,” says sportscaster Dick Vitale. He is one of dozens of people that shared their stories about Coach Wooden for an upcoming SUCCESS project.

Related: Timeless Lessons From John Wooden, the Greatest Coach of All Time

Explore for more blogs and videos about John Wooden’s legacy.

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.