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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success
When the World Feels Angry, Gentleness Is Power

Let us overcome the angry man with gentleness, the evil man with goodness, the miser with generosity, the liar with truth.

In his book, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success with Jay Carty, Coach describes one of his first lessons about the power of overcoming anger with gentleness:

“When I was a young boy, I was at a gravel pit with my father and a young man. They had a team of horses and were attempting to pull a load up a steep road. The young man driving the horses was loud and abusive. In response, the animals were agitated, worked against each other and couldn’t pull the load.

With a gentle voice and a gentler touch, my dad calmed the horses and walked them forward with the load. It was an incredible reminder that gentleness can fix in a moment what an hour of shouting fails to achieve.”

The example of his father led Coach to understand that anger avoidance by disagreeing agreeably was one key to a successful marriage. In his book A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court with Steve Jamison Coach described it this way:

“Very early, Nellie and I understood that there would be times when we disagreed but there would never be times when we had to be disagreeable. We kept to that rule for over half a century.”

Whether it is in the workplace or at home, we should remember as Coach liked to say: “You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.”

If the other person is angry and has a bad tone of voice, we must be mindful not to match that tone but to respond with gentleness.

The idea: Let us overcome the angry man with gentleness is credited to The Mahabharata, a Hindu text from 400 BC.

It is as true today as it was then.

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.