Hello Successful Creatives,

If you’ve watched the popular TV series, “Ted Lasso”, you know that coach Lasso often says, “I don’t care about winning.” It’s a strange thing to say if you’re the coach of a professional sports team, where, in theory at least, winning is everything.

But Ted Lasso knows something most people don’t. He knows that points on a scoreboard mean little, and that the people on his team mean a lot. His goal is to push the people around them to be the best people they can be. Winning is a by-product. A sidenote. Ted Lasso knows that the real win for any good leader is the betterment of the people around them.

Anyone who has watched Ted Lasso and also knows something about UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, recognizes that Ted Lasso borrows a lot from Wooden’s philosophy.

“Jason Sudeikis often talks about the influence of Donnie Campbell, his basketball coach at Shawnee Mission West High School in Kansas. Campbell was highly influenced by and shared the wisdom of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. Campbell referred daily to Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success”. In episode 1 of season 1, we see an autographed John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” hung on the wall as Lasso and Beard settle into their new digs.”

In the annals of coaching history, few figures shine as brightly as John Wooden, the legendary former coach of UCLA basketball. While his achievements on the court are well-documented—10 NCAA Division I championships, 7 consecutive National championships, and an unprecedented 88-game winning streak—Wooden’s enduring legacy lies not just in the numbers, but in the profound philosophy that guided his coaching journey. Here are some outtakes from that famous coach’s philosophy:

1. Beyond Victory: A Unique Perspective
Coach Wooden’s approach was a departure from the norm. He stood out by never fixating solely on victory. His philosophy, encapsulated in his own words, “you never heard me mention winning… My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game, and you can win when you’re outscored,” underscores a perspective that transcends the scoreboard.

2. Teacher First, Coach Second
Wooden viewed himself primarily as a teacher, imparting not just basketball skills but life lessons to his players. Emphasizing character development and fundamental skills over flashy plays, Wooden instilled in his team the importance of a solid foundation, both on and off the court. This teacher-centric philosophy underscored his belief that a holistic approach to development breeds lasting success.

3. Practice Trumps Games
In a sports culture that often places the utmost importance on game-day performances, Wooden was a staunch advocate for the significance of practice. He firmly believed that meticulous preparation would naturally lead to favorable results. The countless hours spent honing skills in practice were, to Wooden, the bedrock upon which success was built, reinforcing his emphasis on disciplined, focused training.

4. Patience Amidst Hyper-Competitiveness
Wooden’s coaching philosophy stood as a beacon of patience in the hyper-competitive world of college basketball. Defining success not merely by the number of championships but by “peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable,” Wooden encouraged a long-term perspective that resonates far beyond the final buzzer.

5. Winning as an Outcome, Not a Goal
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Wooden’s philosophy was his perception of winning. For him, winning was not the ultimate goal but a natural outcome of disciplined preparation, character development, and teamwork. By focusing on attracting players based on their character and their ability to contribute to the team culture, Wooden fostered a sense of loyalty, dedication, respect, commitment, and passion that went beyond the game.

6. Personal Touch in a Business World
If there’s one lesson from Wooden’s philosophy that transcends sports, it’s the personal touch he brought to coaching. In an era where “it’s just business” prevails, Wooden’s coaching philosophy reminds us that success is not only measured in championships but in the profound impact a leader can have on the lives of those they guide.

In a world that often equates success with relentless pursuit and immediate results, John Wooden’s coaching philosophy remains a timeless guidepost. It challenges us to rethink our approach, emphasizing the enduring values of patience, character, and disciplined preparation. Beyond the basketball court, Wooden’s philosophy serves as a beacon for coaches, leaders, and individuals alike, encouraging us to strive for success with a holistic, principled perspective.

If one were to share these profound insights with present-day business and sports executives, omitting Wooden’s attribution, they might dismiss them as overly soft, unrealistic, or quaint. The prevailing sentiment often leans towards an unwavering focus on growth, numbers, and winning, with the prevalent notion that those diverging from this approach risk being left behind.

This prompts a critical question: if this modern pursuit of victory is so potent, why do myriad companies struggle to sustain success? Why do leaders and coaches experience burnout in its unrelenting pursuit? In surveys where employees are presented with the choice between a substantial raise and a new boss, why does the majority opt for a change in leadership?
Moreover, if the majority of coaches endorse the unyielding winning approach, why have none come close to matching Wooden’s unparalleled record? Is it mere coincidence that the coach who seldom spoke of winning is, in fact, the winningest coach of all time?
Wooden perceived winning not as a goal but as a consequential outcome. His focus lay in attracting the right players based on their character and their ability to contribute to the team culture, rather than solely relying on individual talent. Loyalty, dedication, respect, commitment, and passion were not demanded from his players; they were earned by Wooden through a demonstration of these qualities. Wooden held his players accountable for how they prepared and performed, placing less emphasis on quantitative measures.

In our own lives, let us never forget that the real win is to become the best people we can become. When this is our perspective, outward successes or failures mean little. What matters is that we use the challenges of life to become better, stronger, more courageous, more disciplined, kinder people. That’s the real win.

To your success,

Melissa McFarlane
Creative Successful Entrepreneurs



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