I Don’t Know Anything About Basketball (& Three Other Things I Learned From UCLA Coach John Wooden)

basketball on a court

“In 1948, I began coaching basketball at UCLA. Each hour of practice we worked very hard. Each day we worked very hard. Each week we worked very hard. Each season we worked very hard. For fourteen years we worked very hard and didn’t win a national championship. However, a national championship was won in the fifteenth year. Another in the sixteenth. And eight more in the following ten years.” ~John Wooden

It’s not often that I’ll talk about sports on this little blog of mine. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about sports on this little blog of mine! But I came across the above quote from John Wooden over the weekend, & it got me thinking about the way we choose to direct our focus.

I kept asking myself how the UCLA basketball team got to a point where they started winning championships. Was it the team? No. They worked hard for 14 years & didn’t win—but then won in the 15th year. & a whole bunch more times in the following years. Because of the nature of college basketball, the whole team changes over every four (or so) years. So it had to be the coach.

So how did Coach Wooden develop his skills to become a national basketball championship coach? & how can you develop your skills to be the best in whatever field you choose to pursue excellence in? I’ve figured out three strategies that you can crib from the coach in your pursuit of excellence.

Step One: Develop clarity on both who you are & what skill you want to pursue & be awesome at. If you want to master a skill, make sure it’s something that you absolutely love, & that will support you emotionally over the next bunch of years. Then, start working towards being the best! Focus on being your absolute best. The often-quoted Malcolm Gladwell said you need to spend 10,000 hours on a skill to be a phenom at that skill. How does that break down? About three hours a day, every day (including weekends!) over 10 years. If you want to do it in a shorter period of time, well, that just means you need to increase your time every day.

Step Two: Set goals which are in line with who you want to be once you’ve mastered the skill. This means setting enormous goals! Enormous goals give us the boost that we need in the efforts we make in becoming more than who we are. Huge goals, scary goals, terrifying goals are absolutely critical—they provide the motivation we need to be diligent, to identify our weaknesses, & to heighten our awareness of how what we’re doing effects us. This creates the focus we need to stay on track towards our goals.

Step Three: Your large goals will be a roadblock to people who drain your energy. Now, this sounds a little less than loving, & that’s not what I mean. But it’s been said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, & I really believe that to be true. If your big dream is to start an online business & move to Peru, but you spend time with people who would rather complain about their corporate jobs & live in the suburbs, chances are you’re going to stay put where you are. However, if you make your big huge scary goals clear to those around you, they are going to be scared off a bit, giving you the time & energy you need to focus on what you want, & to bring people into your life whose goals are in line with your own. At first, you might have to get comfortable being alone. Scaring people away with your focus & determination comes at a cost. Do trust, though, that you will start to meet people whose goals compliment yours—& you compliment theirs! This is not the time to start being Machiavellian in your choices of friends, & only choose people who can do something for you. Make sure you have room in your life for the people who you can also provide something to. This friendship thing needs to be a two-way street, darling.

So, I put it to you: what do you really want to do? Deep down? What feels in line with yourself, your priorities? Take some time today to think about it. Then set yourself a big goal! Feel free to share it up in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter—I’d love to see what you’re up to!

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