Recovery and John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming” – John Wooden

I have been a UCLA Basketball and Football fan most of my life (glad the team pulled out a last-second win over Arizona last night!). I am fortunate to be an Alumni and to have been introduced to the UCLA Basketball team by Keith Erickson, a former UCLA player, friend and champion at the collegiate and professional level.

From 1989 – 1996, I consider myself really fortunate to have met many great athletes and people associated with the Basketball program and one of the best memories I have is of meeting the late John Wooden, who was Keith’s Head Coach and coach of 10 Championship teams in 12 years at the University.

I was always struck by Coach Wooden’s humility and graciousness that he displayed to me and to many others that he interacted with and I am forever grateful for one of his many contributions to humanity, his Pyramid of Success.

The Pyramid of Success is the model that Coach Wooden originally taught to the student-athletes he coached then to thousands of others after he retired from basketball. His goal was simple: to provide knowledge and insight to people regarding how they could be successful in their lives, no matter what the situation or circumstance they faced, on the basketball court and equally far from it.

I have personally experienced the benefits that accompany applying the characteristics described in each level and I have seen others experience the success that Coach Wooden spoke about in their lives as they applied the principles in the pyramid as well.

Take a look at the principles and definitions in the Pyramid. Where and how have you applied them, and what has been your experience when you developed and “worked” these characteristics?  How were you successful when you developed and lived by these principles?  What was the impact on others around you?

Below I have included Coach Wooden’s definitions about each block in the Pyramid of Success, with a few thoughts or comments of my own as I have applied them to (my own) recovery and life issues. I encourage you to consider how these guidelines could make a difference in your life and in your relationships. I also encourage you to take it a step further and consider practicing  1 – 2 of them each day over the next 30 days in an effort to cultivate personal and relational growth and success. Let me know how it goes for you, and thank you, Coach Wooden, for your life-changing gift to all of us!

The definitions of The Pyramid of Success with my comments in italics:

  1. Industriousness: “There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile things come from hard work and careful planning.” I realize that if good things are going to come my way like being successful in my recovery, I have to keep my oars in the water. Where might you need to work hard(er) in order to experience success with your recovery?
  2. Friendship: “Comes from mutual esteem, respect and devotion. A sincere liking for all.” These are actually ingredients of love. Where and how do you apply these characteristics in and for yourself first, so that eventually you could pass them along to others, which could result in better and stronger friendships?
  3. Loyalty: “To yourself and all those dependent upon you. Keep your self-respect.” This was a hard one to learn; I had to unlearn my character defects (with God’s help) so that I could learn how to be loyal to myself, my recovery and the engagement in good and positive behaviors for myself and my well being…how about you?
  4. Cooperation: “With all levels of your co-workers. Help others and see the other side.” This is such a good principle to practice because I had to learn there is not a two-sided coin (my side and more of my side) in relationships. Searching to hear and be open to the other person, viewpoints etc. enhanced by ability to cooperate and collaborate successfully with others. 
  5. Enthusiasm: “Your heart must be in your work. Stimulate others.” Although my energy has waned in recent years, my enthusiasm and my heart for my recovery, my work and things that I am passionate about has not. What are you passionate about and how is that energizing your life, your recovery and others around you?  
  6. Self-Control: “Emotions under control. Delicate adjustment between mind and body. Keep judgment and common sense.” Self-control means I respect the boundaries of others by not leaking nor intruding upon the human rights of others. This has helped me to not generate unnecessary problems for myself.  Where and how might you need to exercise self-control? 
  7. Alertness: “Be observing constantly. Be quick to spot a weakness and correct it or use it as the case may warrant.” I hear two very important words that I try to practice here: “Be Mindful.” Being mindful has helped me to steer clear from falling in the hole in the sidewalk again, and again, and again. 
  8. Initiative: “Cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Desire to excel.” Getting past the fear that causes me to procrastinate is difficult, but taking the initiative with issues in my life has helped me to overcome my fears (False Evidence Appearing Real) most of the time when they pop up. Where might you need to take initiative in your life and/or recovery to overcome any current fears you may have?  
  9. Intentness: “Ability to resist temptation and stay with your course. Concentrate on your objective and be determined to reach your goal.” Most of the time prayer and mindfulness helps to overcome temptation, but having a good friend, sponsor, fellowship or other groups of supportive people helps to accomplish our resolves to stay sober too. What and possibly who could help you to be successful with the principle of being Intentness?
  10. Condition(ing): “Mental–Moral–Physical. Rest, exercise and diet must be considered. Moderation must be practiced. Dissipation must be eliminated.” Developing then practicing these characteristics always promoted some form of benefit because any body-mind-spirit deposit yielded a return where I always felt good about myself. Are you comfortable with your body-mind-spirit balance plan?  What changes will you make to achieve your own balance?
  11. Skill: “A knowledge of and the ability to properly execute the fundamentals. Be prepared. Cover every detail.” Knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge is actually the definition of wisdom, where we become skilled at living. When I apply what I know, I not only build “muscle strength” in that area of my life/recovery but if I do it consistently, I develop competence there as well. Where and in what aspect might you want to develop the principle of Skill for your personal benefit?  
  12. Team Spirit: “An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests or glory for the welfare of all. The team comes first.” Coach Wooden also said, “the star of the team is the team.” Where do you help others to succeed? How are you changed for the better when you help others by contributing reasonable expenditures of your time, resource and energy to help them accomplish their personal goals? I’ve found that we all win when I use my energy in this manner.
  13. Poise: “Just being yourself. Being at ease in any situation. Never fighting yourself.” This was and is another hard one to accomplish because I had a hard time working to identify who I really am. Once I learned the skills necessary to be an adult in my life and in my relationships, I began to experience calmer, confidence and subsequently the principle and practice of Poise became a reality. What will it take for you to learn how then to become comfortable with being a functional adult in all your affairs? 
  14. Confidence: “Respect without fear. Confident, not cocky. May come from faith in yourself in knowing that you are prepared.” I’ve noticed that Fear evaporates in direct proportion to my being prepared for a certain encounter, conversation, session or situation.  Here, it is not so much how much I know, but how I apply the knowledge (see #11 – Skill) in any given situation. That helps me to have confidence in my ability to create effective outcomes. What do you need to work on so that you gain greater confidence and subsequently overcome any “free-floating fear” that you may have about any given situation in your life/recovery?
  15. Competitive Greatness:“When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Be at your best when your best is needed. The real love of a hard battle.” It’s been my experience that many of the great battles I have had in my life have been won or lost in my mind, not with another person. Working to defeat the internal critic by developing Coach Wooden’s principles and other values that are important to me have helped me to be skilled, competitive, competent and successful in the battles that truly matter in my life.  Where might you want to reorient and refocus your energies so that instead of battling yourself, you are winning other wars successfully?

Coach Wooden considered these other qualities essential to one’s success as well:

  1. Ambition, which is being properly focused.
  2. Adaptability to any situation.
  3. Resourcefulness, which means to exercise proper judgment:
  4. Fight, which is appropriately exerting effort and hustle.
  5. Faith, which is strengthened through prayer.
  6. Patience, which means good things take time to develop.
  7. Reliability, which beckons you to remember others depend on you.
  8. Integrity, which speaks for itself.
  9. Honesty, in all ways.
  10. Sincerity, which makes friends.

Thanks for taking some time to consider how the application of these principles could be beneficial to your own personal success in your life, in your relationships and above all, in your recovery.

By the way, here’s the game-winning shot made by Bryce Alford last night:

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 7.39.42 AM

Thanks for visiting and please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Dr Ken McGill’s blog and Daily Bread for Life for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.

TeleHealth/Video counseling sessions are available for those who prefer to meet online – Dr. McGill

Businesswoman presses button psychological counseling online on virtual screens. technology, internet and networking concept.

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