This Book is For:
*Anyone who is deeply interested in the study of human potential, and especially those who know that they themselves have much more inside themselves to give than they've ever been called upon to contribute before.
*Businesspeople and leaders in all areas of civic life who want to learn how to inspire themselves and their teams to greatness, and who want to learn from the very best about exactly how to do that.
*Athletes and coaches who want to bring the absolute best out of themselves, and increase their own contribution to the success of the teams of which they are a significant part.
*Everyone who knows that there's more to life than winning and that a life defined by competitive greatness and unshakeable self-worth has nothing to do with whatever it happens to say on the scoreboard.
“Coach Wooden was more upset if we won but didn't work up to our potential than if we lost playing at our best."
It's hard to do your best, much harder than most people realize. By definition, "your best" is the absolute greatest effort you are capable of giving, and sadly, most people just never even come close to that.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden was a master when it came to seeing potential greatness and infinite self-worth lying dormant inside the players on his teams, and his leadership style - that you can learn to adapt for yourself - was perfectly suited to drawing excellence from the teammates entrusted to his care.
For Wooden, there was a standard that ranked above winning, and he believed that if you give every single thing you have within you to be your very best, then you're already a success no matter what.
Doing your best is all that can ever be asked of you; it's literally everything, and although winning may be a natural byproduct of that supreme effort, it could never be the sole reason for a team's or a person's existence.
Before people start to think that this "gentle" approach may be good for building self-esteem and making players "feel good" but wouldn't translate into winning actual ballgames, they should know that John Wooden was also one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. Teams he coached won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including winning 88 consecutive games, setting legendary records that likely will never be broken. So yeah, there might be something to this "gentle" approach after all.
Additionally, just like some people underestimate what the gym can teach them about life (Spoiler Alert: a lot), they may also underestimate what this book can teach them about leadership and achieving greatness in whatever it is they're called to do.
On the contrary, John Wooden always believed that basketball was simply a vehicle for teaching his players the most important lessons about life itself. You can take the leadership principles and maxims concerning personal excellence and adapt them to whatever situation you find yourself in, whether that be leading a sales team, helping your children become the people you've always known them capable of becoming, or stretching yourself to fulfill more of your own potential.
I won't pretend that winning isn't important to me. Indeed, John Wooden and his elite basketball players loved to win, but it was the way they played and behaved that was ultimately more impressive than any of the records or the championships themselves. Disciplined, intensely focused on executing the fundamentals, self-controlled, team-focused, and unselfish, they would have been winners no matter what, and this is because of Wooden's exceptional leadership style.
John Wooden also possessed an immense moral strength that was given expression in many of the actions he took as a coach and leader. For one thing, when racism was still a significant presence in collegiate sports, he refused to enter basketball tournaments that his black players weren't allowed to participate in. They were a team, and if they couldn't all play, then none of them were going to be there. It was this strict, incredibly demanding coaching style, combined with this gentleness, and a strong, enduring belief in human potential and infinite human worth that made John Wooden such a spectacular role model. One that we would all do well to emulate in our own lives.
There's so much that we can all learn from John Wooden's example, and we're going to examine several of his most fundamentally important lessons here in this book breakdown. For example, we're going to discuss "Competitive Greatness," what it is, how it's achieved, and how it fits into a development model he called the Pyramid of Success.
We're also going to take a look at his extreme time management methodology and how exactly he was able to motivate and enable his players to reach deeper - and stretch further - than even they thought possible.
This isn't just about basketball, it's about life, and in life, there are effects and there are causes. To get the effects you want, you need to repeat the causes, over and over and over again, and you have to commit to doing your utmost in every situation, every circumstance, and while facing down any challenge.
Winning is never guaranteed, but if you give your absolute best to something, and you commit to standards of personal excellence far beyond anything that anyone else could ever ask of you, then you will be rewarded. You're going to get somewhere, and you're going to be damn proud of yourself once you do.
The mindsets, tactics, and strategies laid out in this book will arm you with virtually all of the tools you'll need to achieve championship results in your life, whatever that looks like for you. The Essential Wooden is about determining what true success looks like and how you can achieve it, no matter what it says on the scoreboard. So let's find out what your best actually looks like. Time for tip-off!
#1: Doing Your Best Is Success
“Just before our team took to the court before a game, including the 10 to decide a national championship, these were my final words to the players: 'Make sure you can hold your head high after this game.' They all knew I wasn't talking about the final score.
I did not say it as a fiery exhortation, but with all the seriousness and sincerity I had in me. It was the most important message our players could take with them into the battle: 'Do your best. That is success.'
Believing that simple truth gave us tremendous strength. Teaching it gave me tremendous satisfaction."
One of my core beliefs - and something I've repeated over and over again in my work - is that you don't need to "do" anything to make yourself worthy of basic human dignity and unconditional positive regard.
In a similar way, success, as John Wooden defines it, has nothing whatsoever to do with what it says on the scoreboard at the end of the game. Winning or losing will never define your worth as a human being, whether that's in sports, business, or anything else.
What matters is that you do your best, that you put in every single thing you have within you to become the best person you can possibly be, in whatever you happen to be doing. That is true success, and if you gave it everything you had, there's nothing that can ever appear on the scoreboard that will make you a loser.
That being said, doing your best is not easy. It's not simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, "Oh well, I guess I did my best." No, doing your best is literally the hardest thing you'll ever be called upon to do, and that's why so few people are actually doing their best in life.
It's hard - it's unbelievably hard to do your best - and if you're willing and able to give that much to something, then you're automatically a success. So no, doing your best is never easy. It's hard; "easy" is not a part of it. But what you'll find is that it's worth it. Here's why, according to John Wooden's philosophy:
“Early in his career, John Wooden embraced the belief that success, as measured by each one of us individually, is the peace of mind derived from making the absolute and complete effort to do the best of which you are capable.
The quality of your effort to realize your potential counts first and foremost. For John Wooden that is success. And it is different from winning - beating an opponent in basketball, business, or life.
This is important to recognize: that success and winning are two very different concepts in the world of Wooden and that success is the foremost of the two."
Winning is sometimes the byproduct of success (doing your best), but success is never the byproduct of winning. You could do your best and still lose, but that will never make you a loser. Not to John Wooden, and not to me.
What's much more important than all of that is the personal pride - the tremendous satisfaction - that comes from doing your absolute best in life.
If you give your best effort every moment, you will be a winner for the rest of your life no matter what, and that pride in yourself that comes from doing something incredibly difficult and meaningful will matter to you more than anything else you could ever win.
#2: The Pyramid of Success
“These five blocks - Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, and Cooperation - form the foundation of the Pyramid of Success. These are powerful personal attributes essential for both you as leader and those you lead. It is a foundation upon which a structure of significance and productivity can be built."
There are 15 essential qualities of a competitor that make up John Wooden's "Pyramid of Success," a teaching aid he developed over decades while helping to lift the teams he coached to the highest levels of university sports.
The full pyramid is introduced below, and you can read about each block right here in more depth, but the main takeaways are that greatness isn't an accident and that success leaves clues.
There is a specific, intentional structure to Wooden's Pyramid, and these qualities are literally the building blocks upon which success - in any endeavor - is constructed.
You don't have to memorize the whole thing, but if you begin to consciously develop these qualities within yourself, then lasting success will be the inevitable result. See the full Pyramid of Success laid out below, and notice how each level builds upon the level underneath it, culminating in the achievement of Competitive Greatness at the very top of the Pyramid:
You may also notice that along the sides are listed the qualities "faith" and "patience." When you assimilate these qualities within yourself over time, consistently strengthening them with faith and patience, then you will be a winner, no matter what happens.
But it's not going to happen by accident. You need to prepare for greatness, invite it to come by working hard, and never taking your eyes off the top of that Pyramid. This takes time, you need to have faith in the process, and you have to work hard today, with patient assurance that your efforts will be rewarded in the end.
Greatness is never an accident. It is always the intentional result of consistent, neverending self-improvement, preparation, of constant striving toward a worthy goal. Eventually, if you keep stacking those blocks one on top of another, fortifying them with patience and faith, you will get to the apex. You will achieve Competitive Greatness. It's all in the preparation:
“Prepare properly, and you will be given Poise. Next to Poise, near the apex of the Pyramid, is Confidence - the knowledge that you and your organization are ready for the competition in whatever form it takes.
There is respect for, but no fear of, the competition. You are comfortable letting the score take care of itself because you have taken care of your preparation: Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm, Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness, Condition, Skill, and Team Spirit.
Confidence and Poise are conjoined in a manner much like Industriousness and Enthusiasm. Each is potent by itself, but when combined, they become an identifying characteristic of exceptional leadership and extraordinary organizations.
When they are in place, you have risen above the rest and can set the crowning block of the Pyramid in place: Competitive Greatness."
#3: Achieving Competitive Greatness
“Competitive Greatness includes a love for the hard battle and teaching those under your supervision the same.
It is the competition itself - a worthy opponent - that gives you and your organization the opportunity to find out how good you are, to reach deep inside and perform at your best when it counts.
This is Competitive Greatness. In my book, the score doesn't always reveal whether you achieve it."
Just because you won, it doesn't mean you were any good. And even though you may have lost, that doesn't mean that you didn't achieve Competitive Greatness.
Performing at your best - Competitive Greatness - has nothing to do with winning, and everything to do with the battle itself. Speaking for myself, it's much more gratifying to lose to a superior opponent (after having given my best effort) than to win easily against someone in a competition where I didn't even have to try.
We feel good about ourselves because we kept going when it was difficult; because victory was never guaranteed; because the opponent was great but we were even better. So you can see how, in this way, the result of the contest is irrelevant compared to the manner in which you showed up and the supreme effort you brought to the attempt.
You'll never know how good you could become if you never face an opponent that demands your total effort in order to defeat them. In another excellent book about the teachings of John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership, Coach has this to say:
"Competitive Greatness is having a real love for the hard battle knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required.
The great competitors I have played for and against, taught and admired all shared a joy in the struggle itself - the journey, the contest and competition. The tougher the battle the better.
A leader must convey this to those you lead: a tough fight can bring forth Competitive Greatness. The hard battle inspires and motivates a great competitor to dig deep inside.
That's why I relish the challenge a worthy competitor presents. You are tested. When properly prepared you will rise to your highest level and achieve Competitive Greatness."
#4: Become the Model
“Make your personal standard of performance - your behavior in all areas - so exemplary that those under your supervision will find it hard to match, harder to surpass. Be hardest on yourself - the model for what you want your team to become."
People are watching. No matter how many people you lead - even if you don't consider yourself a leader - people are paying attention to how you do things, and they're watching because they want to follow someone who knows what to do. People naturally desire to place their faith in a strong leader, and they're watching for them all the time.
So if you aspire to become a leader, you have to be aware that people will always be watching. Your actions say something about your character and your philosophy, and these things do not go unnoticed.
Moreover, realize that you can positively influence every single person with whom you come into contact. I also believe that you have an ethical obligation to do so, an ethical obligation to be a role model for Greatness, and to show people, by your example, that goodness exists in the world and that they should embody it as well.
Speaking for myself here, I take whatever influence I've been able to gather online (and offline) extremely seriously. I'm conscious of the fact that people are paying attention to what I say, what I do, and how I treat others. This is a tremendous responsibility, and if you yourself have influence (and you do), it's critically important that you wield it well.
Your team, regardless of who's leading it, represents an enormous opportunity both for you to grow and to help others grow as well. When you elevate yourself and your own contribution, when raise your own standards, your whole team stands higher too.
#5: Strength and Gentleness
“His teaching went beyond just trying to win. Before games, he told us to do our best, never harbor ill feelings if we lost, never denigrate our opponent, and, if they played well, to congratulate them. And, of course, no profanity.
His morality - that basic decency he has - affected me deeply. He was a gentle man who was a very strong coach. I came away from him with a feeling of wanting to do my best in whatever I took on. We were prepared and trained well. And not just for basketball."
-Ray Regan, former player
The old model of mental toughness was based on fear and ridicule, shame and doubt. It was based on hiding all evidence of weakness, and the old style of coaching and leadership involved yelling and screaming at people until they get closer to what we wanted them to be - not for the purpose of allowing them to reach their full potential.
Certainly, it wasn't a common belief that strength and gentleness could coexist within the same leader's style, much less that such a leader could win 88 games in a row and help his team win 10 championships in 12 years. And yet here we are!
Just to make this explicit: John Wooden loved to win. His players loved to win. Everyone loves to win, and that's what every competitor shows up to do. It's just that Wooden didn't consider it a victory if his team couldn't hold their heads up high after the game, and whether they could do that or not had nothing to do with the final score.
#6: Squeeze Every Second Out of Every Minute
“Organization became a primary asset of my coaching methodology - the ability to use time with great efficiency. Practices were taut and fast-moving. I was able to accomplish this with three-by-five cards and the meticulous advance planning that went into what was written on them.
It became very important to me that we start and stop on time. Neither is more important than the other. The three-by-five cards I carried kept the train running on a tight, fast schedule.
They contained the entire day's practice broken down minute by minute - what we would do from 3:30 to 3:35 and from 3:35 to 3:45, at which time I'd blow the whistle to stop and call out the next sequence, which might be a three-on-one conditioner for seven minutes followed by a different five-minute drill. One after another after another interrupted only for precise and concise instruction and demonstration.
Each and every aspect of the process - including precisely what everybody was supposed to be doing as well as when and where it would be done - was painstakingly etched on each card.
There wasn't one second in the whole practice when anybody was standing around wondering what would come next; no one loafed and looked at others who were working. Everything had a purpose; everything was done efficiently and quickly. The whole thing was synchronized; each hour offered up 60 minutes, and I squeezed every second out of every minute."
#7: There Is No Upper Limit
“No one has ever achieved anything he or she wasn't capable of. Whatever you have accomplished, you could have accomplished more. What you have done, you could have done it better."
The above quote is one of those passages that make reading an entire book worth it, even if that were the only thing you took away from it. As it happens, there are dozens of amazing takeaways from this book, but this right here is one of the most important.
Once you realize the full import of this idea, it can, so to speak, make the whole library around you spin: Whatever you're doing in life you can always do more. There is always another level, always more that you can do, greater heights that you can reach, more success and satisfaction that you can pull from deep inside yourself. You can always do more.
What this means is that Life is an infinite game with no endpoint. You'll never "win" - you just earn the right to keep playing. The point of Life is Life itself, and as Miguel de Cervantes said, "The road is better than the inn." You're not trying to reach some final endpoint, any more than when you're dancing you're trying to reach a particular spot on the floor.
Practically, on a day-to-day level, all this is a friendly exhortation to keep striving for greatness in everything you do. It means that if you've accomplished something in life, you were always capable of doing so and that now it's time to reach beyond that, to do the thing you cannot do, to go further. To advance confidently toward the realization of what you might be able to achieve if only you commit to devoting your total effort to achieving it.
Lastly, realize that Competitive Greatness is rarely reached alone. Team sports can teach a person so much because Life is a team sport, and one of the reasons we're here is to help other people achieve Competitive Greatness as well.
“For me, there is a standard that ranks above winning. I would never allow the scoreboard to be the judge of whether I had achieved success."
“Teams under John Wooden’s supervision endured just one season that produced a losing record. It was his first year as a coach back at Dayton, Kentucky - the Greendevils - in 1932-33. Never again in the four decades that followed was there a losing season.
Yet all this spectacular production - winning - came from a leader and master team builder who never ever mentioned that word to his teams. Why? He wanted their complete focus on the higher standard, the one that means even more to him than winning."
“Effort is paramount.”
“Therein, perhaps, lies the leadership genius of John Robert Wooden, a leader whose teams won over and over and over again but who never mentioned winning."
“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
“Over and over I have taught those under my supervision that we are all given a certain potential unique to each one of us. Our first responsibility is to make the utmost effort to bring forth that potential in service to our team. For me, that is success.
Then perhaps when circumstances come together, we may find ourselves number 1. If that happens, it is merely a by-product of the effort we make to realize our own competency - our full potential. Success may result in winning, but winning does not necessarily mean you are a success."
“If each of you makes every effort to develop to the best of your ability, follow the proper rules of conduct and activity most conducive to good physical condition, subordinate individual acclaim for the welfare of the team, and permit no personality clashes or differences of opinion with teammates or coaches to interfere with your or a teammate's efforts, it will be a very rewarding year."
“There is great strength in gentleness - perhaps the greatest strength of all. Without it, your leadership begins to resemble the approach of a prison guard standing watch over a chain gang. Turn your back, and they're gone."
“There are really only two things to worry about: whether you are a success or whether you are a failure. If you are a success, there is no cause for worry, and if you are a failure -
There are only two things to worry about: whether you have your health or whether you do not have your health. If you are healthy, a healthy person should certainly not worry, and if you do not have your health -
There are only two things to worry about: whether you regain your health and get well or whether you fail to regain your health and pass on. If you regain your health, there is no cause for worry, and if you fail to regain your health and pass on -
There are only two things to worry about: whether you will go to the place where we all hope to go or whether you go to that other place. If you go to the place where we all hope to go, you should not have worried, and if you go to that other place -
You are going to be with all your friends and the people here. So why worry?"
“I slept well, comfortable in the knowledge that I had done the best of which I was capable. This knowledge is a very soft pillow on which to sleep."
“The next time you wake in the middle of the night, ask yourself, 'Am I fretting about the future, or figuring out what to do?' If it's the former, have a warm glass of milk and try to get back to sleep. If it's the latter, have a cup of coffee and make some notes."
“You must also be the kind of individual whose opinion means something.”
“Tough times make you tougher. A free ride isn’t free.”
“Unity produces our greatest strength.”
“Pressure is healthy. It can lead to improvement. Stress is unhealthy. It can lead to mistakes. I wanted our team members to feel pressure so that their opponents would feel stress.
I applied this pressure on the practice floor by creating a buzzing businesslike atmosphere that had an intensity and focus equal to an actual game. I removed stress - the kind that comes from a fear of losing or an overeager appetite to win - by focusing exclusively on improvement and teaching the team that ongoing and maximum progress was the standard, our daily goal. I never mentioned winning or beating an upcoming opponent.
While there might be some incidents of levity during practice - and certainly I don't object to humor if done in an appropriate manner at a suitable moment - I expected nothing short of total effort and concentration in all ways on the practice floor.
Those under my supervision were not there just to loosen up and run through their paces. Not at all. They did that before I blew the whistle signifying that class was in session - that the pressure to improve was about to be applied."
“If you looked at my outline and organization plan for a practice in 1949 and compared it to its counterpart in 1975, you'd wonder how I got anything done in 1949. Year to year there were changes, little improvements, seemingly inconsequential adjustments, that gradually added up to big changes."
“I focused our team’s attention on 'us' to the exclusion of everything else. Virtually no mention was made of the upcoming opponent - its style, tendencies, or key players. Nor did I talk about the standings or the consequence of other games being played in our conference.
A joke even circulated that UCLA's team manager would go out into the lobby before a game and buy an official program so our players would know who the opponent was."
“The leader uses his heart as well as his head. After he has considered the facts with his head, he lets his heart take a look too."
“You become weaker as your need for praise becomes stronger.”
“Turn a deaf ear to praise and criticism, and you’ll hear all you need to hear of both.”
“Be the kind of leader whose team you'd like to be a member of."
“We used to pray for the game to come because practices were so demanding. But it paid off."
“Afterward, Coach Wooden said he was proud of us, how we gave it everything we had, that we could hold our heads high. There was disappointment in our locker room, but I don't believe any player felt like a loser. We had given it our best."
“One bad apple is one more than most barrels can stand.”
“The competitor with the will to win also has the will to work.”
“Finding real talent is tough. Getting that talent to sacrifice for the welfare of your team can be even tougher. For me, the solution was simple. I never forgot that a great player who couldn't make the team great wasn't so great after all."
“You may not be able to run as fast as somebody else, but that shouldn't prevent you from trying to run as fast as you can. Prior to the race, plan, prepare, and practice to execute at your highest level.
And then, even if you're not the fastest runner in the field, try your hardest to run your best race. Who knows? On race day your opponent may have a sore foot."
“Role players must understand that their jobs count - that they contribute in a meaningful manner to the success of their team. I don't believe there are any small jobs or inconsequential roles on an efficient and productive team. There are only those few who think their job is small or their role inconsequential. A leader must change the person's thinking - or change the person."
“Balance means not permitting the things over which you have no control to adversely affect the things over which you do have control, and it means retaining your poise during times of turmoil and triumph."
“Give each individual a fair chance and every opportunity he or she earns.”
“It is better to trust and occasionally be disappointed than to mistrust and be miserable all the time."
“I believe that all prayers are heard and answered, even though the answer may be ‘no.’”
“Others may be faster than you are, larger than you are, and have far more ability than you have - but no one should ever be your superior in team spirit, fight, determination, ambition, and character."
“Total effort is success.”
“No opponent deserves to be feared.”
“Every opponent deserves respect.”
“Don’t draw attention to yourself; don't be like the fellow in church who coughs loudly just before he puts a coin in the collection plate."
“Meticulous planning is meaningless without hard work.”
“Promise to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Promise to be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are of your own. Promise to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the press of trouble."
“I never even permitted the players to charge out onto the court all fired up. I didn't want them all fired up and jumping up and down. I wanted them bristling with intensity, finely focused, and in control of themselves.
When these attitudes are combined with talent and good teaching, you may find yourself leading a team competing and prevailing at the highest levels. This will not occur if you are a slave to passion. Passion is temporary."
“The next time you’ve worked hard, done your best, and still find that someone is unhappy with you, remember the Pacific Ocean. It too had failed to meet someone's expectations."
“Sometimes we get so concerned with making a living that we forget to make a life.”
“What to do about the wayward behavior and tattered ethics of others? Be true to true yourself. Others are watching. Do your job the way you're supposed to do it. You give strength by being strong."
“The Four Laws of Learning have been around for a long time: Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation, and Repetition. I like to tell people there are actually Eight Laws of Learning: Explanation, Demonstration (your own example), Imitation, and Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, Repetition."
"The heights by great men reached and kept,
Were not attained by sudden flight.
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“The journey is better than the inn.”
-Miguel de Cervantes
“Make each day of your journey a masterpiece.”
Important Insights from Related Books:
This book has some of the most “truth per page” of any book I’ve ever read. It's also absolutely not for everybody, in the same way that not everyone is built to compete and win at the highest levels of sports and business.
The reality is that most people just do not have what it takes to succeed at the highest level, and the people who do make it are the ones who have internalized Tim Grover's message in this book. He reminds us - through his words and example - exactly why he is one of the world’s most sought-after mindset experts.
Grover is an elite performance coach with over three decades of experience training the likes of Michael Jordan (who was actually his first client ever), Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and hundreds of other world champions and Olympic athletes. That's 30+ years of being surrounded by winners - never missing a practice or a game - and refining his approach to the point where it can be delivered at your feet in the form of this truth-studded book.
"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," said Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats, and here in Winning, Tim Grover distills everything he knows about winning and lays out 13 key principles for achieving unbeatable performance.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“It’s only one game…until you miss the playoffs by only one game.”
“Winning is not a marathon; it’s a sprint with no finish line.”
"Your mind is your area to dominate, and if you don’t dominate it, someone else will."
Read the Full Breakdown: Winning, by Tim Grover
Self-discipline has traditionally been a hard sell. Self-indulgence, quick dopamine hits, and having a good time have been winning the marketing battle lately, similar to the "battle" between chocolate and asparagus. Or between reality television and educational documentaries.
But what if the problem is simply that we've been thinking about self-discipline in entirely the wrong way?
Up until now, self-discipline may have been the equivalent of a Henry James novel in a TikTok world. But Ryan Holiday's book, Discipline is Destiny, will have you reimagining the whole concept in a much more liberating, fulfilling way.
His aim is to teach you how to harness the powers of self-discipline to fulfill your personal destiny. While everyone's destiny is fundamentally different, everyone's destiny is the product of self-discipline. Your habits shape your character, and your character shapes your destiny, so Ryan's book goes right to the root and gives you the physical, mental, and emotional skillsets for success.
In the final analysis, self-discipline is prescriptive. It will show you your future. Your environment, actions, habits, and mindsets are constantly shaping your destiny, and this book will show you how to guide this process more intelligently.
This involves thinking of self-discipline in the "proper" way: not as a punishment, as self-deprivation, but as it really is: a pathway to even greater freedom.
Some days will be hard. Actually, that's not true...many days will be hard. The hard days will outnumber the easy ones, but the meaningful days will also outnumber the meaningless ones. Living this way won't always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“At the core of this idea of self-mastery is an instinctive reaction against anything that masters us. Who can be free when they have lost, as one addiction specialist put it, ‘the freedom to abstain?’”
“Think about it: Most people don’t even show up. Of the people who do, most don’t really push themselves. So to show up and be disciplined about daily improvement? You are the rarest of the rare.”
“How much progress could you make if you made just a little each day over the course of an entire life? What might this journey look like, where might it lead, if each bit of progress you made presented both the opportunity and the obligation to make a little more progress, and you seized those opportunities, you lived up to those obligations, each and every time?”
Read the Full Breakdown: Discipline is Destiny, by Ryan Holiday
We've never really understood the true nature of mental toughness until now.
Before Steve Magness and the pioneering scientists whose research he presents in this book came along, we've seen only one side of it, and this book will show you that there's more to toughness than we usually realize and more inside you than you've ever known.
The old model of mental toughness was based on fear and ridicule, shame and doubt. It was based on hiding all evidence of weakness, and the old style of coaching and leadership involved yelling and screaming at people until they get closer to what we wanted them to be - not for the purpose of allowing them to reach their full potential.
That changes today, and it changes with this book, Do Hard Things.
Steve Magness is a high-performance coach and scientist who works with Olympic athletes and people of comparable ability and prowess, and his book is a compelling and useful attempt to "fix" our old definition of mental toughness and replace it with something more flexible, more insightful, and ultimately, more useful.
Do Hard Things draws from the very latest in science and psychology to teach us how we can work with our body, emotions, and feelings, and how we can shift the very meaning of discomfort in our minds by leaning in, paying attention, and allowing ourselves the mental freedom to perform at the highest level of which we are capable.
The new model of toughness is all about embracing reality, listening to what our body is trying to tell us, responding instead of reacting, and transcending discomfort by tapping into the deeper meaning behind it all. The old model made everything look like a nail, so the only tool it could offer us was a hammer.
There's everything in this book from mindfulness, military case studies, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and more, and it all comes together in a wonderful book that ends up being more growth-focused, intent on building you up, rather than tearing you down. Focusing on what's right with you, what you can accomplish, rather than what you lack or what is temporarily out of reach.
You already have everything you need within you in order to become more resilient, stronger, tougher, more flexible, and more adaptable. To paraphrase the great psychologist, Abraham Maslow, toughness isn't about adding something to you that isn't there already, it's about acting, striving, and competing as the person you are...with nothing taken away.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“Real toughness is experiencing discomfort or distress, leaning in, paying attention, and creating space to take thoughtful action. It’s maintaining a clear head to be able to make the appropriate decision.
Toughness is navigating discomfort to make the best decision you can. And research shows that this model of toughness is more effective at getting results than the old one.”
“Our ability to be ‘tough’ and handle adversity starts well before we even encounter any difficulty. It starts with embracing the reality of the situation and what you’re capable of.”
“The old model of toughness, in essence, throws people into the deep end of the pool but forgets that we need to first teach people how to swim.”
Read the Full Breakdown: Do Hard Things, by Steve Magness
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is the world's leading expert on the science of prospection and the Future Self concept.
Be Your Future Self Now is one of the absolute best introductions to the field, and inside this book, you're going to learn exactly why having a vision for your own future development is so critically important.
But you're also going to receive practical instruction on how to apply the science here and now to make your actual life better. Immediately. Today.
This is a rather long and detailed breakdown, but basically, who and what you're becoming - and your thoughts about it - directly affect the quality of your experience in the here and now.
Not only that but when your imagined Future Self directs your behavior rather than your behavior being directed by your past, that can be the shift that changes your entire life's trajectory.
Instead of running away from something you don't want (pain in your past), you'll be moving toward an exciting future that gives meaning to all of your subsequent days. To this day.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“The first and most fundamental threat to your Future Self is not having hope in your future. Without hope, the present loses meaning. Without hope, you don't have clear goals or a sense of purpose for your life. Without hope, there is no way. Without hope, you decay."
“If you’re around people who have low expectations for you, you'll fall to those standards. If you're around people with high expectations, you'll rise to those standards."
“The more conscious you become of how everything you do right now impacts the person you are in the future, the better and more thoughtful your actions will be."
Read the Full Breakdown: Be Your Future Self Now, by Dr. Benjamin Hardy
The View from the Opposition:
No one's ideas are beyond questioning. In this section, I argue the case for the opposition and raise some points you might wish to evaluate for yourself while reading this book.
#1: John Wooden Is Basically Mister Rogers
This is the part where you're supposed to learn some dark, terrible secret about John Wooden that should make you reevaluate his contribution to competitive athletics or human knowledge or something, but...there just aren't any.
There's nothing. There are no disturbing stories about his personal or professional life, no dark secrets, no shadow personality or immoral underlying nature...there's just this deeply humble, caring man who wanted the best for those he was lucky enough to be in a position to serve; a stern coach and loving father who believed in human potential and wanted to give everyone he led a chance to develop theirs.
John Wooden was exactly who he said he was, and I even uncovered this incredibly touching story from his personal life that I want to share here:
"Wooden met his future wife, Nellie "Nell" Riley, when he was a freshman in high school. They were both 21 years of age when they married in a small ceremony in Indianapolis in August 1932 and afterward attended a Mills Brothers concert at the Circle Theatre to celebrate. The couple had a son, James Hugh Wooden, and a daughter, Nancy Anne Muehlhausen. Nellie died on March 21, 1985 from cancer at age 73.
Wooden remained devoted to Nellie's memory until his own death 25 years after her passing. He kept to a monthly ritual—health permitting—on the 21st of every month, when he would visit her crypt in the mausoleum, then write a love letter to her. After completing each letter, he placed it in an envelope and added it to a stack of similar letters that accumulated over the years on the pillow she slept on during their life together. Wooden stopped writing the letters because of failing eyesight in the last months of his life."
The guy was basically Mister Rogers! I mean, I was already deeply transformed by his leadership style and grace on the court, his commitment to racial equality and his strong belief in human potential, and now there's this...
I just think he was a phenomenal human being and John Wooden is someone I think about often whenever I'm tempted to give anything less than my best effort in life. I can't let Coach down, and I'll never stop trying to achieve Competitive Greatness in everything I set out to do.
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Questions to Stimulate Your Thinking:
The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life. That's also how you get the absolute most out of any book that you decide to read:
You ask great questions the whole time - as though the book was on trial for its life.
Here in this section are a few questions that can help guide and stimulate your thinking, but try to come up with your own additional questions, especially if you decide to read this book the whole way through...
#1: "Have you ever considered yourself to be a leader before? How did/does the experience of knowing that people are paying attention to your every word and action change the way you move through the world?"
#2: "When was the last time you gave your absolute best to something that was important to you? Did you even think you were capable of giving that much? How did it feel? Can you do it again?"
#3: "Who have you inspired today, either through your words, your actions, or both? Who can you inspire tomorrow?"
#4: "How can you help someone else win today?"
#5: "What are the fundamentals of your chosen sport or activity? Do you execute the fundamentals each and every day?"
#6: “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?”
#7: "How and where can you squeeze even more seconds out of every minute? Do you know where your seconds and your minutes are going currently? How can you get back on track and stick to a fixed, disciplined schedule that will get you to where you want to be?"
#8: "Which block of John Wooden's Pyramid of Success is missing right now in your approach? Which blocks are a solid piece of your personality already? How can you shore up your weaknesses while doubling down on your strengths?"
#9: "How can you best help others climb the Pyramid of Success with you? How can you reach Competitive Greatness together?"
#10: "What does Competitive Greatness look like in your field? Who exactly do you need to become in order to reach this highest standard every single day? Are you willing to go there? Is there a better time to start than right now?"
"Judge a man by his questions, rather than by his answers."
So you've finished reading. What do you do now?
Reading for pleasure is great, and I wholeheartedly support it. However, I am intensely practical when I'm reading for a particular purpose. I want a result. I want to take what I've learned and apply it to my one and only life to make it better!
Because that's really what the Great Books all say. They all say: "You must change your life!" So here, below, are some suggestions for how you can apply the wisdom found in this breakdown to improve your actual life.
Please commit to taking massive action on this immediately! Acting on what you've learned here today will also help you solidify it in your long-term memory. So there's a double benefit! Let's begin...
#1: Measure Your Own Best Effort
Everything begins and ends with a promise - an unbreakable promise to yourself - that you will always, in every situation and at all times, do your absolute best at whatever's in front of you. That's basic. That's your new normal. That's who you are and what you do.
Beyond that, it helps to actually measure your progress towards this ideal (because it won't happen overnight; you'll still have to work up to doing your best over time), and thus keep your efforts at the front of your mind. I do this myself. I track - literally on a sheet of paper - how close I came to doing my best today.
It's a subjective measure, sure, and no one except you will know whether you actually did your best or not, but most of the benefits will come simply by adopting the practice of reviewing your day and asking yourself, sincerely and honestly, whether you did in fact do your best. This will change your life, I guarantee it.
What's beautiful about this method is that doing your best automatically makes you a winner, and it's within your complete control whether or not you do your best. This means you can be a winner every single day because you can always give your absolute best effort in every single thing that you do.
Do this for a year and watch your current situation transform before your very eyes. It did for me. You won't even recognize yourself - it's honestly more than a little bit astonishing the positive changes you'll begin to see from committing to this simple, but extremely challenging, daily practice.
#2: Focus on Just One Block at a Time
It's exceptionally difficult to install more than one new habit at a time, and it's the same with assimilating all the blocks of John Wooden's Pyramid of Success. Don't try and perfect the entire Pyramid all at once. Just take one single block per month and do your best to develop that quality within yourself. That's a lot, and that's enough.
Again, measuring your progress is part of the magic. What you can do is pick the one block (quality) you most want to strengthen and record at the end of each day whether or not you did anything to help this process along.
For example, you could pick the quality of industriousness and track how hard you worked during the last 24 hours and whether or not you're improving in this area. Or, say that it's poise that you want more of. In that case, practice taking negative events in stride and track whether you let adverse conditions or circumstances threaten your equanimity that day or not.
Track that one particular quality for the next month and then move on to the next one. With patience and faith - trust in the process - you'll stack one block on top of another and ascend to the peak of the Pyramid eventually.
#3: Help Someone Else Rise with You
One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else, and the same idea applies when it comes to inspiring positive change. Helping other people grow and move forward in their lives will do the same for you in the process. Isn't it wonderful that the universe is set up this way?
Network effects are extremely powerful and who you surround yourself with matters. It matters so much. It's absolutely one of those things I wish I could shake people by the shoulders and make them understand. Truly!
So help the people around you to stand taller, and you will stand taller as well simply by virtue of helping them. If they want to stand taller, that is. Because just as you can help other people advance, they can also hold you back if they're headed in that direction. Choose your company carefully!
What you might want to do is spend time with people in these three categories: people who are ahead of you, people who are at your same level, and people who are a few steps behind you.
Learn from the people who have what you want, lead the people around you who are headed in the same direction, and inspire the people behind you to follow in your footsteps.
"The path to success is to take massive, determined action."
About the Author:
John Robert Wooden was an American basketball coach and player. Nicknamed the "Wizard of Westwood", he won ten National Collegiate Athletic Association national championships in a 12-year period as head coach for the UCLA Bruins, including a record seven in a row. No other team has won more than four in a row in Division I college men's or women's basketball. Within this period, his teams won an NCAA men's basketball record 88 consecutive games. Wooden won the prestigious Henry Iba Award as national coach of the year a record seven times and won the AP award five times.