How do you define success?

When I was in college I began my life long journey of studying great leaders and winners in life.  As a young, aspiring basketball coach, one of the people I spent a lot of time studying was the great former UCLA basketball coach, John R. Wooden.  I read his books many times over, “They Call Me Coach”, and “Practical Modern Basketball”.  Both made a profound impact on me as I read about his work ethic, his principles he lived by, including the the 7 point creed his dad gave him which he kept in his wallet:

  • Be true to yourself
  • Make each day your masterpiece
  • Help others
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible
  • Make friendship a fine art
  • Build a shelter against a rainy day
  • Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day

I had a few personal conversations with Coach Wooden before he passed away, and each time I was around him, I understood why he was such a great man; someone who lived out what I read about in his books.  One of the first times I met him was when I was in my early 20’s and just starting out as a coach.  I was with about 20 other coaches in a room on the campus of UCLA for for a Q & A session.  At the time, Dennis Rodman was often in the news for his antics in the NBA, and I raised my hand and asked coach, “How would you handle a player like Dennis Rodman?”  He immediately looked right at me, pointed his finger and said, “Young man, you handle things; you work with people.”  I’ll never forget how he went on to explain how you work together with people to achieve a common goal.

The thing that has always stood out to me the most, however, was his definition of success. He felt it was extremely important to know what success looks like.  Is it always the final score of a game that determines success or failure?  I have adopted Coach Wooden’s definition of success as my own:

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your absolute best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

This is success.  Giving your absolute best!  How many times do we want success in some area such as our job, our marriage, our family, our time-management, our finances…yet we don’t truly give our best effort to become the best we are capable of becoming in those areas.

The final outcome doesn’t always determine success or failure; knowing you gave your best does.   It is the one thing you can control.   When you give your best, that’s really all you can do; there is simply nothing more you can do than this, because if there was then it wasn’t your best in the first place.

Coach designed the “pyramid of success”, originally for his high school English class that he taught, so they would understand success and have something to shoot for.  It as since been broken down, analyzed, and talked about by coaches and leaders all over the world.  Of course, I have it posted in my own classroom, and give out to my players from time to time to help them understand what true success is.


What is YOUR definition of success?  And most importantly are you living by it every single day?

I hope that you give your best today!  Don’t be phased by the outcome when it’s not favorable.   Pick yourself up, figure out your next move, and get more determined, not more discouraged!  You were definitely meant for greatness, so give it everything you’ve got to get there!

Here’s to your success!