Thursday, May 5, 2011

John Wooden's Seven Life Principles

I am at the Florida Literacy Coalition's 27th Annual Conference and it is inspiring on many different levels.  At the opening session, Pat Williams, SVP of the NBA's Orlando Magic, gave a talk to the 300 conference attendees.  I have to admit to being a bit skeptical when I heard that he was going to be the speaker.   Back when I was the General Counsel of Prebon Yamane, an interdealer broker, we had an offsite for our managers and top brokers and former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier gave the keynote address (for beaucoup dollars, I might add).  The overwhelmingly male audience was thrilled with Bleier's stories of his days in the NFL and responded well to his motivational message, which was something like "we came together as a team to pummel the opposition."  Having the opportunity to get a picture taken with Bleier and wear one of his multiple Superbowl rings didn't hurt either.  (I have to admit that putting on a Superbowl ring was kind of cool.)   Short story long, this was the association that came to my mind when I learned that another former sports figure was going to be a keynote speaker at the Literacy Coalition's conference.  

When Williams started talking about Coach John Wooden being named the greatest coach of all time by the NBA, I wondered where this speech was going, if he knew who his audience was and how conspicuous it would be if I made my way to the door.  Within moments, though, I was enthralled.  When UCLA's Coach Wooden turned 12, his father gave him a piece of paper with seven principles written on it.  Wooden carried this piece of paper with him in his wallet for his entire life.  Although Wooden's father was a humble Indiana farmer without a formal education, his wisdom shines through the principles that he wanted to instill in his son on the cusp of manhood.  Here they are:

1)  Be true to yourself.
2)  Help others.
3)  Make friendship a fine art.
4)  Drink deeply from good books.
5)  Make each day your masterpiece.
6)  Build a shelter for a rainy day by the way you live your life.
7)  Give thanks for your blessings every day.

Before he began sharing these principles with the audience, Williams asked us each to take out a piece of paper of our own to jot them down.  Being good students, most of us dutifully did so.  As Williams elaborated on some of these principles based on his conversations with Coach Wooden (who died last year at age 97), an adult learner sitting next to me kept peeking over my shoulder to confirm that she had written down the principles correctly.  It was clear that the message resonated with everyone in the room.  Not only are the principles a recipe for life, but--amazingly--they have a literacy component.

Williams, who has written over 60 books and is actively involved with the NBA's Read to Achieve program, exhorted each member of the audience to spend one hour every day reading a book.  He asked us to think about the impact this practice could have not only on our own lives but on the lives of our youth.  Williams shared an amazing statistic published by the Wall Street Journal--59% of the homes in the world do not have a single book in them.   How unbelievable is that? 

At the end of Williams' speech, I think I was the first person in the room to jump up to give him a standing ovation.  In a short 45 minutes, I had gone from skeptic to cheerleader.   It just goes to show the benefits of being open to those around you.   You never know when you're going to hear something that might make a difference in your own life.   

1 comment:

  1. These are excellent principles! And I like that they don't invoke a 'higher authority' to legitimize them. If more people lived by these simple principles, the world would be a much nicer and calmer place.


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