Great Advice from the Winningest Coach of All Time

In his book, Coach Wooden, Pat Williams shares the story of legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Wooden’s life and career were shaped by a piece of paper handed to him at his graduation by his beloved father. The paper contained a poem on one side and “Seven Rules for Living” on the other.

That single sheet of paper, along with a two-dollar bill, was all Joshua Wooden could afford to give his son, but the principles it conveyed shaped the life of the Coach—and every player he taught during his stellar career.

Most of the well-known and lesser-known athletes that Wooden coached—many of whom went on to stellar careers in the NBA or in business—carry a copy of those principles to this day. They are:

  1. Be true to yourself.
  1. Help others.
  1. Make each day your masterpiece.
  1. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  1. Make friendship a fine art.
  1. Build a shelter against a rainy day by the life you live.
  1. Pray for guidance and counsel, and give thanks for your blessings each day.

Hardly the content of philosophy, business, or management textbooks in most universities today, those seven down-home sentences motivated Coach Wooden and his team members to become one of the most successful sports organizations in history.

Whether you have consciously selected them or not, your life is governed by a set of principles too. You can choose to be helpful or selfish, a learner or a know-it-all, a giver or a taker.

If you have not already done so, write down the principles today that will guide your life, your career, and your leadership.

Here’s a hint: You won’t do much better than to choose the seven statements Joshua Wooden imparted to his son.

What about you? What are the foundational principles that guide your life? I’d love to hear your answer on Facebook or Twitter.








Stan Toler and NFL player Billy Bajema have teamed up to create this playbook for athletes who want to dream big and achieve greatness both on and off the field. The resource includes essays and scriptures, as well as quotes from sports figures such as Larry Bird, Vince Lombardi, Jesse Owens, Nolan Ryan, Steve Prefontaine, and Jack Nicklaus.