The Wooden's Wisdom Logo

Enjoy and share the Wooden's Wisdom 12-Part Program for Success

Issue 2 - Don't Whine, Don't Complain, Don't Make Excuses

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 1 Issue 2
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



Click here to watch Coach John Wooden video clip.


Previously we described how the core of Coach Wooden's philosophy started with his father's rules. Joshua Wooden gave his boys a very direct set of rules he hoped would guide their everyday behavior.


These were referred to as the “Two Sets of Three.” As discussed in our first coaching module, the first set of three dealt with integrity:


Never lie

Never cheat

Never steal


The second set of three dealt with how to handle adversity:


Don’t whine

Don’t complain

Don’t make excuses 

Watch Video


The finest teaching tool we have is the example we set for others, and how we handle adversity can be one of the strongest ways of demonstrating our character. For example, there was one particular event in Coach Wooden's early life when his father set an example that had a very significant impact on him. Joshua Wooden had purchased some pigs as an investment for the family farm, but their expense necessitated that he take out a mortgage. He also purchased vaccinations to keep them healthy, but it turned out that the vaccine was bad, and the entire herd died as a result. Later that same year, the crops were destroyed by a drought; unable to continue paying the mortgage, Joshua Wooden ultimately lost his farm to the bank.

Yet, without any ill words for the man who had sold him the bad vaccine, Joshua moved the family to a nearby town where he took a job as a masseur. Young John Wooden knew that these events had devastated his father’s spirit and broken his heart, but Joshua would never blame others or dwell on mistakes. He lived by the same set of rules that he bestowed upon his sons: "Don't whine, don't complain, don't make excuses. Just do the best you can. Nobody can do more than that." That story, and his father’s example, deeply impressed itself upon John Wooden’s mind.


Years later, he would find himself recalling his father’s attitude when the poor facilities at the UCLA basketball facility bothered him. For the first dozen years of his coaching career there, this attitude really held him back as a coach. When he resolved to stop complaining and to simply make the best of it, Coach Wooden noted that his success greatly improved.


Coach devised and collected a number of maxims regarding the best way to respond to difficult situations. They are great triggers that you can use with yourself, your staff, your team or your employees to rekindle a positive attitude when the going gets tough.


 “Bad times can make you bitter or better.”


“Never make excuses. Your friends won't need them and your foes won't believe them.”


“Things usually turn out the best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”


It is important to note that talking directly to a person about a situation you are not happy with is not whining or complaining, provided that person is in a position to effect a change and your approach is one of respect and genuine concern. We must always facilitate feedback from our coworkers and not have them feel like they are complaining when they disagree with us.


If a player is in the locker room fussing to his teammates about your zone offense – that would be whining and complaining. If that same player expresses the same concern to you directly and in a solution-oriented manner – that is the type of communication that should be encouraged. Coach Wooden’s maxim “Disagree without being disagreeable” is a good way to manage that communication. If you are a head coach, it is critical to facilitate new and different ideas from your assistant coaches. If you are an assistant coach, you should be mindful of the time and place you offer suggestions to the head coach.


However, if your complaints are such that no one is able to do anything to resolve them, then you must be the one to effect the change yourself. Coach Wooden said, “Complaining, whining, and making excuses just keep you out of the present. If your complaints are constant, serious, and genuine about your calling, then leave when practical.” By handling yourself in such a way through difficult situations, you will not only find your own outlook improving, but you will likely inspire those around you, too.


Click here for personal development exercise.



Click here for Printable Poetry Issue Two

If this was forwarded to you click here to get your own free 8 week subscription



 Yours in coaching,


Craig Impelman


Twitter: @woodenswisdom

Application Exercise

Favorite Poems

A Little Fellow Follows Me
A careful man I want to be, 
A little fellow follows me;
 I do not dare to go astray,
For fear he'll go the self-same way. 
I cannot once escape his eyes, 
 Whate'er he sees me do, he tries; Like me he says he's going to be,
 The little chap who follows me.
He thinks that I am good and fine, Believes in every word of mine;
 The base in me he must not see,
The little chap who follows me. 
I must remember as I go,  
Through summer's sun and winter's 
I am building for the years to be
That little chap who follows me.
~Rev. Claude Wisdom White, Sr.


For more information visit

Enter a list of email addresses, separated by spaces, to send this issue to.

Email a Friend

Return to Issue List

Our Services
Why Wooden's Wisdom
Presentation Team
Wooden's Wisdom Leaders
Leadership Resource Center
Member Login

© Copyright 2024 | # of Times Wooden's Wisdom Issues Opened: 6,713,888

Hosting & Design