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Issue 137 - The Man Who is Not Afraid of Failure Seldom Has to Face It

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 3 Issue 137
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



This favorite quote of Coach Wooden’s was a reflection of the way he lived, coached and the way his teams played: fearless.
Success is the opposite of failure. Coach Wooden’s lack of fear of failure started with how he defined success: Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you're capable.
For Coach, you were only a failure if you did not make the effort to do the best of which you're capable. As Coach liked to say, the only real failure is to not act when action is needed.
Coach did not believe success or failure was based on the final score. He summed it up this way:
If you truly do your best, and only you will really know, then you are successful, and the actual score is immaterial, whether it was favorable or unfavorable. However, when you fail to do your best, you have failed even though the score might've been to your liking. I want to be able to feel, and want my players sincerely to feel, that doing the best that you're capable of doing is victory in itself, and less than that is defeat.
To keep his players fearless, Coach never mentioned winning. He summed up his logic this way:
I don’t think you could find any player to tell you that I mentioned winning. I wanted winning to be the by-product of the preparation and failure to prepare is preparing to fail. I always wanted them to have that satisfaction within themselves, that peace of mind within themselves, that they made the effort to execute near their own particular level of competency, not trying to be better than someone else, but be the best that they could be.
With three different groups of players over an eight year period, Coach Wooden’s teams won 38 consecutive single elimination NCAA tournament games.
They were focused on their effort, not fearful of the final score.
It has been said, fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all. At the beginning of a contest the final score is unknown. By redirecting his player's focus to their effort (a self controllable and known quantity), not the final score, he minimized the fear of failure factor.
The pregame talk Coach gave before a National Championship Game was the same as any other game:
I've done my job, now it's time for you to do yours. I don't want to know by the expression on your face after the game which team scored more points. Now let's go.
And Go they did. Fearless!

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman
Twitter: @woodenswisdom




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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry


The Fool’s Prayer


The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: 'Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!'

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: 'O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

'No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin; but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

' 'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'Tis by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

'These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.

'The ill-timed truth we might have kept-
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say-
Who knows how grandly it had rung?

'Our faults no tenderness should ask,
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders-oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

'Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!'

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
'Be merciful to me, a fool!'

Edward Rowland Sill 





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