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Issue 31 - Ambition

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 1 Issue 31
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login


On the left side of the Pyramid of Success, below faith, there are four additional pieces of mortar: ambition, adaptability, resourcefulness and fight. These are qualities that encompass the resolve, ingenuity and resilience of the human spirit. This week we will discuss ambition.


In his book "Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success”, with Jay Carty, Coach Wooden defined ambition and its importance in the following manner:


“Ambition is a feeling or a desire to achieve a goal. Usually that goal revolves around a person's definition of success or greatness. I believe we are most likely to succeed when ambition is focused on noble and worthy purposes and outcomes rather than on goals set out of selfishness. If our ambition is to be highly publicized, receive a lot of recognition, attain a position of power or prestige, or make a lot of money, we do not have noble goals. If we are focused away from ourselves and on the team and others, we possess noble goals.”


Under each piece of mortar on the Pyramid, in parentheses, there is some brief application advice for that mortar. In the original Pyramid under ambition the application advice was: “(properly focused)”. Later Coach changed the application advice for ambition to: “(for noble goals)”. Coach’s motivation for the change is clear. He wanted to make certain that we understand that our ambition is "properly focused" when it is for a "noble goal".


Coach clearly defined ambition as an important quality; as the saying goes: "Those who plan to accomplish nothing always reach their goal." Ambition, when properly focused, can be a tremendous asset but if it is out of focus it can be a fatal flaw for any team. We should make sure that we do not have members of our team whose ambition equates to a “win at all cost" mentality. We want people who are great competitors but are equally intent on playing by the rules. As Coach Wooden put it: "Never let ambition cause you to sacrifice your integrity or diminish your efforts on any other aspect of the Pyramid. At the same time you'll never reach a serious goal unless you have the intention to do so.”


A goal is noble when its accomplishment benefits others. Coach Wooden had great ambition as a coach. He wanted to win a national championship but that was not his goal. His goal was to get the best possible players and help them become the best they could become as players and as citizens. He also wanted them to improve as a team. Coach liked to refer to the championships as “icing on the cake” while reminding us that “doing our best” was the cake.


Coach’s quote: "Be more concerned with what you can do for others than what others can do for you - you'll be surprised at the results." describes the importance of including others on our journey to success.


If we are to attain success, we must have ambition with integrity, directed at a noble goal. Selfish personal ambition will not accomplish this. As Coach liked to say "Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."


Coach advises us to keep our ambitions in proper perspective: “Do not get so concerned with making a living that you forget to make a life”.



Yours in coaching,



Craig Impelman


Twitter: @woodenswisdom



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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry

Winning is giving your
best self away.
Winning is serving with
grace every day.
You'll know that you've won
when your friends say it's true.
"I like who I am
when I'm around you.
You look for the best
in the others you see.
And you help us become
who we're trying to be."
Winning is helping
someone who's down.
It's sharing a smile
instead of a frown.
It's giving your children
a hug by the fire.
And sharing the values
and dreams that inspire.
It's giving your parents
the message "I care.
Thanks, Mom and Dad
for being so fair."
Winners are willing
to give more than get.
Their favors are free,
you're never in debt.
Winning is giving
one hundred percent.
It's paying your dues,
your taxes, your rent.
It's trying and doing,
not crying and stewing.
Winners respect
every color and creed,
They share and they care
for everyone's need.
The losers keep betting
that winning is getting.
But there's one of God's law
that they keep forgetting.
And this is the Law
you can live and believe:
The more that you give
the more you'll receive!

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