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Issue 4 - Help Others

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 1 Issue 4
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



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This issue of The Wooden Way is devoted to the second item of Coach Wooden’s seven point creed “Help others.”


One of Coach Wooden’s favorite role models was Mother Theresa, whose quote, “Unless a life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile,” served as the bedrock of Coach’s lifetime commitment to helping others. After reading about her tremendous work among the poor in Calcutta, Coach resolved to do one kind thing each day for someone who could never return the favor; and he often put that same challenge to others. Coach realized that not everyone could bring hospices, orphanages and schools to underprivileged people like Mother Teresa, but we could still make a difference in someone’s life every day. Whether serving others’ needs physically or emotionally, even the simplest acts of kindness can have a tremendous positive impact. As Mother Teresa often said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”


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Abraham Lincoln, another of Coach Wooden’s mentors, was also an inspiration to him in this regard. Lincoln once remarked that, “The worst thing you can do for those you love is to do the things they could and should do for themselves.” This piece of wisdom inspired Coach to help other people find balance in their own lives. When my wife, Christy (Coach Wooden’s granddaughter), was in high school, she was also working part-time to buy a car. Coach probably could have just purchased a vehicle for her, but in keeping with his philosophy, he suggested that he and her other grandfather match whatever monies Christy earned to help her save toward her purchase. From this experience, Christy learned that one can help others by helping them to help themselves, thereby making them better, stronger people.

As usual, Coach gave us some great maxims to illustrate this point:

“Happiness begins where selfishness ends.”

“Forget favors given; remember
those received. “

“Be more concerned with what you can do for others than what others can do for you.”

The block on the Pyramid of Success that is the best reminder of helping others is Team Spirit. Coach Wooden defines Team Spirit as: “A genuine consideration for others. An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests of glory for the welfare of all.” If you think of the human race as your team, having team spirit means helping your fellow man to succeed in life.

So, how can you start helping others today? Perhaps you might begin by being more observant of the people and situations around you. Pause each day and really look around. Do not wait to be asked for help – the very best time to help others is before they have to ask. Consider taking out the trash or making the bed or doing the laundry. Compliment a co-worker on a great idea; a pat on the back is always appreciated, and a great motivator. Mentor a child, or teach a youngster to ride a bicycle. Volunteer an hour of your time at a senior citizen’s home, church, hospital or homeless shelter. Even the smallest gesture can mean a lot.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thy self.” One way that Coach Wooden gave freely of himself was that, although he was arguably the most famous coach in American sports, he never had an unlisted phone number. If you wanted to reach out to Coach Wooden his number was always there in public for anyone to find. He was committed to being available to visit with anyone who cared to pay him a visit. Similarly, Coach Wooden’s players did not leave the locker room – either at home or on the road – until (as he put it) “the orange peels, gum wrappers, towels and soap chips are off the floor.” Of course, Coach also helped with cleaning up himself. He viewed this as a common courtesy to the cleaning staff. Being considerate of others makes you naturally inclined to help others.

Strive each day to be considerate of others, giving freely of your time, energy, and resources to help them – and expect nothing in return. Trust that the joy you will experience in doing so cannot be matched. Opportunities to help others are all around you, every day, all the time. You need only to take a moment to notice them, and then act.

Click here for personal development exercise

Yours in coaching,


Craig Impelman


Twitter: @woodenswisdom

Application Exercise

Favorite POETRY

At Day’s End
Is anybody happier because
you passed his way?

Does anybody remember
that you spoke to him today?

The day is almost over,
and its toiling time is through;

Is there anyone to utter
now a kindly word of you?

Can you say tonight, in parting
with the day that’s slipping fast,

That you helped a single brother
of the many that you passed?

Is a single heart rejoicing
over what you did or said?

Does the man whose hopes were fading,
now with courage look

Did you waste the day, or lose it?
Was it well or sorely spent?

Did you leave a trail of kindness,
or a scar of discontent?

As you close your eyes in slumber,
do you think God will say,

"You have earned one more tomorrow
by the work you did today?"

~John Hall
It's not what we give
but what we share,

For the gift without the giver
is bare.
Who gives of himself
of his alms feeds three,
Himself, his hungering neighbor,
and me.

~James Russell Lowell,
The Vision of Sir Launfal (1848),
Pt. II, st. 8

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