The Wooden's Wisdom Logo

Motivate Your Team! Cheer Up A Friend! Inspire Yourself!

Issue 53 - Bad times can make you bitter or better.

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 2 Issue 53
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login


Bad times can make you bitter or better.

The Maxim: “A setback is a set up for a comeback” describes Coach Wooden's philosophy for dealing with adversity.

In his book The Pyramid of Success with Jay Carty, Coach described his perspective on adversity.

We cannot allow difficulties to discourage us. Roadblocks may cause us to alter our course a bit, but we cannot let them deter us from our destination. I have often said that we grow stronger through adversity.

We become stronger physically through a weight-lifting program. Our muscles work against heavy objects. That's adversity. We get stronger mentally through the progressive difficulty of education. We don't start with calculus; we start with arithmetic. After we learn the basics, we move on to algebra, then to geometry and so on. We work our way up to calculus.

In the same way, we grow stronger spiritually through the tests of life. Losing my beloved wife, Nellie, was the hardest event in my life. For a couple of years, it slowed me down; but it didn't stop me. In the end, even her loss has made me stronger. In every way - physically, morally, emotionally and spiritually, we increase our strength when life is hard; therefore, we must not dread adversity, nor can we allow it to stop us from becoming the best we can be through the steadfast pursuit of our goals. In fact, as we become stronger we can and should expand our goals. Extending our capabilities to their limits requires us to realistically reevaluate our potential.

In 1962, Coach’s UCLA team was defeated in the semi- finals of the final four. In Coach’s book Wooden on Leadership with Steve Jamison, Fred Slaughter, a member of that team, described the experience.

We lost to Cincinnati in the semifinals of the national championship because of a bad charging call on us during the last minute of the game. It was a phantom call, and it cost UCLA the game and maybe the national championship. Coach’s reaction in the locker room was the same as if we’d won—cool. No complaining; he told us to keep our heads up: “Adversity makes us stronger.” And then he said, “Remember, you’ve still got one another.”

Sometimes it was years before Coach Wooden's players benefited from his life lessons. Bill Walton once described it this way:

Twenty-nine years have passed since I left UCLA and it amazes me how smart Coach Wooden has become in those 29 years. I'm 50 years old now. I thought he was nuts. He was a walking antique. It wasn't until adversity hit me that I realized he was right.

Dealing with adversity in a positive way requires the two top mortar pieces of coach’s Pyramid of Success: Faith and Patience.  And remembering, as Coach put it:

Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.

Yours in coaching,


Craig Impelman

Twitter: @woodenswisdom




Watch Video

Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry

I have shut the door on yesterday,
     Its sorrows and mistakes.
I have locked within its gloomy walls
     Past failures and heartaches.
And now I throw the key away,
     And seek another room.
And furnish it with hope and smiles,
     And every spring-time bloom.
No thought shall enter this abode
     That has a hint of pain.
And envy, malice, and distrust
      Shall never entrance gain.
I have shut the door on yesterday
     And thrown the key away.
Tomorrow holds no fear for me,
     Since I have found today.
   -Vivian Yeiser Laramore


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: 6,882,257

Hosting & Design