What’s so revolutionary about the idea of making the effort to do your best? Just this: the reason Coach Wooden was such a consistent winner was that he never settled for winning. Winning wasn’t enough. Even winning National Championships wasn’t enough. Wooden wanted more. He wanted his teams to play their best. Every game. Against weak teams and against strong teams. He knew there were too many ways to win a game you didn’t deserve to win, too many ways to win without giving your best effort. And he knew there were too many ways to lose when you didn’t give your best effort.
It was that effort that Wooden was looking for. For him, that was the reason to compete. Not to win, but to make the effort to be your best. To make the most of the talent God has given you. To make the effort to become the best human being you can become. Wooden taught–and proved–that if you make that effort, winning will take care of itself.
Think how much higher his standard is, than is the standard that most people live by. In Wooden’s world, you have to do more than come out on top; you have to make the effort to do your best. Winning is the by-product of that effort. Winning isn’t the cake; it’s just the icing. The cake is peace of mind, the peace of mind that can come only from the self-knowledge that you have made the effort to do your best.
Imagine how this might play in your own life. Have you ever gotten an “A” on a test you didn’t study for? Have you ever been given a raise from your boss, even though you knew in your heart that you hadn’t earned it? Have you ever won a sale that you didn’t deserve?
Instead of winning, what if from now on your objective was to make the effort to do the very best of which you are capable? How much better would you perform? More importantly, how much better would you feel? What would your life be like if you refused to settle merely for winning, but insisted instead on the peace of mind that comes from the self-satisfaction of knowing that you have made the effort to do your best?
When you think about it, there is a profound irony that surrounds the career of John Wooden. As a coach, he was measured by winning. But he won by refusing to measure himself by winning. He insisted on a higher standard, the standard of making the effort to do your best.
Why is that a higher standard? Because we can’t fool ourselves. So much of what passes for success is a matter of how we appear to other people. But Wooden has always been concerned with how we appear to ourselves. Are we giving our best? We might be able to fool others with half an effort, but in our own heart we will always know the truth. That is the truth that Wooden thinks we should live by.
Is he right or wrong? This March, tune in on the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Gauge the caliber of the athletes, the coaches, and the competition. Notice how much is at stake and how hard the competitors work for the ultimate victory. See for yourself how difficult it is to win even a single championship. And then remember the man who won ten.