The Powerful Legacy of Mentoring

UPDATED: October 18, 2023
PUBLISHED: January 3, 2018

A mentor is defined as someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague; a trusted counselor or guide.

In his book A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring with Don Yaeger, Coach Wooden said this:

“While I made my living as a coach, I have lived my life to be a mentor—and to be mentored!—constantly.

Related: 6 Mentorship Do’s and Don’ts

“Everything in the world has been passed down. Every piece of knowledge is something that has been shared by someone else. If you understand it as I do, mentoring becomes your true legacy. It is the greatest inheritance you can give to others. It is why you get up every day—to teach and be taught.”

Coach Wooden often pointed out the profound influence his father Joshua had on him. In addition to his father’s Two Sets of Three and Seven-Point Creed, Coach attributed these key points of wisdom to him:

Never try to be better than someone else. But always be learning from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be. One is under your control, the other isn’t.

You’ll never know a thing that you didn’t learn from someone else.

The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.

Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln were two historical figures that Coach considered to be his mentors. He described their influence this way:

Related: The Most Powerful Tool We Have Is Influence; Here’s How to Wield It

“Both of them lived their lives completely devoted for others.

“Lincoln was president during the most difficult time in our country. He never lost his common man approach. At the end of the terrible war between the states, he was being criticized by the secretary of state, who told him, ‘You’re supposed to destroy your enemies, not make friends of them.’ His answer, of course, was, ‘Am I not destroying an enemy if I make a friend of him?’ Lincoln was my favorite American.

“Mother Theresa said, ‘A life not lived for others is not a life.’ And if anyone ever truly lived their life for others, it was Mother Theresa. I’d say she’s the person I have the most respect and admiration for that’s lived in my lifetime.”

Coach also considered his grammar school coach, Earl Warriner; high school coach, Glenn Curtis; and college coach, Piggy Lambert to be valuable mentors. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the amazing impact Coach often alluded to that Nellie, his wife of 53 years, had on his life.

The example that Coach Wooden set for us is that we all have opportunities to positively influence others every day. Remembering, as Coach liked to say, you cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone without thought of repayment.

Related: 20 Ways to Do Your Best and Be Successful

This article originally appeared on and has been republished with permission.

Craig Impelman

As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.