Why John Wooden Inspires Us

The last time John Wooden took the sideline as a basketball coach, I wasn’t yet born. In fact, my parents wouldn’t even meet for almost another decade.

Actually, none of the magazine’s full-time staff members have firm personal memories of Wooden’s career at the University of California, Los Angeles. All we know of him is legend. He coached at a time when slam-dunking was banned in NCAA basketball, and before the three-point line was brought into the game. But over the years here, as SUCCESS editors researched other stories about game-changing thinkers and inspirational achievers, Wooden’s name kept coming up over and over.

Among the untold number of people who credit Wooden’s teachings in leadership and personal growth as a major influence on their lives are our own SUCCESS Ambassador John C. Maxwell, our former publisher Darren Hardy and past cover icons like Bill Gates, Mike Krzyzewski and Howard Schultz. Those are powerful endorsements. Although his career ended long ago, and Wooden himself has been gone for six years, the coach’s impact is as vibrant as ever.

Related: John Wooden’s Legacy Is a How-To Guide for a Successful Life

There can be no doubt as to how deserving Wooden is as the face of SUCCESS for the December 2016 issue. But it wasn’t until our staff got to know some of his children and grandchildren that we realized how perfect he is to front this particular month’s edition—The Family Issue. Wooden has influenced people all over the world, but the depth of character in his daughter Nan and son Jim, whom we met in getting this story together, is the ultimate proof of how impactful he can be. Generation after generation of Wooden’s family members have been and will continue to be bettered by the example of this one man.

Related: 17 Famous “Woodenisms” by Coach John Wooden

The same can hold true for your descendants. By pushing yourself to achieve competitive greatness—the apex of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success—you’ll not only achieve all the rewards in your own life, but also have a favorable effect on your family and everyone you come in contact with.

In addition to the inspiring story of Wooden’s life, there’s an essay from Jeff Vrabel on the new perspective you can achieve just by opening yourself to strangers, and another from Michael Graff reminiscing about the day he learned, as an awkward teenager on a family vacation, to enjoy the precious time he has with his loved ones. Associate editor Jamie Friedlander delves into the happy effects of applying positive psychology to parenting, and writer Tara Nieuwesteeg explains what she learned about herself when she retraced her family tree, plus how you can examine yourself in the same way. Finally, be sure to read the story of Shane Dixon Kavanaugh’s trek up Mount Adams with the regular dad whose personal mission to climb the highest peak on every continent showed his kids how to set big goals and strive to achieve them.

Wooden defined success as “the peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” I know my team feels that way, and we hope it inspires you to do the same for yourself and the people you love.

Related: 27 Motivational Quotes by John Wooden to Inspire You to Be Better


This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

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Josh Ellis is the editor in chief for SUCCESS magazine. Before joining SUCCESS in 2012, he was an accomplished digital and print sportswriter, working for the Dallas Cowboys Star magazine, the team’s gameday program, and DallasCowboys.com. Originally from Longview, Texas, he began writing for his hometown newspaper at 16.

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