The Ultimate John Wooden Strategy Guide: 36 Tips For Success & Achievement

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The Ultimate John Wooden Guide: 36 Strategies For Success, Competition & Achievement

Put insights into action with this 10-Minute reader digest from this John Wooden book dive. Check out more book dives on psychology, coaching, leadership, and life.

Author: John Wooden with Steve Jamison

Published: 1997

Genre(s): sports, basketball, sport psychology

Buy on: Amazon | eBay | Barnes & Noble

Other Books By John Wooden:

Get the 36 most powerful quotes on success, achievement and competition from Wooden


John Wooden won 10 national championships in 12 years. Get his 36 best perspectives on winning, defining success, and measuring up the competition.

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The Whole Book, As An Imaginary Tweet:

Here’s how I would sum up the key takeaways from John Wooden’s book in 280 characters or less:wooden tweet

Apply This Book In 2018:

Here’s one specific strategy from Wooden you can apply to work, sport, and life.


Strategy: How you work with people is the product.

Selling is one thing, but great salesmen don’t always make great leaders. If you’re good at your job, you’ll eventually manage people. Lead with the belief that leadership is just as much (if not more) about how you work with people than it is about Q2 revenue.

“For example, let’s say Mr. Grigsby owns a company that manufactures shoes. I believe shoes are simply a byproduct for his company. Their real product is the teamwork of people within the company, along with the manufacturing plant and other elements of the business that the leader, Mr. Grigsby, has brought together. How his company’s people work as a team is the product. Shoes are a by-product.”

Consider the flip side. Without people, there is no company. Prioritize your people first.


Strategy: Make mistakes-and make a lot of them.

Early on in the season, mess up as much as possible- not for the sake of messing up, but because you’ve gotten out of your comfort zone. Ask questions and grow from your mistakes. Consider:

“The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win”

Is that true? The team that figures out more ways to not do a thing is probably better off. Fail fast, fail often. In all likelihood, you will find the way.

“You can make mistakes, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes. When you blame others you are trying to excuse yourself. When you make excuses, you can’t properly evaluate yourself. Without proper self-evaluation, failure is inevitable.”

Look inside after failure. Don’t point fingers. Evaluate your performance objectively, as if you’re seeing yourself perform for the first time off in the distance.


Strategy: Teach people through your actions, not words.

Don’t ask your friends, colleagues, or loved ones to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself. If the path to success is through hard work, endure the struggles and pain with the people you love the most. Be willing to lead and go first.

“No written word nor spoken plea,

Can teach our youth what they should be.

Nor all the books on all the shelves,

It’s what the teachers are themselves.”

You can fake words, but you can’t fake actions. Pretenders disappear when the hard work begins.

The 3 Most Important Lessons:

#1. Preparation is everything.

Wherever you hope to succeed in life, your preparation matters most. It’s the only thing you’ll always have full control over. Prioritize how you prepare over everything else.

#2. Hard work is the price you pay.

It’s almost as if John Wooden pays a price for being too altruistic. His methods and good nature seem “unrealistic” to many in our ever-changing world.

The truth is that his approach is the only way he could have ever worked as hard as he did. It is the only approach for him- and for us- to be successful. To put in work day after day, you must believe in what you’re doing. His work ethic was born from his morals. Yours should be, too.

#3. When you’re done helping others, your time here is done.

Whatever your cause, you are here to help others. When it becomes more about your own self-glorification than the growth of yourself and your people, it’s time to move on.

“I believe that when we are out of sympathy for the young, our work in this world is over.”

John Wooden committed his life to developing young men on a basketball court. Whatever your court looks like, remember that it’s helping people that matters more than accolades and milestones.

The 5 Best Quotes:

#1. “The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win.”……. The doer makes mistakes. Coach Lambert taught me that mistakes come from doing, but so does success.”

#2. “We won national championships while I was coaching at UCLA because I was above average in analyzing players, getting them to fill roles as part of a team, paying attention to fundamentals and details, and working well with others. Additionally, I enjoyed very hard work.”

#3. “Fear may work in the short term to get people to do something, but over the long run, I believe personal pride is a much greater motivator.”

#4. “Happiness is in many things. It’s in love. It’s in sharing. But most of all, it’s in being at peace with yourself knowing that you are making an effort, the full effort, to do what’s right.”

#5. “I have often been asked when I first started dreaming about winning a national championship………I never dreamed about winning a national championship. It happened before I even thought it was possible. What I was dreaming about each year, if you want to call it that, was trying to produce the best basketball team we could be. My thoughts were directed toward preparation, our journey, not the results of the effort (such as winning championships). That would simply have shifted my attention to the wrong area, hoping for something out of my control. Hoping doesn’t make it happen.”

Self-Made Strategy

Strategy: Love people more than what sometimes feels comfortable.

Self-made people resist the temptation to rely on others because past experiences have taught them it’s a bad idea. They fear being perceived weak. John Wooden proved there is no dichotomy between success in life and loving people. You can- and should- have both.

If you’ve been burned in your life by others, consider your attachment to that pain. It’s real, but there are many good people in this world. Give others a chance. It will be a slow process at first. You’ll doubt yourself. But you’ll start to see you can trust people. Love other people like your success depends on it.


This John Wooden book is about basketball. But it’s so much more about living life correctly than developing a jump shot or winning trophies.

Consider a life where you only focused on the external: solving other people’s problems and what everyone else in the world is doing. Your life would consist of distraction, struggle, and resentment. Helping people is important, but to achieve, look inside yourself first.

Relevant Resources

JW’s Pyramid of Success

Get the 36 most powerful quotes on success, achievement and competition from Wooden


John Wooden won 10 national championships in 12 years. Get his 36 best perspectives on winning, defining success, and measuring up the competition.

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