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John Wooden and Branding Our Lives

June 22, 2010

“There is a choice you have to make in everything you do,

So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make makes you.”

–Anonymous, from My Personal Best by John Wooden

I’ve been moved by the extent to which John Wooden received honor and praise at his passing. It’s really quite remarkable. How does a man from the rural Midwest with small town values and old fashion morality quotes become so popular, respected, and influential in today’s world? And how does this man have such words of wisdom for those of us in the marketing profession?

Eleven-time National Sportswriter of the Year, Rick Reilly, recently wrote a column titled, Wooden set the bar high, in which he said John Wooden made him want to be more principled, more courageous, love more deeply, etc. It’s a moving piece that gives us glimpses into how Wooden the man lived what he taught, making him an endearing and enduring public figure.

Wooden’s unrivaled professional accomplishments gave him a platform. But in the 35 years since his retirement, his life and teachings have been for many of us a compass pointing us in the direction of what’s truly important in life.

During the wonderful coverage of Wooden’s passing, I listened to a radio interview with one of his former players, Andy Hill. He talked about how over the years Wooden was always there for him to reset the course of his life.

We all need a compass. Someone to be true north for us.

For the first 46 years of my life, it was my father, the most honest man I’ve known, a godly man who lived a life consistent with biblical values requiring him to swim upstream against the current of popular opinion.

When I think of John Wooden, I think of my dad. They were cut from the same cloth. They believed the same things, and they had an ability to pass on their values to young people because they were authentic. Take a look at the short video above from the HBO documentary, The UCLA Dynasty, and note how Wooden’s former players recount how their coach influenced their lives.

But Wooden’s legacy goes far beyond influencing his players. His teachings on life and leadership have been published in multiple languages, expressed in interviews and video, tweeted, and posted on walls in gyms, locker rooms, boys and girls clubs, schools, corporate offices, homes, etc.

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Coach Wooden’s life and teaching call us to be better. To be selfless. To be of good character. To stand for principle. To be wary of believing the hype of our personal brands.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

In a social media and marketing world full of self promotion, conceit and spin, John Wooden continues to instruct us to be careful and to live a life that rises above it all.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Janet Clement permalink
    June 24, 2010 4:19 PM

    I am blessed to have the same kind of Dad you have, well actually the same Dad!
    Great article, Rick and a good reminder of what is important in life and how much each one of our lives impact others. . .more than just the lessons we learn, do we live our lives according to the principles we have been taught. May we pass on to our children, by example, what Dad taught us!

    • Rick Hardy permalink
      June 24, 2010 4:37 PM

      I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks, Janet.


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