Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance or other book of interest. Also available is a complete list of the hundreds of book reviews that have appeared on The Simple Dollar over the years.
I’ve mentioned more than a few times on The Simple Dollar how one of my few heroes in life is John Wooden, the basketball coach at UCLA during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. For example: What John Wooden Taught Me About Personal Finance, Make Each Day Your Masterpiece, and Making Today Your Masterpiece.
Why do I give such respect to Coach Wooden? It’s not his record as a sports figure or anything like that. I respect him because of the positive impact he’s had on countless people. If you do a Google search for John Wooden stories, you’ll find an overflowing abundance of people telling about the positive impact that Wooden had on their life, helping them down the track to being a better – and often a more successful – person.
One of the first things you’ll find out about Wooden if you research him is his “seven point creed.” It’s a series of seven principles to live by that his father, Joshua, gave to him upon his graduation from grammar school, and one that he directly passed on to many other people. Ever since the first time I came into contact with that creed (via one of my own early mentors), I’ve tried to live by it, for better or worse, and I’ve found that my life is rewarded every time I came close to living up to that standard.
I’ve long looked for a book that really explained this “seven point creed” while tying in a biography of Wooden’s life. I read several books by various people on Wooden’s life and none of them really clicked in that way. Until this one.
Coach Wooden by Pat Williams and James Denney is probably the best single volume I’ve come across on Wooden and the princples he shared with others throughout his life.
A Common Man, a Leader’s Leader
You might expect this chapter to be biographical, and it is. It’s just not biographical concerning John Wooden. Instead, the opening chapter focuses on John’s father, Joshua Wooden, who gave John that seven point creed. It provides a bridge between the modern world and a much different time and really reflects on how some basic tenets about life remain the same.
Be True to Yourself
In the end, you can only be yourself. You can’t make yourself be someone genuinely different, and pretending often ends up being a trap of unhappiness. Being yourself soemtimes means that people won’t understand you and they’ll look at you strangely, but the same thing will happen no matter what you do. You can never please everyone all of the time. Focus instead on being who you naturally are and good things will flow from that. You’ll be naturally at ease in most situations. You’ll almost always choose to do the right thing in a situation. In the end, you’ll be the person you always hoped you’ll be, simply by being yourself and not who others want you to be.
There is no one in the world who does not occasionally need a helping hand. If you observe someone needing that hand, offer it. Offer it every time and you’ll find that when the day comes and you need a hand, you’ll find one waiting for you. You’ll also experience the pleasure of seeing others find success and the joy in sometimes building the foundation of great relationships with others.
Make Each Day Your Masterpiece
This principle really hit home for me, and it’s something I’ve tried to do again and again in my own life. Every single day, you have countless opportunities to do the right thing in life. Every day gives you the chance to fill it with a taste of something great. Do you make that choice? Or do you squander it with frivolity? Every day can be a great day.
Drink Deeply from Good Books, Especially the Bible
Read each day. Read things that challenge you. Read things that help explain the world and the culture we live in. Read things that move your spirit. Read things that move your mind. Wooden explicitly mentions the Bible here because it can do all of these things – and, even if your beliefs are completely outside the realm of Christianity, it can still challenge you and help shed some light on culture.
Make Friendship a Fine Art
Every friendship you have rests on a series of interactions, and it’s how you handle those interactions that builds a strong friendship. Much like a fine art, a friendship is the sum of a lot of little things, like notes or brushstrokes. Make it your goal to paint those little strokes well so that they build together into something profound that will last for the rest of your life.
Build a Shelter against a Rainy Day by the Life You Live
Obviously, a cash emergency fund falls under this umbrella, but so do the things you know, the relationships you’ve built, and the skills you’ve acquired. All of these things are part of what will buoy you when a rainy day comes in your life – and it inevitably will. Build them today when you have the opportunity.
Pray for Guidance and Counsel, and Give Thanks for Your Blessings Each Day
If you’re reading this, you have a better life than most of the people in this world. Keep that in mind as you go through your day. No matter how hard it is, you’ve got many advantages that others in this world do not have. As for prayer for guidance and counsel, it’s a valuable tool. If you don’t believe in a higher power, meditate, as it’ll provide many of the same benefits.
Is Coach Wooden Worth Reading?
If you’ve ever been curious about the life of John Wooden, this is well worth reading. If you’ve ever wanted to read a book that covers valuable life principles, this is well worth reading.
I plan on giving my own version of these principles to my own children when they’re of age. This book gave me an opportunity to reflect deeply on them.