What John Wooden Taught Me About Personal Finance

John WoodenI used to play organized basketball, and I was reasonably good at it for a time until I injured both my ear (affecting my balance) and immediately after that injuring my back (making running difficult). It was the one sport that I truly loved playing and still, on some fundamental level, I am drawn back to basketball, watching the players run majestically up and down the court and the coaches stand on the sidelines shouting dramatically. Yes, March is my favorite month of the year.

If there is one person that embodies the good elements of basketball, it is John Wooden. I’m not going to bore you with tales of his success (you can read all about that yourself) other than to say you’ll hear basically no argument from anyone that he was the greatest collegiate coach of the sport of all time.

But that’s not how he changed my life.

When I was about fourteen years old, my basketball coach gave me a piece of paper that had two things printed on it, philosophical writings of John Wooden. One of them was a pyramid of leadership success that I would love to write about in another context (this isn’t a blog about leadership or personal productivity, after all), but the part that really struck home for me was Wooden’s seven point creed. It’s something that I’ve tried to live by since then, and it’s led me to a path of financial freedom. Here are the seven parts to the creed and how they shaped my financial life.

Be true to yourself. Every time I have failed to do this – and tried to be something or someone that someone else wanted me to be – I found myself wasting money and heading down the fast road to the poor house. My financial transformation wasn’t so much a re-evaluation of my wallet, but a rediscovery of what was actually really about me and who I was, not what someone else wanted me to be or wanted out of me.

Make each day your masterpiece. I started off one day at a time. First, I established very simple goals for my finances each day. Before long, it evolved into defining daily metrics to make sure I kept following my bigger goals. Now, I see each day as a microcosm of my life – and I try to make choices that reflect the kind of overall life I want to lead.

Help others. If you’re reading this blog, you’re looking at the outcome of this piece of the philosophy. I write about what I’ve learned because it can help others, and I’ve read so many comments and emails that tell me that I actually am helping others.

Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible. I’m reading books of all kinds. Here are ten that changed my life (well, there’s still one more for me to write about, coming very soon).

Make friendship a fine art. This was difficult for me, but I began to discover that my local community had a lot of valuable things in it, and I began to really understand the value of How To Win Friends And Influence People.

Build a shelter against a rainy day. I started building an emergency fund that now has enough in it to make me feel comfortable no matter what rainy day might come. I’m also well-insured so that if something happens to me, my wife and son will not lose their standard of living.

Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day. There is not a night that I don’t fall asleep thankful that my eyes were opened to the need for sound personal finance decisions. Eliminating my debt and beginning sound investing was the most powerful thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I would have never believed that something photocopied on a piece of paper given to me by a basketball coach in the early 1990s would still be floating around in my pocket – old, tattered, and beat up – and still affecting my life in profound ways.

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  1. breadman says:

    On this note, I’m going to shamelessly say, “GO BRUINS!” (by chance, are you a bruin?!)

  2. Gjosefsberg says:

    The “help others” line is especially important. I used you as an example when I started my own website. It was to help others overcome the same challenges I had a few years ago when I was trying to become healthier.

    I’ll add Mr. Wooden to my list of inspirations :)

  3. Quang says:

    That’s funny Trent, I was watching a documentary about the UCLA Bruins Last Night!

    Amazing, i think their record was something like 300-22 or something…

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