I was obsessed with basketball growing up. I was an 80’s baby growing up near Los Angeles so the Showtime Lakers were my heroes. I was an outside shooter so Michael Cooper and Byron Scott were my favorites; I’d play in the driveway for hours, pretending to hit the game winning shot. Somehow it never got old.
As I grew older, my list of heroes expanded and basketball began to shape my life in deeper ways. I remember one experience in particular. It was at a summer camp at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. One day, during a break from games, John Wooden was introduced to deliver a talk. He was nearing 90 at the time, in a wheelchair. The gym was packed and buzzing with youthful energy, but once he began to speak, we all sat in a trace.
What I remember most was how quickly he spoke – and his memory! He recited poem after poem. It was apparent that lived his life by these verses and they simply flowed as he talked. Even at that stage of life, he retained a vigor and enthusiasm for life that was enough to hold a gym full of teenagers captive. I don’t remember his exact words, but the impression was lasting – I wanted to live a life like that.
Having passed away, Wooden is remembered in many ways – his astounding achievements as a coach as well as his timeless wisdom in leadership and personal excellence. As he describes in his TED talk, he coined his own definition of success as young teacher. The definition is quite elegant in its simplicity: “success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
As he points out, we’re all given a unique set of traits and abilities as well as circumstances that make for an uneven playing field. Thus, it is futile to compare ourselves to others (and trust me, I’m writing to myself here). Give yourself peace of mind by shedding your excuses and explanations. Let go of the fear of failure and give your best effort today – and tomorrow. Leave the door open to what you may become.