John R. Wooden's Pyramid of Success


For John Robert Wooden, 'being at your best when your best was needed' was just as important in the game of life as it was in the game of basketball.

Coach Wooden's 'Pyramid of Success' is his 15 building block initiative in the form of a pyramid. The cornerstones were Industriousness and Enthusiasm, climbing to such strived-for human traits as Intentness, Team Spirit, Poise and Confidence, all leading to the top of the pyramid to reach the ultimate goal of Competitive Greatness.

Just as Coach Wooden will forever be in the sports history books for leading UCLA's men's basketball teams to 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years (1964-75), his 'Pyramid of Success' has set the standard for corporate leaders in the business world and for many of us in the world of life.

The Pyramid's Beginning

Throughout his early years, even in high school, Coach Wooden was unsure about the definition of the word 'success'. What did it mean?

In 1934, as a 24 year-old high school coach in Dayton, KY, Coach Wooden began writing down his ideas that would lead to his definition of success and more importantly, how to achieve it. To Coach Wooden, it wasn't about the final score, about winning or losing. It was about the hard work and effort that was put forth in the journey to get to the final score. If you did your best in preparation and during the contest, in whatever it was you were doing, both on and off the basketball court, then it was a successful journey, regardless of the outcome.

Coach Wooden's father, Joshua Hugh Wooden, instilled this thought into his four sons as they were growing up on their farm in Centerton, IN - "Don't worry about being better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can be."

The Pyramid's Completion

Coach Wooden worked on his 'Pyramid of Success' for 15 years, while a high school coach in Dayton, KY and at South Bend, IN Central HS and for two years (1946-48) as the men's head basketball coach at Indiana State Teachers College.

Deciding to use a pyramid as its basis and deciding on what human traits and values to select to make up the pyramid, it took Coach Wooden many years to find the correct formula. In 1934 he decided on the cornerstones, Industriousness and Enthusiasm, the two most important building blocks of the pyramid. Completing the foundation of the Pyramid are Friendship, Loyalty and Cooperation.

As the years went by, Coach Wooden built his Pyramid, 14 building blocks of human determination, leading to the apex, the 15th building block - Competitive Greatness. On both sides of the Pyramid, in essence holding it together, are 10 words, including Ambition, Honesty and Integrity, once again all leading to the top, where Faith and Patience watch over Competitive Greatness.

Coach Wooden completed his 'Pyramid of Success' in the spring of 1948, and the original Pyramid drawing was on his office wall after he accepted the men's basketball head coaching position at UCLA that same spring.

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

"The best way to improve the team is to improve ourself."

"Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting."

"As long as you try your best, you are never a failure. That is, unless you blame others."

"Much can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets the credit."

(1) Facts for this article were taken from 'My Personal Best,' written by John Wooden with Steve Jamison and 'Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court,' written by Coach John Wooden with Steve Jamison.