John Wooden on Learning
John Wooden, America’s greatest basketball coach died June 4, 2010. He was 99. He presided over the greatest basketball dynasty of all time. Under his leadership the UCLA Bruins won 10 NCAA National Championships, seven in a row (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1975). His winning record may never fall.
Everyone who knew Coach Wooden knew him as more than a coach; he was a gifted teacher with an ability to pack wisdom into tight memorable expressions. For example, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
What makes learning difficult?
Leaders are learners who walk a tight rope between confidence in what they already know and openness to new ideas.
Learning is difficult because it may invalidate established beliefs. For example, in my own life, I was taught and always believed mission was enough to help me achieve my goals. I learned, after I knew it all, that mission without vision won’t take you there. I wrote about it in, “My Biggest Mistake in Life.”
Learning is difficult when your practices and procedures are working. In this case, success is the enemy of learning.
Learning is difficult because the voice of wisdom may seem dumb. Wisdom may seem dumb because it’s out of step with current beliefs and natural inclinations. For example, Coach Wooden said, “I never stressed winning.” How can the man who holds an 88 game winning streak say he never stressed winning? He never stressed winning because he stressed practice. In a world focused on success, Coach Wooden speaks an out-of-step wisdom we all can apply.
What makes learning difficult? What can leaders do to become learners?
There are so many things we can all learn from Mr. Wooden. I have his Pyramid of Success on th ewall in my office and I refer to it often.
I think learning is difficult because we are set in our ways, “if something works well now why change it”, is our worst enemy.
Thanks for stopping in and thanks for mentioning Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. For readers unfamiliar with the pyramid, here’s a link.
Success to you,
Unlearning makes learning difficult. People should unlearn to become leaders. Unlearning old habits, beliefs, perceptions, customs, deep routed assumptions, fear of failure etc. These black spots are most difficult to overcome. But once you overcome it, it becomes easy to learn and you see the world differently. Learning comes from your willingness. You can’t learn unless you are willing to unlearn and learn.
Leader is one who creates leaders and more than a coach or teacher, he should be a mentor. The other obstacle in our learning is our attitude. When we become judgemental about anything, we limit our understanding and can’t see from other point of view.
Leadership is a journey and not destination. In this sense, leaders make efforts and don’t expect outcomes; they accept “Come what may”. They keep making effort selflessly but with passion. So it is the learn ability, flexibility, agility, sensibility that counts to become a great leader.
Complacency is another and probably the greatest enemy to success and learning. When we measure our efforts, we expect. And this disconnects us from being a good leader. Other barriers to learning are our perception. We create layers of impossibility and uncertainty that in fact doest not exit. Perception about our age, family, kids, ability, responsibility etc. These are our created enemies and in fact the sign of our surrendering to situations and circumstances.
You have been able to bring out all relevant things related to unlearning which stop the person to go with a complacent mood. Good analysis with positive aspects of leadership taht you have summarised.
However, you have probably missed on an important thing of ‘I know everything’ or ‘I don’t need any advice/ suggestion’ as being the major obstacle to learning. Openness and respect for others [their views in particular] should be part of regular habits for a leader to succeed taking the team along.
Dear Dr. Mrunal,
Thank you very much for your candid opinion and suggestions. I am absolutely agree with your point. When we think that we know everything, we narrow our boundary of learning. Of course , openness and respect make learning easy and interesting. I tried to explain ” I know everything” by being judgemental and creating layers of ignorance and ego that stop our learning.
This is so basic, but sticking with the axiom “THERE ARE NO DUMB QUESTIONS” seems important to remaining an effective, flexible leader. Maybe from a leader perspective, they need to believe there are no dumb questions and make sure their subordinates know that.
I know I refer to my sideline activities with the FSU Film school a lot, but it is turning into quite the little microcosm of leadership strategy. In my “day life” I am a Director at a non profit. When I am on a film set, I truly don’t know what much of anything is called (yet), why things are done the way they are (yet), or any of the higher ups these students report to. I have yet to ask a basic question that isn’t answered respectfully, thoroughly, and with elaboration as necessary. I think these young people are going to go far!
“Informational learning” is easy, but to achieve the deepest form of learning, “transformational learning” (Kegan), leaders must have the capacity to suspend their points of view, particularly when engaged in dialogue about concepts or ideas that conflict with the way they have come to perceive the truth. Having this ability to adapt one’s perception of the “truth” is central to the challenge of being a leader in today’s world. In adventure based learning, we refer to this capacity when we encourage clients to overcome their fears and uncertainties by “moving from their comfort zones into their learning zones”.
Maybe learning is difficult because the deepest form of learning takes real courage.
At a surface level, our culture seems to play a role:
One big key to learning is being willing to say “I don’t know it all, and I could be wrong about what I do think I know.”
We are often rewarded for being right, for being THE EXPERT, for knowing it all, for being decisive, for being confident in what we know, in taking and sticking with a position.
It takes a strong, confident person to be an out-of-the-closet learner!
What makes learning difficult?
For me, it is not allowing one’s mind to be open to threads of thought and ideas that are not in line with one’s own thinking. Too often leaders engage in conversations they have already made up their minds on and all they are looking for is confirmation rather than open dialogue on other opinions. Leaders also tend to seek out those that will provide them with confirmatory opinions. This can be dangerous if the leader isn’t the smartest person in the room.
A word from one of your Twitter buds here. Great post, especially the quote from Wooden “it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
What makes learning difficult? In my corner of the world, it’s fear. People in a position of leadership are afraid to ask questions and even more afraid of others asking questions. It isn’t out of fear of the answers being revealed, it’s fear of ignorance being revealed. “We don’t know” is a frightening answer to many, especially those who fear even more their inability to ask the *right* questions.
Leaders can become learners by charging through that barrier of fear. So you don’t know the answer! So what? The more important thing is that you *know* you won’t find the answer without asking questions and without learning.
Fear squashes honest inquiry. At its base, its existence reveals an immature, inexperienced leader. John Wooden was clearly the opposite, and therefore a strong example of an effective leader.
Excellent point Amy…
A great leader knows what he/she doesn’t know.