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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?


Leadership Freak

Dan Rockwell

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