Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.
Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. I am so glad to be with you today. I want to discuss something that is near and dear to my heart. As a matter of fact, I've been thinking about this topic for three decades. I’ve been writing about it. I’ve been speaking about it for 30 years. The topic: making an impact every single day—and, actually, I think this topic is more timely today than it was three decades ago.
Now, why is making an impact so important? Every time we grow ourselves, we create a greater opportunity to help those around us. We literally make our communities stronger. We make our homes better. We do everything we can to encourage and empower and uplift other people by simply being our best. [01:11.8]
That's what I mean when I talk about making an impact. An impact, not just an impression, but an impact. It's timely today because the shallow superficiality that drapes our society is bathed in this kind of culture of self-gratification. Entertainment has become priority. Learning has become obsolete.
Have you all noticed that we don't tend to think as much anymore? Concentration is decreasing, but don't worry, screen time is increasing. Listening has become a distant art. It sits on a shelf right next to drinking deeply from good books. Distractions have become the norm and it doesn't seem any more that there's much of a demand to move beyond the click of a computer button. [02:00.5]
In essence, we're invited to live a lifestyle very different from our parents and our grandparents, a lifestyle offering little effort, but promising massive results, a lifestyle that values brands and styles and status, a lifestyle above all that says we'd rather look good than be good.
This lifestyle presents well, but let me just remind all of us, impressionistic living is not impactful living. There's nothing wrong with making a good impression as long as we don't stop there. Otherwise, life can become symbolized by a thin veneer covering our massive potential.
I learned the value of making an impact from the wisest man I've ever met in my life, a third-grade dropout, my father who just really worked into my spirit, that the more I could better myself, the more I could serve others with a greater capacity. [03:02.0]
My father taught me how to make an impact not so much with his words, but by his actions. You see, my dad consistently modeled three things. No. 1, the practice of common sense. No. 2, the execution of basics, and No. 3, the growing of influence. His common sense was rooted in wisdom. He executed the basics that were important to him to grow his influence, basics like telling the truth and thinking the best of people, and doing what you say you're going to do, basics like showing up early and not judging people, being kind and serving other people. As a result, his influence really grew based on the execution of those basics, based on practicing common sense.
When I look at our superficial culture today, I see a lack of common sense and I see a reluctance on the part of people to execute basics, to pay attention to details, and as a result of that, we're hemorrhaging. We're hemorrhaging common sense. I really believe that with all my heart. [04:11.0]
What's the default of that hemorrhage? Looking good as opposed to paying the price to be good. You will never make an impact based on looks. You will never make an impact based on impressionistic, shallow, superficial living. You only make an impact when you commit to paying the price.
As a result, friends, I believe with all my heart, that we have an opportunity before us. I still believe in that human spirit to make a choice to say yes every day. I want to grow. I want to stretch. I want to be better, so that I can help my neighbor, so that I can help my fellow man. As a result, I love collecting stories of common, simple people who dare move beyond their own sense of importance, so that they can make the world a better place. [05:04.6]
I have one such story today. I want to introduce you to someone whose common sense and execution of basics, and attention to detail, grew his influence in massive ways worldwide. I'm talking about the late UCLA men's basketball coach, the legendary John Wooden.
Coach Wooden coached in the second half of the 20th century in an era that included the best of the best from Tommy Lasorda and Joe Torre in baseball to Paul Brown, George Hollis, Knute Rockne, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, and Bill Walsh in football, to basketball coaches like Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, Chuck Daly, and Phil Jackson. Coach was coaching in an era that included some of the best in college sports I had ever seen, like Bear Bryant, Dean Smith, Bobby Knight, Coach K, Pat Summitt, John Thompson, Vivian Stringer. Two names, though, two names of all those that I've mentioned, stand at the very top of the summit. [06:06.0]
ESPN SportsCentury offered a list of the greatest coaches of all time, not the greatest coaches of the 20th century, but a list of the greatest coaches of all time. No. 1 on that list, the great Vince Lombardi. No. 2, the great John Wooden.
During Wooden's 27 years at UCLA, he coached the Bruins—listen to this—to four undefeated seasons and a record 10 national titles. Seven of those were consecutive. He was the first person inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, both as a player and a coach. He was known as the “Wizard of Westwood.” Rick Riley of ESPN reports that Wooden’s salary never topped over 35,000 a year, and despite offers to coach for more, Wooden never asked for a raise. [06:55.5]
He was a man of deep religious convictions. He lived out his Christian faith. What blows me away is that Wooden never talked to his team about winning.
Character and teamwork were more significant than victory. Wooden once said, “If I were ever persecuted for my religion, I hope there'd be enough evidence to convict me.” His faith, his family, his friends, and his boys, as he called them, those players, were most important. As a matter of fact, to this day, former players teach their children the Wooden way.
So, what can we learn from Coach John Wooden's story? What can we learn from Coach Wooden's life that would inspire us to choose to make an impact every single day? I think two answers to that question.
No. 1: Coach Wooden surrounded himself with great people. I think we need to surround ourselves with great people who have like-minded values that we want to emulate.
No. 2: Coach Wooden always learned. He developed a teachable spirit. He cultivated an attitude of learning. He had a growth mindset. In fact, one of his most famous quotes is this, “Live today as though you're going to die tomorrow, but learn today as though you're going to live forever.” [08:14.5]
I think he was learning from the time he was born. Born in 1910, grew up on a farm in Indiana, greatly impacted by his father, Hugh Wooden. He said his dad read poetry and scripture every single night. He said of his father, “He was a man whom the word gentleman was coined. He truly was a gentle man.’ Coach Wooden said, “We didn't have much in terms of possessions, and when I graduated from grade school, he gave me a card containing a creed of seven points.” Friends, Coach Wooden would keep this card in his wallet from grade school for the rest of his 99 years on the face of this.
Here's the creed of seven points:
Be true to yourself.
Make each day your masterpiece. [09:01.9]
Make friendship a fine art.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
Every day and every evening, pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings.
In high school, John was a good student. He was called John Bob back then. He was particularly a good student when it came to English. He loved writing poetry and he was a heck of a basketball player. He was on his high school basketball team, but he was very shy.
In the summers, he'd work on a farm, and he was one day working in the field when he caught the attention of a city girl. Nellie Riley was taking a drive with her girlfriends. She spots this guy working in the field and John noticed her, too. Nellie was beautiful, but John ignored the fact that she kept motioning him over to the car. Not only was young John shy, but on this particular day, he was dirty, sweaty. He had on overalls and he was plowing a field. [10:04.3]
When school started up again, young Nellie found John and said, “Why didn't you come over when I was motioning for you?” John replied, “I was dirty. I was smelly. I had on overalls. I didn't want to meet you because I was ashamed.” Nellie's response, “John Bob, I will never be ashamed of you.” John knew at that moment, this was the girl for him.
John's high school, though, especially the head basketball coach had other thoughts, for you see, for players on that team, there was no dating. Players had to be home by eight o'clock, but Nellie was not going to be outfoxed. She joined the pep band, which meant that she could be at every single game, and before each game, he turned to the stands. He'd wink at Nellie and Nellie would give him the okay sign right back. [11:01.7]
Friends, this began a pre-game ritual that lasted a half century. John goes on to Purdue University. It’s classes, it's basketball and it's work. He's not on a scholarship. He has to wait tables to earn his meals. He has to participate in a series of jobs to earn its keep, but somehow John would manage to become a three-time All-American to win a national championship with Purdue in 1932 to receive the big 10 academic award. It was amazing to look at his work ethic and how that work ethic carried him.
The focus, though, was never on winning. I think, looking at his wife, it was the result of something that happened at night high school. In high school, John's team had won a state championship and they were on the verge of winning a second. But John missed the free-throw and I really believe that it was through his disappointment that he had to come to realize that there had to be more to success than winning. [12:05.4]
This started him on a quest, and at this juncture it's 1932, and John and Nellie get married and they begin the coaching carousel, Dayton, Ky., South Bend, Ind. He was always an athletic director, English teacher, and, of course, a basketball coach.
He said something impacted me that I read early on. Listen to this, friends. “No written word no spoken plea can teach our youth of what they should be, nor all the books on the shelves, it is what the teachers are themselves.” He said that stayed with him and was centered to his teaching philosophy all his life.
He has a stint during World War II, and following World War II, he returns back to coaching and gets a job at Indiana State Teachers College, his first college job. This would be in 1946, and in that first year, Indiana played well enough to get an invitation to the NAIB tournament. [13:10.8]
But Wooden said no to the invitation. Why? Clarence Walker was one of Wooden's players. Clarence was black and the only way they could attend the tournament would be if Wooden chose not to bring Clarence.
Wooden declined the invitation on principle. You talk about making an impact. Clarence was family, Wooden said, and none of Wooden's teams saw color. In fact, that restaurants, when they didn't feed Clarence, the team would leave.
Interesting side note. The next year the league changed its policy. The team was invited again and Clarence Walker became the first African-American to play in a postseason tournament. You see, John Wooden was a man of principle. It was principle he learned at the knee of his father. It was principle and convictions and wisdom that he learned by surrounding himself with people whose values he wanted to emulate. [14:11.4]
He wanted success to mean more than material possessions, more than prestige, even more than winning. His dad taught him, never cease to do your best, and when you do your best, that really is success, and from this John Wooden coined his definition of success. Here it is: peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you've made the effort to do the best of which you're capable.
From this definition comes a visual illustration. It's Wooden's famous pyramid of success. Coach Wooden’s success at Indiana State caught the attention of many schools, including Minnesota and UCLA. All the Wooden's wanted to go to Minnesota. It was in the Midwest. They would love Minnesota, but something happened. It was a snowstorm in Minnesota and it delayed the phone call that would offer John the job. He never got the call, so he told UCLA yes, and they came west and the rest is history. [15:16.4]
That was the summer of 1948. What did he do? As soon as Coach Wooden got there, he started teaching basics, paying attention to detail, challenging his players to pay attention to detail.
The first lesson he would teach his players, the proper way to put on your socks, because if you don't know the proper way to put on your socks, the socks will wrinkle and they will result in blisters and you will be of no use to the team.
Second lesson, how to tie your shoes, lacing them from the bottom up, no slack, so that you don't have an untied shoe during the game. Practice was intense, focus, competitive, and fun.
Finally, after nearly three decades at UCLA, including 10 national championships, the 10th his final game, John Wooden retired in 1975 at the age of 65. [16:10.8]
Following their 50th wedding anniversary, Nellie got sick and she would eventually pass away of pancreatic cancer on March 21, 1985. March 21, 1985. Coach Wooden was devastated. Nellie was the love of his life, and for the next two decades, on the 21st of every month, Coach Wooden wrote a love letter to his dear Nell and placed it on her side of the bed.
Now every year brought new honors to Coach Wooden and he always accepted them graciously. He once said, “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be thankful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” [17:03.1]
John Robert Wooden died June 4, 2010. He was 99 years old. At the Memorial through their tears, players offered wonderful, amazing, meaningful, impactful tributes, and even a couple Wooden maxims like, be quick, but don't hurry. Never mistake activity for achievement. Discipline yourself and others won't need to. Be more concerned with character than reputation. Character is who you are. Reputation is what people think you are. Every tribute spoke of impact. Every word describing Wooden included kindness, gentleness, honesty, wisdom, humility, fun. He was a man of faith.
Here's the blueprint friends for impact according to John Wooden's life. [18:03.2]
No. 1, hold on to that wisdom from your parents. No. 2, add to that wisdom by picking wise mentors. No. 3, allow that wisdom to fuel common sense. No. 4, commit to a lifestyle of learning. Next, pay attention to details and execute basics, and finally, grow your influence by telling the truth by thinking the best of people, by doing what you say you're going to do. In other words, make yourself better, so you can make others better. It's a legacy that impacts for generations.
At Coach Wooden's memorial, the tributes were awesome. There were some times when the players didn't even know what to say, this man was so great, and it causes me to end this podcast with one of my famous quotes that doesn't come from me, but comes from another source. It's such a favorite quote and it just fits Coach Wooden, “Make writing your letter of recommendation easy. Make writing your eulogy impossible.” [19:21.0]
Thank you, Coach Wooden. Thank you for living your life in a way that continues the impact generations to come.
Friends. That's going to do it for this episode. I hope that you've been inspired by Coach Wooden’s story. I hope that you've been uplifted. I hope you've been motivated to make a choice every day to better yourself, so that you can make other lives better.
Till we meet again, this is Dr. Rick asking you the most important question I can ask, how you livin’?
Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.
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