John Wooden passed away on June 4, 2010 at the age of 99. He became famous for his accomplishments as a college basketball coach hitting unprecedented levels of championship status as a coach (his feats have still never been replicated in the NCAA) but his greatest achievement, in my eyes, was the creation of his aptly named Pyramid of Success.
Though sports is segment of American culture right now which has grown to a level which seems almost out of control, I believe that the best coaches are teachers. And from Wooden, the coach – though I never had the privilege of meeting the man – I have learned much about Alan, the man.
And so, in honor of his passing, I am going to take a look at the Pyramid of Success and go level by level, lending my own personal take on John Wooden’s crown jewel, doing so in the interest of introducing others to something which I find to be of immense value, both on a personal and professional level.
There are 15 levels to the Pyramid. One by one I will talk about each of these but obviously, this is a system whereby the sum is greater than the parts.
Now perhaps not everything will always apply to a classroom. So what? In my experience, each of the ingredients does apply to “qualities of personhood” which is a subject that greatly interests me.
It’s also a subject (i.e. character education) that I think is one of the most under-recognized aspects of public education. As I have said before, the bubble tests only have one character related subject; don’t cheat on the bubble tests which, in my estimation, gives every public school a green light to pass up on teaching aspects of high quality character in the name of teaching core skills.
Well, skills without character, no matter how acute, refined, or brilliant, are a dangerous combination. From Enron to Wall Street and on and on and on, we have, in my estimation, an obligation to raise young people of good stead… and without strong character, there is no way to claim we are doing such a thing.
And this has nothing to do with religion. This is about personhood which is why Wooden holds so much appeal to me. No one “group” gets to claim self-appointed superiority. The Pyramid of Success is agnostic yet universal; applicable to all, shunned by the unwise.
Clearly, I am no Wooden and my own opinions are just that… my own opinions. They will fall short, they will tangent, they will do goodness knows what as I explore this terrain in a new, digital way.
But that’s yet another great thing about the Pyramid of Success… people like me can fall short of re-interpreting it and still the core philosophy stands unblemished accessible to all straight from the source itself.
Matter of fact, it is Wooden’s own thoughts which emboldened me to tackle this idea in the first place. He said:
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
There is great liberation in not having to be perfect. It frees one up to try their best.
And so I will. Here’s the Pyramid. (This may take a while… but don’t all things of value?)