Hey You,

It’s Lewis a.k.a. Nerd #2.

One of my favorite dad’s on the planet besides my own, is the famed basketball coach, John Wooden.

What he achieved as a leader of kids, the elite level he got student athletes to perform at, will probably NEVER be accomplished by another person ever again. It’s just THAT incredible. 

In case you don’t know of John, here’s a quick summary from Wikipedia to get you familiar . . .

John Robert Wooden (October 14, 1910 – June 4, 2010) was an American basketball player and coach. Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood”, he won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period—seven in a row—as head coach at UCLA, an unprecedented feat.

Within this period, his teams won a record 88 consecutive games. He was named national coach of the year six times.

As a player, Wooden was the first to be named basketball All-American three times and he won a national championship at Purdue. Wooden was named a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (inducted in 1961) and as a coach (in 1973), the first person ever enshrined in both categories. Only Lenny Wilkens and Bill Sharman have since had the same honor.

These accomplishments are the result of him maintaining a legendary state of mind, not for a day, not for a week, not for a season but for DECADES.

You know how hard that is? Real fucking hard. That’s why no one does it.

But he did. How did he do it? What made this unprecedented level of consistency possible?

John Wooden believed that none of this would have been possible without the wisdom imparted upon him by his father.

One of the gems his dad passed on to him was to never try to be better than anyone else . . . but to never cease trying to be the very best you can be.

And when you see the excerpts from his book, “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off The Court” that I’ve laid out here, you’ll see the programming this father loaded into John Wooden that put on him the path to becoming unforgettable.

What’s really cool is that is that if you wish for your kids to pursue being the best they can be (not what you or the priest or the politicians or the preachers WANT them to be), you’ll find that this it isn’t rocket science.

John Wooden’s dad unleashed the beast in John with plain common sense, applied.

You’re about to see the secrets of how a simple farmer sowed the seeds for his son to be inducted into the hall of fame (twice) and I believe you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be for you to follow in his lead in your own style and do your part in steering your own children toward their unique and personal hall of fame in the arena where their natural gifts shine. 

Now lets see how it all began . . . 

Strong Inside

My father had great inner strength. He was strong in his moral principles, values, and ideals, and like any good father he wanted to instill them in his four sons. He did that in the manner by which he lived his life.

Life’s Game Plan Starts Early

Dad was one of the wisest people I have ever known, in spite of the fact that both he and mother had only high school educations. My father created a desire in us to learn to read (including some of the bible every day). He was a very religious man without being overt about it. Like Mother, he believed in hard work.

He was a good man, strong and positive, who wouldn’t speak ill of anyone. Dad was quiet, but when he did say something, he said something.

He was the kind of man I set out to be. He was the model.

Two Sets of Threes

My father had what he called his “two sets of threes.” They were direct and simple rules aimed at how he felt we should conduct ourselves in life.

The first set was about honesty:

Never lie.

Never cheat.

Never steal.

It required no explanation. My brothers and I knew what it meant and that he expected us to abide by it.

The second set of threes was about dealing with adversity:

Don’t whine.

Don’t complain.

Don’t make excuses.

Some people today may think these are naïve or kind of corny. But think a moment about what they mean and who you become if you abide by them. That isn’t naïve. You don’t become corny.

Dad’s two set of three’s were a compass for me in trying to do the right thing and behaving in a proper manner.

Pride or Punishment

Joshua Wooden was a disciplinarian, but not from a physical point of view. I’d almost rather have taken a whipping than hear him say he was disappointed in something I’d done.

I wanted to please him and not let him down with my behavior. It wasn’t a fear of punishment that motivated me. It was my desire to live up to his expectations.

Later, as a teacher, I wanted those under my own supervision to be motivated in the same way, to strive to be their best because I believed in them rather than from any fear of punishment.

The Gift of a Lifetime

When I graduated from our little three-room grade school in Centerton, Indiana, I got dressed up in clean overalls for the big event. For my graduation present Dad gave me an old, wrinkled two-dollar bill that he probably had been hanging onto for some time.

He said, “Johnny, as long as you have this, you’ll never be broke,” and he was pretty close to right. Eventually I gave it to my son Jim.

Dad also gave me something that day that would shape my entire life: my work, my marriage, my goals, my entire philosophy.

It was a card on which he had written a few guidelines. I still carry it with me. On one side was verse by Reverend Henry Van Dyke:

Four things a man must learn to do

If he would make life more true:

To think without confusion clearly,

To love his fellow man sincerely,

To act from honest motives purely,

To trust in God and Heaven securely.

The little verse was straightforward but profound: think clearly, have love in your heart, be honest, and trust in God.

On the other side of the paper, Dad had written out his creed. At the top of the paper, it said “Seven Things to Do.” It reads as follows:

1. Be true to yourself.

2. Help others.

3. Make each day your masterpiece.

4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.

5. Make friendship a fine art.

6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.

7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

All he said when he gave me the little note he had written was, “Son, try and live up to these things.”

I wish I could say I have lived up to them. I have tried. Over the years, as I’ve attempted to follow his creed, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of it. Let me share what it means to me after all these years.

This Powerful Creed Dissected . . .

Now along with John I’ll insert how my dad instilled these principles in me.

Be True to Yourself

If we are not true to ourselves, we cannot be true to others – our wife or husband, our family, our profession and colleagues.

As Polonius said to his son Laertes in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.”

This is so true, and I believe it is the first point in Dad’s creed for a reason. You must know who you are and be true to who you are if you are going to be who you can and should become.

You must have the courage to be yourself.

If there is one thing I can say about my father it would be that he is not afraid to let you know what he’s thinking. He’s highly transparent. This, I believe is a result of him being true to himself.

You always know where you stand with my dad.

Most people aren’t like this. Most people are scared of confrontation so they lie and smile to your face and talk bad about you behind your back hoping what they really feel about you, never actually gets back to you.

My dad was far from perfect but when it comes to being true to himself and making his preferences known and explicitly clear he’s about as good as it gets.

Help Others

Oh, the great joy there is in helping others, perhaps the greatest joy! You cannot have a perfect day without helping others with no thought of getting something in return. When helping others with the thought of getting something back, it’s not the same at all.

You can never acquire happiness without giving of yourself to someone else without the expectation of getting something back.

When it comes to giving, I remind myself what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself.”

In July, my dad will be 22 years old – in A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) years. 22 years sober.  

Studies have shown that, at best, the success rate of A.A. is roughly 5%. Which of course plays out perfectly with Pareto’s Principle: The law of the universe that says 80/20 – 95/5 rule – 5% of people are superstars. This means that in the realm of this world wide organization, my dad is the top echelon of people who seek to conquer their addictions.

Now one of the big premises I learned about A.A. from watching my dad is that service to others with no expectation of receiving anything back is a HUGE contributor to staying sober.

People on the path to ruining their lives with their addictions are highly focused on themselves. Everything revolves around their addiction.

When you get trained in A.A. like my dad did, by the book, your main focus becomes your own growth and evolution via new positive habits and contribution to making your slice of the world a better place to live in.

I watched my dad do this for years via coaching – what A.A. calls sponsoring, people who are looking to a mentor/accountability partner to help keep them moving forward staying sober for one more day.

This is FREE coaching. If my dad had only spent five hours a week doing service and coaching over these past twenty-two years, this  would equal him having spent 375,440 hours of his life helping others.

And five hours a week is a very conservative number. He probably spends just that amount of time on the phone doing the daily check in calls for the new comers (rookies) and doesn’t count any time spent face to face with them. And notice this is all TIME contribution; not money.

Also, none of these hours include helping family, friends, or work colleagues.

I believe all those hours have been an investment that have massively contributed to him staying sober because that’s 375,440 hours that he’s spent he’s reinforcing the positive message of the program in his mind while helping others to understand and live it better. 

Imagine what your life could look like 22 years down the road as a result of helping yourself by helping others. Could be the very thing that saves your life too.

Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

When I was teaching basketball, I urged my players to try their hardest to improve on that very day, to make that practice a masterpiece.

Too often we get distracted by what is outside our control. You can’t do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. you can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come. However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. So make today a masterpiece. You have control over that.

This rule is even more important in life than basketball. You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better. Only then will you be able to approach being the best you can be. It begins by trying to make each day count and knowing you never make up for a lost day.

One of the rituals my dad had imparted on him from the people who showed him how to be successful in A.A. was that of keeping  a daily inventory.

This in an inventory where before you go to bed every night, you’re asking yourself questions about what kind of human being you were for the day? Were you a mean and self-centered puke most of the time? Were you a loving being most of the time? Were you just a lazy bored bum most of the time?

I can’t remember all the questions he asks himself and then records onto the note pad but the gist of the process is reflecting on whether you created a masterpiece, or not, and what you can do tomorrow to pursue making it a masterpiece.

As of now I do affirmations every night right before I go sleep but I could learn from my dad and do them and then reflect on and write down actions I can take the next day that contribute to making these affirmations a reality.

Do you see how this practice could be valuable to you consistently being you want to be? Good. I thought you would.  

Drink Deeply from Good Books, Including the Bible

Poetry, biographies, and all the other great books will greatly enrich your life. There are so many that are so good, and they are all available to you. The poetry Dad read to us when we were kids instilled a love of reading, English, books, and knowledge.

It was a priceless gift and one that has enhanced my own life so much. Drink deeply from those great books of your own choosing and you will enrich yourself.

Big blue book isn’t against any other group of people. About the only thing it’s against is you behaving like a douchebag.

Please Don’t Let The Reference John Makes To The Bible Make You Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

I am adamant that anyone with a pulse can be served the 6 John Wooden books I’m staring at on my book shelf. (Wooden: A lifetime of observations and reflections on and off the court, A Game Plan For Life, Wooden on Leadership, How to Be Like Coach Wooden, The Essential Wooden, and My Personal Best)

Trust me. The last impression you’ll have of him is that of being a Jesus freak. If that was the case and I’d felt like he was trying to push religion onto me, I don’t think I would’ve kept reading.

Actually, there’s one book he co-wrote with Jay Carty called, “Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success” and this Carty guy is the one who links John success principles to verses in the bible for the holy roller Christian market. This is the 7th book of his that I have that I’ve yet to finish.

What I love about John’s message is that it’s so strong and makes such crystal clear common sense, that it can stand on it’s own.

Like his father, John was religious but he wasn’t overt about it. In each of these books you’ll see how his practical and actionable guidance is completely free of mysticism or any woo-woo out there kind of stuff.

Make Friendship a Fine Art

Don’t take friendship for granted. Friendship is giving and sharing of yourself. If just one side works at it, it isn’t friendship. You must work at friendship. Make it a fine art. Go more than halfway. It is two-sided, just like marriage.

Someone is not a good friend because he or she does good things for you all the time. It’s friendship when you do good things for each other. It’s showing concern and consideration. Friendship is so valuable and so powerful. We take it for granted, but we shouldn’t.

The first and most important step in friendship is being a friend.

Before my dad dedicated himself to the personal improvement action plan laid out by A.A. he had ZERO friends.

He was a teacher and he had one of the other teachers he was friendly with but going to lunch together at Burger King was the extent of their social activities together outside of work.

He also had a part time gig working in scuzzy telemarketing room. This was back in the good old bad days when the money was good and the beer flowed like wine – before there was a “do not call” list, caller ID or before places like this were exposed by the news for what they were – charities that put $10 dollars of every $100 they brought in towards the cause.

Everyone there was a shit bag. Really.

My father dragged my little brother and I to the office all the time with him so my step-mom wouldn’t rag on him for making her babysit and so I had a front row seat this freak show for years.

I may have only been in elementary school during this time but I knew Eddie Gomez, Tom Skyz, Big John, Ira David, Mr. Balls (guy’s name was Dick but when I met him the first time I made a remark to my dad about his name having two meanings and after that he started calling him Mr. Balls) and numerous others were the dregs of society you didn’t want anywhere near your home.

During prime time working hours everyone there was cussing, drinking, smoking, doing god knows what drugs in the bathroom and banging the phone SELLING.    

My dad didn’t trust any of these guys and could barely tolerate most of them. As a matter of fact, he wanted no one there to even know where he lived. The feeling was probably mutual.

When he opened one of these strip mall phone rooms two doors down from a strip club on the same property, one of his disgruntled salesmen actually drove their van through the front floor to ceiling window of the office . . . he beat shit out a guy in the parking lot . . . and then there was the dude he got into an argument with that he chased around the property with his switch blade.

And this is only the stuff I know about and am remembering at the moment.

He had his kids (we we’re only with him every other weekend) and his wife (who was infuriated with him 80% of the time because of his idiotic behavior). He had zero social circle. And the people who were supposed to be closest to him either weren’t there or were pissed off at him.

It’s not hard to see why numbing yourself in this situation would seem like a good idea.

Now fast forward 22 years.

You have a man who retired after 30 years of teaching, who is still married after 25 years to his wife who got him to stop drinking by threatening to leave him and take the baby they’d had together with her if he didn’t pull his head out of his ass, and has a contact list on his phone loaded with friends who come over to his home often and would love the chance to help him in any way they could because in some instances, they credit him with saving their life.

The friends he has have given him computers, a saxophone for my brother, my job in construction when I was a 15 year old kid, tens of thousands of dollars in return on investments on money they invested for my family, and too much other cool shit to list here.

Oh, and then there’s avalanche-sized load of warm and fuzzy loving feelings and vibes they’ve sent and shared with him over the years that have no tangible value but are what make friendships more than mere transactions of value.  

It’s the complete opposite picture of what life was like for him 22 years ago and I’m lucky to have seen this 180 degree transformation unfold right before my very eyes and continue to witness it getting even better and better as the years go by.

Build a Shelter Against a Rainy Day

This is not necessarily a material shelter. Your faith, whatever it may be, is the greatest shelter of all. In many ways we’ve been taken in by materialism. I’m not saying possessions are unimportant, but we often put them out of proportion, ahead of family, faith, and friends.

My dad’s faith in what’s possible in life when you take action to better yourself is unshakable.

He knows that without taking action that moves you forward in life, you risk losing everything material you have and you risk ruining all of your relationships with the people you trust, value, and love and you risk losing respect for yourself.

I’m grateful to A.A. for hammering this home for him – this faith in and bias for positive action.

The consistent actions he’s taken have not only saved his marriage, his job security, his relationship with his kids, and his health – he went from being a 42 year old smoker/drinker who hadn’t exercised consistently since high school . . . to running 13 marathons – all with a jacked up spine. If any sports doctor saw the x-ray of it, they’d say there’s no way this person is running even one marathon let alone 13 of them.

Well, there is one doctor that wouldn’t doubt it and that his sports doctor because he saw my dad through every single marathon and he shows my dad’s x-ray to anyone who whines thinking they’ve got it hard when it comes to running.

My dad is a constant reminder for me of what’s possible when you stack right action upon right action upon right action to build your very own intangible shelter against the rain storm that life brings from time to time.  

Pray for Guidance and Count and Give Thanks for Your Blessings Every Day

So often we fail to acknowledge what we have because we’re so concerned about what we want. We fail to give real thanks for the many blessings for which we did nothing: our life itself, the flowers, the trees, our family and friends. This moment. All of our blessings we take for granted so much of the time.

A wise person once observed, “How much more pleasant this world would be if we magnified our blessings the way we magnify our disappointments.”

And, of course, with that we must also pray for guidance. One of my players at UCLA once told me he was embarrassed to have anyone know that he prayed. There’s no shame in praying for guidance. It’s a sign of strength.

I am SOOO glad and grateful that my dad or mom were never mega-religious zealot types of people.

It seems to me that religion serves a good purpose in that it provides an environment where you can surround yourself with other people who behave themselves and look for ways to help others and give thanks for what you’ve received.

All the other egotism (My god is better than yours! So Hah! May you rest in hell you infidel un-pure bastards!) and ritual and dogma (the whole Santa Claus effect – you better watch out because he sees you when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake and he knows when you’ve been bad or good so you better be good for goodness sake or else…) involved in it detracts from, and actually serves to prevent more people from joining them in changing their life for the better.

The thing I ask myself is why can’t a group of people be a force for good without the egotism and the dogma? They can. And they do.

A.A. is an example of a group of people who ask you to recognize whatever God is right for you, for guidance – not miracles. That’s it. Everything else in the program is centered around taking action to become a better person. And surprise surprise, no one has ever been slaughtered in an A.A. related war . . . but tons of people have found peace and serenity through it’s message.

I believe John Wooden’s team environment was precisely this kind of setting as well.

Wooden couldn’t force his religion on people so he just set forth a wholesome universally applicable code of conduct – a way to behave that produces positive thoughts and results – onto the kids and voila, unparalleled and consistent success was the result. And not just on the basketball floor.

John Wooden was just as proud of all the student athletes who went on to become prestigious professionals in the work force as he was of the students who went on to become professional athletes.

He didn’t get the kids to be the best people and players they could be by telling them they’d roast in a fiery eternal hell in the afterlife if they didn’t believe in and obey the lord’s almighty commands or that they had to give the team owner 10% of all the income they made or that or else they’d be in “bad standing” with the team.

And I know just like I know Tuesday comes after Monday that you could find example after example after example that would prove this dynamic isn’t rare.

“If Being a Good Person Isn’t Good Enough, Then They Can Go Fuck Themselves”

Freddie Roach is a boxing trainer who has been inducted into the hall of fame for that sport. One of his fighters, Manny Pacquiao lost the first fight he’d fought since 2005 this past Saturday.

This was his first fight after finding Jesus and swearing off of drinking, gambling and shoving his wiener inside anyone else but his wife.

Before the fight, the 52 year-old Freddy was asked about his opinion on religion during the launch TV show for the event, 24/7. Here’s what followed . . .

NARRATOR: His fighter has recently undergone a religious transformation. For Roach though, spirituality and moral beliefs need no such formalization.

ROACH: I’m not a religious person. I believe if being a good person isn’t good enough, then they can go fuck themselves. The thing is, I try to be a good person, I try to make the right decisions in life, I try to respect everybody. Heaven and hell, I don’t believe in it.

I cracked a huge smile when I watched him saying this. It was the smile of recognition of my values and beliefs being mirrored back to me from the mouth of a living legend and a good guy.

The short comings I’ve experienced in my life have all come from a self-imposed lack of confidence in myself, my lack of acting courageously, my lack of moving boldly towards my highest potential; not some punishing apparition in the sky.

Living Up To Dad’s Creed

I am now in my eighth decade and I would like to be able to tell you that I lived up to Dad’s creed but I am more like the fellow who said:

I am not what I ought to be,

Not what I want to be,

Not what I am going to be,

But I’m thankful that,

I am better than I used to be.

It’s important to keep trying to do what you think is right no matter how hard it is or how often you fail. You never stop trying. I’m still trying.

If there’s one issue I take with A.A. it’s that it asks you to give yourself a permanent label, that of being an alcoholic. It doesn’t embrace the idea of “I’ing”.

It tells you to reinforce the mantra of “I’m an alcoholic.” Well what if holding that belief is what caused your drinking problem in the first place?

Humans have to be consistent with their identity. If they don’t, they are clueless as to how to behave. So what if your identity revolved around a mantra that said, “I’m an ever evolving sober and loving beast who shines his gifts and value upon the world.”

What’s the downside to reinforcing that vision? I don’t see any.

And I’m proud of my dad for finally questioning the A.A. mantra and at least entertaining the idea that he’s better than he used to  be and that to never stop trying do the right thing is a worthwhile and noble pursuit and that “they” can go fuck themselves if they don’t think this is good enough.     

My Favorite Four-Letter Words: “Kids” and “Love”

The greatest word in the whole dictionary is love. Love your children. Listen to them. Share with them. Remember that love is the most powerful medicine in the world.

Do not force them or drive them too hard. Set the example of what you want them to be. Try always to be a good model.

Children are impatient. They want to do right, but maybe they don’t know how. Maybe you haven’t taught them how. Being a good example is a powerful teaching device. This verse is accurate:

No written word

nor spoken plea

Can teach our youth

what they should be.

Nor all the books

on all the shelves

It’s what the teachers

are themselves.

I think that’s it. Those teachers and coaches are the mothers and fathers, and their most powerful tool is love.

That poem reminds me of one of my Stephen Covey quotes: “We can’t talk ourselves out of situations we behave ourselves into.”

Another one of my favorite quotes comes from Eben Pagan: “Smooth talkers aren’t usually smooth doers, and smooth doers are not usually smooth talkers.

John Wooden wasn’t a smooth talker. He was a smooth doer though and he led by example.

My dad is also guilty of not being a smooth talker. In fact, he so direct that his message is delivered abrasively. And over the years he’s become more subtle and eloquent in making a point but he’ll never be slick. And I’m grateful for this. And I’m proud that he’s always been a smooth doer.  

The message of this father below is something to keep in the forefront of your mind where it’s very easy to succumb to smooth talker who would have you listen to and march to the smooth beat of their drum rather than your own . . .

What Wisdom Has Your Father Passed Down To You That You’ll Treasure Forever and Ever?

You’ve seen a what John’s dad passed down to him and no doubt what he has passed on to his kids.

You’ve seen a little of what my dad has passed on to me.

I read this post here last week about gentleman recalling working with his father as a child. He said of him . . .

“He was a master of building relationships and connecting at a deeper, more emotional level with his customers than any other shopkeeper I’ve ever met. I’m biased, of course, but he really was a special guy when it came to making customers feel special.”

. . . and in the comments section I told him that his memory reminded me of something I had just watched on the HBO hit T.V. show, “Game of Thrones”.

Here’s what I said next . . .

A man and a woman are walking and the man’s father comes up in their conversation and he says, “He was the best man I ever met. I know children always think that about their father but -” and the wise woman interrupts him saying, “Children do NOT always think that about their fathers, believe me.”

So in light of what you said, I’d have to side with the lady on this and say that your bias is of no consequence. Either he was a master or he wasn’t. From what you say, I trust that he was.

The other quote that was in this same conversation that was a writer-downer was . . .

The dad was a lord over a kingdom and had told his son that being a lord was like being a father except you have thousands of children and you worry about all of them. Farmers plowing fields were yours to protect, the women scrubbing the floors were yours to protect, the soldiers you ordered into battle. He told him he woke with fear in the morning and went to bed with fear in the night. The boy didn’t want to believe him.

The boy then asked him, “How can a man be brave if he is afraid?” and the dad told him, “That is the only time a man can be brave.”

The world needs more awesome fathers passing down wisdom. I’m happy you’ve got the rich memories of being in the present of a master who was also your father. 🙂

Now please, if you have any pearls of wisdom your dad passed down to you and you believe it would be valuable for another dad or mom here to pick up and pass onto their children, feel free to bestow it upon us in the comments section below.

And as always, if you want to just share your insight with me, you’re more than welcome to hit the orange “Feedback” tab there on the right side of the screen or you can email me (if you don’t have this already, it can be found at the bottom of the “About” page).

Now go on and keep having a Happy Fathers Day!!!

Talk soon,

Lewis LaLanne a.k.a. Note Taking Nerd #2 a.k.a. L.L. Cool Nerd

PS. Maybe your best memory of your father was on how not to behave as a human. I believe that is a highly valuable lesson to receive in life. And what you hear Robin Williams tell Matt Damon in this clip from the movie Good Will Hunting may also apply to your situation . . .