What best describes your general impression when watching the news? Optimism? Enthusiasm?
It’s probably closer to infuriated or nauseated. If those are your feelings, Seven-Point Creed With Credentials contains valuable information worth consideration.
The principles come from a man with impeccable credentials because he successfully exercised a creed that was carried in his wallet for more than 85 years. This man shared many life lessons before passing away just before his 100th birthday in 2010. His seven-point creed and Pyramid of Success have been embraced by thousands of people in all walks of life, even though he is best known in the world of sports.
In 2009 the Sporting News ranked John Wooden the greatest coach of all time in any sport. And he didn’t land there by accident.
Questionable character and values have been center stage with news emanating out of the government. They are not alone. There have been plenty of stories involving police misconduct. As a result, actions driven by character and values cannot be minimized. Moreover, people that hope to be effective leaders need these traits far more that political attributes. Sadly, the opposite appears true. Consequently, we have too may people “in charge” who are woeful leaders.
Back when President Bill Clinton was involved in one salacious scandal after another, people asserted, “It doesn’t matter what you do in your private life.” I couldn’t disagree more. Regardless of political affiliation, who you are in private will have an impact on everything you do as a public servant.
Regardless of what you think of the man as president, Bill Clinton’s personal set of values had a detrimental impact on the U.S. Secret Service that reverberates to this day, according to Gary Byrne, the author of Secrets of the Secret Service.
This is why we need leaders with uncompromised character, and Coach John Wooden left us with many lessons worth embracing, regardless of our job description.
John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA National Championships over a 12-year span. He had an amazing run of seven consecutive championships that included an 88-game winning streak and four 30-0 undefeated seasons.
Between 1963-1973 his team went 281-15. It is nearly unfathomable that a team lost merely 15 times in a decade, and that included championship tournaments against the best teams in the country. In total, Wooden coached basketball 40-years and compiled an 885-203 record, with a winning percentage astoundingly at .813 percent.
Yet he says the on court accolades take a back seat to character, wisdom, self-discipline, faith, integrity, honor, humility, and compassion for others.
So how did he acquire these attributes?
While Coach Wooden received more accolades in life than imaginable, the development of the man can be traced to the imprinting received from his father, Joshua Hugh Wooden.
On the day “Johnny” graduated from the eighth grade at a little country school in Centurion, Indiana, he received a humble gift from his father who lacked worldly wealth. Yet it was a gift that became the oil well of wisdom in Wooden’s life.
The gift was a two-dollar bill and a small card. On one side of the card was a short poem by Henry Van Dyke, and the seven-point creed was on the flipside:
Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his 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.
– Henry Van Dyke
The seven-point creed that Joshua Hugh Wooden wrote on the other side of the card:
- Be true to yourself.
- Help others.
- Make each day your masterpiece.
- Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
- Make friendship a fine art.
- Build a shelter against a rainy day by the life you live.
- Pray for guidance and counsel, and give thanks for your blessings each day.
Be true to yourself
In 1932 John Wooden graduated from Purdue with a degree in English. His aspiration had always been to teach, although he was a phenomenal basketball player. As a result, a professional basketball team offered him three times the money he was offered to teach. Ultimately, he declined the offer because he believed teaching was his calling. Consequently, he went on to teach high school and coach basketball (opportunities he believed to be congruent). Furthermore, he later did the same at Indiana Teacher’s College, which is now Indiana State University, before moving on to UCLA.
Another example of “being true to yourself” occurred in 1969 after Coach Wooden had already experienced tremendous success at UCLA. He was offered tens times the money to leave the university and coach the Los Angeles Lakers. While most coaches would have jumped at the opportunity, he declined the invitation because he believed it would violate the principle of being true to himself and who he was as a man.
Helping others is more than providing assistance to someone else. It is acting in their best interest without expectation of reciprocation or concern for receiving credit.
Make each day your masterpiece
Coach Wooden is credited with the now famous logic, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” He taught the importance of preparation. “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
Wooden developed the previously unheard of “full-court press” in the early 60s. The coach perfected what is now a common part of pressure defense, which leads to easy offense. He believed his team’s ability to pressure the opponent into hurried passes would exploit their lack of fundamental preparation. And he was right!
He taught, “Be quick—but don’t hurry.”
He further explained it this way: “You are more prone to making mistakes when you rush things. You must never allow yourself to be panicked or stampeded into going faster than your own tempo, but your tempo must be quick, or you won’t get things done. I always found that quickness comes from preparation. When you have practiced and prepared yourself well, quickness comes naturally.”
Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible
“Poetry, biographies, and all other great books will greatly enrich your life,” he said. “Drink deeply from those great books of your own choosing and you will enrich yourself.”
Ralph Drollinger, one of Wooden’s former players said, “God’s Word is a preserving agent to fight off the corrosive influence of this world.” It sounds like Drollinger listened to his coach.
Make friendship a fine art
“When we were at UCLA,” Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Walton said, “Coach Wooden never talked to us about himself or his life before coaching. … It was all about preparing us to play and preparing us for life. John Wooden was a teacher and we were the pupils. Only after I left UCLA did I begin to learn about Coach’s father and the seven-point creed. Only then did I begin to learn Coach’s views on matters like friendship, and I began to see how those beliefs shaped the life of the man who had been my coach.”
Coach Wooden described what he meant by making friendship a fine art.
“Don’t take friendship for granted,” he said. “Friendship is giving and sharing of yourself. … 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. … The first and most important step in friendship is being a friend. … Friends help each other; they don’t use each other. … If we use our friends to advance our personal agenda, we’ll never have inner peace. Friends help to complete us, and we’ll be better for having taken them along on our journey.”
What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.
– John Wooden
Wooden spent a lifetime developing friends because he gave far more than he received. When the coach passed away in 2010, people were lined up by the thousands to share what he did for them as a friend along their journey. A book could be written to simply document the affection bestowed upon a great friend to many.
Build a shelter against a rainy day by the life you live
Most people incorrectly assume this principle means the accumulation of wealth. But Joshua Hugh Wooden had a different purpose for telling “Johnny” to build a shelter against a rainy day by the life you live . . . and in time, Coach knew exactly what his father meant.
This piece of advice means accumulating values, virtues, character traits, faith in God, strong family relationships, and enduring friendships. These are the “possessions” that will help us survive the storms of life.
Pray for guidance and counsel, and give thanks for your blessings each day
Pat Williams is the senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. He recounted the following story in his book, Coach Wooden, which is also the primary source for many of the details in this article:
When John Wooden joined the navy, he took with him a small metal cross that his pastor had given him. He had orders to ship out to the Pacific aboard the carrier USS Franklin. He took a short leave in Indiana and was on his way to preflight in Iowa City when he experienced severe abdominal pains. He tried to ignore the pain but finally saw a navy doctor who told him he had a red-hot appendix and needed an emergency appendectomy. The surgery kept him Stateside, and a buddy of his from Purdue, Freddie Stalcup, took his place aboard the Franklin.
On March 19, 1945, while the Franklin was within fifty miles of the Japanese mainland, carrying out airstrikes against targets on shore, Japanese bombers and kamikaze aircraft attacked the ship. Freddie Stalcup was at his battle station, manning the antiaircraft guns, when he was killed by a kamikaze attack. He was one of 724 American sailors who died aboard the Franklin that day. …
John Wooden often wondered why his life was saved by an inflamed appendix, and why his friend and fraternity brother, Freddie Stalcup, died instead. “But for the emergency appendectomy that seemed so unfortunate when it happened,” he reflected, “John Wooden’s name rather than Freddie Stalcup’s would have been on the casualty list.” …
Even in civilian life, he kept the cross with him at all times. It served as a reminder to keep him humble during his record-setting winning streaks at UCLA—and to keep him centered when his team was struggling.
This was one of many Seminole moments in the life of John Wooden. He believed in God’s providence and reacted accordingly. As a result, praying for guidance and counsel from the Almighty, as well as counting his blessings (versus defeats) became a regular practice in his life.
Skeptics might view this creed as Pollyanna—an excessively cheerful or optimistic person. Coach John Wooden was indeed filled with a cheerful, optimistic spirit. But he was nobody’s fool. His players can attest to his will to win and the ability to overcome an opponent without humiliating them.
Law enforcement professionals need much the same disposition.
In a world filled with one nauseating news story after another, we can use some advice from mentors like Coach Wooden. More importantly, we need to practice what he preached. If we did we might have fewer stories involving police corruption and questionable practices by the FBI and DOJ hierarchy.
The difference between winning and succeeding – John Wooden
Pyramid of Success
– Jim McNeff
Pat Williams, Coach Wooden, (Revel Publishing Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2011)
Gary J. Byrne, Secrets of the Secret Service, (Hatchet Book Group, New York, 2018)
Jim worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-eight years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations.