On the Pyramid and Business
by Skip Corsini

John Wooden's Pyramid of Success first came to my attention in 1965 when, as a high school freshman with aspirations of success in basketball as a player, I sent for his book, Practical Modern Basketball. UCLA's men's team had been noteworthy for a number of years but not until 1964 did one of Wooden's teams win a national championship, the first of ten the Bruins would earn under his stewardship in the next eleven years, including 8 in succession. At one point his teams won 88 consecutive games, a truly monumental achievement.

As a middle-aged individual who has been working and managing in organizations for over 30 years, I have found the Pyramid to be of immense value as a personal management tool, as have many of my colleagues, particularly those who don't consider themselves sports fans. As a parent, the Pyramid is of major importance to me and has been in view on each of my four children's bedroom walls since they were born. In times of trial involving school, athletics or in their daily lives I have urged them to look at the Pyramid before they come to me for help.

Ten years ago, I wrote Coach Wooden a letter to thank him for being such a meaningful influence in my life, even so indirectly. I had had no personal contact with him except the privilege of watching several of his practices in the 1969-70 time frame and many times I watched his teams perform, in person and on TV. His reply in full:

"Your words of commendation were very kind and deeply appreciated. Many thanks for taking time to express yourself. Few things provide greater satisfaction or joy than to learn that another feels that something you have said or done has been of help to them. This is especially true when it occurred with no thought of something in return. "

These are the words of a master teacher, as good as any in his field that ever lived. He has always said that the only truly original thing he has done was to create the Pyramid. The technical aspects of the coaching the game he borrowed from other coaches and either improved or discarded.

Although the Pyramid suggests a high degree of competitiveness as a target, his teaching and coaching principles were built on balance and love, what Wooden says are the two most important ingredients in a person. It was his job, indeed the job of every leader, to nurture those attributes in him and others.

If there is one thing Corporate America and public life in this country could use today it is a leader who heals people and organizations through mega doses of balance and love. As leaders, we have moved far away from these principles as a basis for daily life. All we have to do is read the front and business sections of our daily newspapers over the past two or three years to see how far off base we have become as leaders and managers. The examples of real success are so few as to be negligible.

Coach Wooden was 83 years of age at the time of our exchange. At 93 he is doing well and remains a powerful influence on those he coached and others who listened. He is fit enough to address organizations of all kinds and his schedule is as busy as those of people 30 years his junior. That fact alone is a source of strength. So is his definition of success: the peace of mind that comes as a direct result of knowing that we did the best job of which we are capable.

Several books have been published in the last few years on his teachings. They are the kinds of books you will reread often. Find his words of wisdom at www.coachwooden.com.


Skip Corsini represents Dale Carnegie Training in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has a 29-year career in sales, marketing, advocacy, public relations, education and corporate training and development. He is a freelance writer in addition to his real job. In his spare time he bakes 30-minute brownies in just 20 minutes. You may contact Skip at scorsini@sbcglobal.net .

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Copyright 2003 by Skip Corsini. All rights reserved.

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