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The Power of Our Example

Do you find yourself on an emotional roller coaster due to results that are out of your control?

It’s easy to get fixated on results. That’s how we prove we are doing a good job…right? If we can’t prove to the world what we are doing with tangible evidence then we aren’t being successful…right?

One of my favorite mentors is John Wooden. He was named the greatest coach of the 20th century for the results he produced. The tangible evidence of 10 national championships his basketball teams won at the University of California Los Angeles is pretty clear. But his real power came in the life lessons he taught his players. And in the impact he continues to make on teachers and coaches like me many years later.

Taking a Risk

Perhaps the reason Wooden was such a great instructor of life was that he received many valuable lessons from his own father, Joshua. The following story comes from one of Wooden’s lesser-known books, A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring. It’s a great story of staying off an emotional roller coaster and focusing on our responsibility to give our best effort no matter the results.

While I was still in high school, my father decided to invest in some hogs for our farm. He felt that by diversifying the scope of our agriculture, we would be able to have more security in case one of the other aspects of our farm failed. Hogs were not cheap, so he had to take out a mortgage to pay for them. It was a risk, but my father knew that there was no amount of hard work he was unwilling to do, so he felt he could guarantee the risk by the work of his own two hands.

What he could not anticipate, though, was the failure of others. He purchased a batch of vaccinations for the herd, which was necessary to keep them healthy while we raised them. But the vaccinations were bad, and the entire stock died. All of our hogs were wiped out, and that same season, a drought hit the crops. My father was left with a struggling farm and a large mortgage, and the bank reclaimed it all.

Don’t Whine. Don’t Complain. Don’t Make Excuses.

Suddenly he was a man who had lost his life’s work and the family land. And yet without a single word against the man who had sold him the bad serum, he packed up the family and moved us to the nearby town of Martinsville, where he accepted a job as a masseur in one of the hot springs sanitariums there.

I know his spirit was absolutely crushed by what had happened and his heart ached for what had been lost, yet he lived by the advice he had always given to his sons whenever we’d fuss about something beyond our control: Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses. Just do the best you can. Nobody can do more than that.”

He refused to dwell on mistakes or assign blame. Instead, he sought to rejoice in making the best he possibly could out of what he was given. It was in that lesson, I believe, that my own personal definition of success began to take shape years before I ever wrote it down: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

And even in the midst of what some people might consider a humiliating circumstance, my father never let his circumstances change him for the worse. He always sought to improve his mind, even if his situation was beyond his control.

Our Control is Limited

The actions Joshua Wooden took in order to enjoy the journey despite his bad circumstances were a choice. He chose not to whine, not to complain, and not to make excuses. He did what he felt needed to be done in each situation he was in…and he did it to the best of his ability.

Sometimes we try to make life too complex. We think we have control over things we really don’t. But we always have complete control over our attitude and our effort.

Joshua Wooden stayed off an emotional rollercoaster and gave his best effort to his family. We can provide the same example to our families as well as the young people we work with. We can give our best and refuse to whine, complain, or make excuses…no matter our circumstances.

Just like John Wooden didn’t fully grasp the power of his father’s example until later in life, the young people we work with may not fully appreciate our example until much further along in their journey. But that doesn’t mean our example is not making an impact.

The Real Source of Our Power

Our focus should be on enjoying the journey so we can give our students our best effort and our best attitude each day. Because there is power in the consistency of showing up every day and giving it our best shot.

When we give it our best shot each day, we create a better version of ourselves.

When we create a better version of ourselves, we increase the value of our gifts and abilities.

And the greater value we have, the more successful we will be…not when we have external evidence and data to prove it…but when we give our value away to others.

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Jon Barth

Jon Barth

Teacher - Coach - Mentor

I love to share stories, tools, and resources to help students become leaders who make a difference in the world by giving away their gifts and abilities.

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