What is “success”?

Lessons From John Wooden


I’ve always struggled with the way my mentors defined success for me and my team. It was usually defined in one of the two ways: “Look out for yourself” and “Go for the win“.

The “Lookout for yourself” camp told me to never mind the company or the team. Do the best I can do but keep my personal advancement as the priority. Teams and jobs come and go, and you need to make sure that your career moves forward.

The “Go for the win” camp told me that the project was the most important thing. I had to “make hard decisions”, put people last and the project first, sacrifice personal life in order for the project to succeed. They made me feel guilty for anything less than that. They told me that if the project does not succeed, all these wonderful people will lose their jobs and their lives will be ruined, and I am to blame as a leader.

I resented both camps equally.

It was not until I’ve read “Coach John Wooden on Leadership” that I finally found a way to formulate the definition of success that resonated with me. It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s whether you’ve done your best to be the best you can be.  Below are coach’s thoughts on success.


Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

Competitive greatness is not defined by victory or loss. The hard struggle therefore is to be welcomed, never feared. When you define success this way, the only thing to fear is your own unwillingness to make the full, 100% effort to prepare and perform at the highest level of your ability.
A person who values winning above anything will do anything to win.  This is the kind of person who is quick to quit in tough times, eager to leave when offered a better chance of winning or making more money elsewhere. That type of person’s allegiance, loyalty, and commitment are paper thin, and it is difficult to build a successful team when fidelity is no deeper than a dollar bill.
Values and character, not winning, is what matters.

One thought on “What is “success”?

  1. Pingback: Leveling Up in the Video Gaming Industry | Why you should NOT treat your employees like family

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