Lessons off the Basketball Court – John Wooden’s Seven Point Creed
This time of year, many people are filling out tournament brackets and focusing on the game of basketball as the NCAA March Madness tournament continues. Each year there are wonderful players and coaches showcased as their teams battle for a spot in the Elite Eight or Final Four.
There is a lot to be learned from sports figures, particularly coaches. In his new book, Resolved, Orrin Woodward highlights the character of one famous basketball coach, John Wooden, who set an NCAA record of seven championships in row with his UCLA teams.
Wooden is one of my favorite leaders of all time, but the qualities that made him so were developed well before the UCLA Bruins won their first National Title. He began working on his mental fitness at a young age. When John Wooden graduated from grammar school, his dad, Joshua Wooden, gave him the Seven Point Creed. And from what I’ve read and heard, he passed this creed along to all his students and players.
Be true to yourself
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.
Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
Let’s unpack these a bit.
Be true to yourself
According to Wikipedia, to be true to yourself means to act in accordance with who you are and what you believe. That’s pretty accurate, but it forces us to ask the questions, “Who am I?” and “What do I believe?” Many people can’t even begin to be true to themselves because they don’t know the answers to those questions.
This leads to an even more basic question, “What is truth?” Of course, answering it isn’t so simple. Some might offer a definition like this one: Truth is that which conforms to reality, fact, or your actuality. But this definition doesn’t really define truth at all.
It is a dangerous thing to just say, “I can be true to myself” while thinking, “I can change my definition of truth if I don’t like it.” I’ve watched people try to do that, and it has damaged their lives. Many however, still hold to the belief that truth is changeable.
A recent Barna Research Group survey asked the question, “Is there absolute Truth?” Sixty-six percent of adults responded that they believe that “there is no such thing as absolute truth; different people can define truth in conflicting ways and still be correct.” This might sound good until it’s applied to an example. What about murder? If my truth is that it’s okay to kill others, but you think killing is wrong, you don’t want to be around when my truth collides with yours.
Now you might be thinking, “Tim, that’s not a good example. Nobody really believes that killing people is okay.” But more than four thousand times a day in our country, someone acts on that very belief.
“Truth is whatever you believe.”
“There is no absolute truth.”
“If there were such a thing as absolute truth, how could we know what it is?”
“People who believe in absolute truth are dangerous.”
The fact is that most people are confused about truth. And how can you be true to yourself, if you don’t understand what truth is? Of course, the standard that I look to for unchanging truth is the Bible. Throughout history, even those who have not embraced the message of the Bible have recognized the importance of the moral truths found in the Ten Commandments. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not lie. Our laws are based on these truths.
Coach Wooden recognized the need for a standard as well, and set up certain principles for his players. These principles were not changeable no matter what the situation. When one of his top players showed up with facial hair (which Wooden didn’t allow) and refused to shave, Wooden responded, “We are going to miss you.”
Before you can be true to yourself, you have to know who you are. Before you can know who you are, you must understand what truth is. What is the standard? What is it that you believe? Most people will never dare to ask these questions, but those who rise to the challenge will begin to develop the mental fitness and character that Coach Wooden exhibited.
Know what you believe and know why you believe it. Let truth determine the moral standards of your life. Then hold yourself to the standard and be true to yourself.