John Wooden retired because he won too many championships. Let me explain.
At the close of his career, John Wooden’s success changed the way people treated him. He had won a number of NCAA championships (ultimately: ten in twelve years); consequently, Wooden felt that people were treating him in a way that was unnatural. His life was growing increasingly out of balance, so he retired.
People were not designed to win all of the time. Life is about the journey—the pursuit. The Texas Rangers’ loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series reminded me of this.
Some people refer to Cardinal manager, Tony La Russa, as the greatest of all time. However, La Russa has won only three championships in 33 years. That is less than one a decade.
Duke Men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, has four National Championships—an average of a little over one a decade since he has been coaching. Moreover, he traveled to four Final Fours before Duke finally won a championship.
Dean Smith, for a few years the winningest college basketball coach of all time, won only two championships in over 35 years of coaching.
The great Tom Landry won only two titles in 29 years as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Winning championships is hard.
Fortunately, none of these leaders got discouraged and quit. From them, I (and I hope the Rangers) have been reminded that the more pain and failure you can tolerate, the better chance you have to win a championship.
Right now, on some level, I’m sure it is easy for the Texas Rangers to feel this way: “We got so close. It hurts so much to lose. I don’t ever want to put myself in that position again.” If they do, they will not have to worry; they will lose.
I feel this principle of tolerating pain and failure for future rewards… transcends other fields. It applies to business, teaching, and church work. Bottom line—the cliché is true: the journey is more important than the destination. Isn’t this what Hebrews eleven is about?
Years after his retirement, John Wooden would write, “… for those many coaches, whom I respect … I would wish each one national championship…. For those few coaches for whom I have less-than-warm feelings, my wish would be that they would win many national championships. However… I’m not sure I would wish that on anybody.”
There is a famous line in the movie A FEW GOOD MEN—“You can’t handle the truth!” Insert the word "success" for "truth." We can’t handle constant success. We NEED failure.
So let’s all go out there and fail—and relax when we do.
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. Congratulations ETCA girls’ volleyball. You are going to state! Speaking of waiting patiently and enjoying the journey, Diann Preston, enjoy the fruit of your years of labor.
2. Okay, so I blew my prediction the Rangers would win in six games. Still, it was an entertaining series.
3. Weird, with the Rangers playing in the World Series the last two years, seems like October is consumed by baseball. Now what?
4. At least we still have the Cowboys. (Guffaw. Guffaw.)
5. Parental pride: Abby Edge, you did a great acting job, subtly registering the non-verbal facial expressions on the video for our church. Well done.