Sunday Snippet: John Wooden

“Your reputation is what you’re perceived to be; your character is what you really are. And I think that character is much more important than what you are perceived to be. You’d hope they’d both be good, but they won’t necessarily be the same.”

As we make our way through our personal and professional lives, we get caught up in what other people think about us. We like to tell ourselves that the opinions of other people don’t matter, but we know in our heart of hearts that this simply is not the case. Your reputation matters if you want to succeed with work, just as much as your reputation may precede you in your romantic affairs. We’d all like to think that other people think highly of us.

But that’s all a matter of perception. You may think that you are projecting a certain image of yourself. You may think that you are acting with confidence. The people around you, though, may perceive your behavior as being pushy, fake or arrogant. And that’s not good. But if you start from a place of honesty and self-acceptance, the genuine truth will come through. Who you really are is more important than how you are perceived to be. In the long run, those who matter won’t mind and those who mind won’t matter.

John Wooden was best known as an American basketball player and coach, particularly for his efforts as head coach of the UCLA Bruins where he won ten NCAA national championships in just 12 years. He certainly knew a thing or two about winning and success. But even in his own mind, scoring more points than your opponent did not equal success. You needed to come from a place of integrity and you needed to do the best you could have done.

“Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses. Just get out there, and whatever you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability. And no one can do more than that.”

Sometimes, this means being able to laugh at yourself, recognizing where you might come up short. Sometimes, this means you just need to stick with it and realize your true potential. In either case, a man of good character will always succeed, even if he doesn’t win. And even if no one else notices.

The TED talk that John Wooden delivered several years ago is embedded below. Yes, there is a little bit of the “old man rambling” with no clear sense of direction, but it’s still a great listen and well worth a few minutes of your time.