“Make each day a masterpiece.”
That bit of advice comes from Coach John Wooden, a legendary college basketball coach who was respected by millions of people. He died in 2010 at the age of 99.
He led the UCLA Bruins basketball team to 10 NCAA national championships in just 12 years, including an 88-game winning streak. He was the first person to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, both as a player and a coach. He is arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time.
But Coach Wooden was about much more than basketball. He loved the Lord and looked at life as an opportunity to give back to God by investing in others.
Toward the end of his life, he was asked what one day from his celebrated career he would re-live if given the chance. You’d think Coach Wooden would be eager to re-live one of his remarkable achievements – a national championship, his selection into the Hall of Fame, or maybe his greatest come-from-behind victory.
His real answer may surprise you. He said he would lead one more day of practice in the gym. “That’s where I taught those men how to achieve success as members of a team,” he said. “Each day of practice was, by far, the most fulfilling, exciting, and memorable thing I did as a coach.”
One day to live over, and he’d spend it in the shadows running drills with his team in a mostly empty gym. Coach Wooden found joy in the journey.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (2:4, ESV). Our deepest joy doesn’t come from life’s mountaintop experiences, but from finding meaning and purpose in our day-to-day activities. When we do, mundane moments become glorious because they’re filled with God’s presence.
“Make each day a masterpiece” is just one tenet in Coach John Wooden’s life creed. The others were:
- “Be true to yourself”
- “Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible”
- “Make friendship a fine art”
- “Build a shelter against a rainy day”
- “Never forget to give thanks for your blessings and to pray for guidance every day”
Coach Wooden summed up his faith with this poem he recited from memory:
“The years have left their imprint on my hands and on my face.
Erect no longer is my walk and slower is my pace.
But there is no fear within my heart because I’m growing old.
I only wish I had more time to better serve my Lord.
But I’ve gone to Him in prayer, He has brought me inner peace.
And soon my cares and worries and other problems cease.
He’s helped me in so many ways. He’s never let me down.
Why should I fear the future when soon I could be near His crown?
Though I know down here my time is short, there’s endless time up there.
And He will forgive and keep me ever in His loving care.
May I not waste a day that’s left and glorify the name
of the One Who died that we might live and for our sins, took all the blame.”
We are paying special tribute to this great man on our program “Remembering a Legend: Coach John Wooden.”
Recorded in 2007 at a business conference, Chik-fil-A senior vice president Tim Tassopoulos had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Wooden in front of an audience and ask him about his life and his philosophy of living well.
You’ll hear Coach Wooden describe the influence of his father on his life; his thoughts about the importance of faith, love, and family; his “Pyramid of Success”; and his reflections on the challenges and joys of life.