As March Madness approaches (I’ve spent hours in years gone by wrapped up in the march-sanity that goes on around College basketball), I started thinking about those that have to stay grounded, even-keeled and even detached during a time in which tens of millions of people (aka rabid fans) turn their attention to the tournament. In 2013, an average game (including the first round) had TV viewership of 10.7 million, and the Championship game had over 23 million viewers according to Nielsen (both double digit increases from 2012). One might call this a national priority! Amazing.
And amidst all the chaos, there are pockets concentration, if not calm. In thinking of these pockets, who comes to mind? For me, the late John Wooden stands out. And as I thought about the great coach and player, I pulled up his leadership creed which I hadn’t reflected on in a while. If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been a while, here you go:
The story goes that John was given the creed by his father around the time he was 12. He kept it in his wallet for much (if not all) of his life, and referred to it regularly. In an interview with leadership writer and trainer John Maxwell, Coach Wooden when asked how he did living into his creed responded: “You know, John, we’re never perfect. But every day I still try to live up to the creed.” It is not often that a leader with such accolades remains so humble, at least in my experience. And so I reflected on his creed, and began to think about my life in the context of each of the 7 points. I arrived at a couple of insights:
1. I don’t have a creed of my own. So if I don’t, what governs my life? As a coach, I know about values and the importance of them. As leaders, values are either consciously or unconsciously informing our state (being) and actions (doing) in every moment. Not quite a creed, but perhaps the foundation.
2. I don’t remind myself as often and deliberately as Coach Wooden did (daily) of those values or my “creed.” “Ya, ya” you say, “they are part of you, you don’t have to be so iron-fisted (or goody-two shoes) about it.” And, leaders are that deliberate, intentional, resilient and committed to reminding themselves what matters most. Without our guideposts, do we become subject to the daily winds of popular opinion in the office, on the street corner, in the news, that blow? And so for me, how did I stay clear, grounded, compelled and certain each day as to the value of life (yours, mine, ours together) and what I want to contribute?
3. As a coach and one who draws on neuroscience in my work, I know the value of structures and repeating thoughts and behaviours that lead to the life and leadership I want. So a Life’s Creed seems useful (at least at first glance). Maybe I should try it. And, there’s no arguing with John’s success.
4. In an absence of my own creed, this seems like an interesting place to start.
So, what I’m committing to do is to blog about my own findings in living into one of John’s creed statements each month. In this, I expect to learn much about myself, my impact and perhaps others along the way. At the end, I will come up with my own creed to guide me further (or something better). I make up there are rich learnings for me here, as a leader, a coach of leaders, an invested volunteer and a father. And I’d love to share them with you (and perhaps share my creed with my young sons when they’re 12, which is 7 years from today).
So March is “Be true to yourself” month. Stay tuned on this, and the Madness that follows!