Archive for September, 2009

First let me preface this post with the statement that you better enjoy chicken before you continue reading.  Having said that, I am pretty satisfied with how long I was able to stretch 2 large chicken breasts over a variety of meals this week.

Monday Dinner

On Monday morning I took 2 large chicken breasts from the freezer and let them defrost in the fridge during the day.  That evening I took them out, and defrosted them a little more in the microwave.  I threw some salt, pepper, dried basil, dried parsley, poultry seasoning, and crushed red pepper on both sides and placed them on a grill.  It was probably the best grill job I’d ever done.  The outside was perfectly golden while the inside was fully cooked.  I made a salad; and heated up a steam-fresh bag of broccoli, cheddar, and rice.

I took one half of a remaining breast and placed it in a plastic container with some leftover broccoli, cheddar, and rice.  I put the other full breast in a separate plastic container.

Tuesday Lunch

Tuesday’s lunch was a repeat of Monday night’s dinner.  Quick and easy, just pop in the microwave and re-heat.

Tuesday Dinner

I took one half of the remaining chicken breast and sliced it into very thin strips at an angle, similar to what people do with turkey or ham.  I boiled some pasta and sauce, and threw the chicken in.  I made another salad and had another complete meal.

Wednesday Lunch

Later that evening, I took the remaining chicken breast and chopped it into smaller pieces.  I took out my magic bullet, threw in some celery and mayonnaise and blended it together.  Then I added black pepper, a slice of cheese, some bread, and now I have a chicken salad sandwich.

Time and Money

One of the reasons I find it difficult to make complete dinners is it can be hard to find the time on evenings to prepare everything.  You get home late from work, you stop at the gym, and by the time you get home the last thing you want to do is cook.  But with the examples above, you can take a few shortcuts.  Monday all I had to do was throw some spices on the chicken, place it in a grill and dress up a salad.  On Tuesday, since the chicken was already cooked, all I had to do was boil pasta.  For Wednesday, I took the leftover chicken and blended it with mayo and celery.  Each meal took 10-15 minutes to prepare.

From a cost standpoint, I got 4 meals out of 2 chicken breasts.  Throw in some spices and condiments, veggies, a couple salads, a slice of cheese, and 2 slices of bread.  Very inexpensive for the value I got out of everything.

All it takes is a little creativity and planning.  You can eat nutritious meals throughout the week and still have the time to do all the things you enjoy.

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Inc Magazine had a great article in their April issue aimed towards helping companies find talented candidates in a crowded talent pool.  I read the article and thought, “I can turn this around, so it can be applied to the candidates themselves.  The same tips they are telling the companies to look for in people can be used to stand out to those companies.  It’s win-win.”

The Problem for Both: The Shotgun Approach Has a Low Success Rate

The article opens with a story about a Dallas fast-food chain looking to hire 32 employees in anticipation of opening a new store.  They posted positions on the 2 major online job boards (Monster and CareerBuilder).  They bought ads in the Dallas Morning News and advertised over the local radio stations.  The result:  10,000 resumes.  It’s the recruiting version of the shotgun approach.  “Just send out as many postings as possible, that’ll give us the most resumes to look through…”  The problem:  They didn’t focus their efforts.  Blasting the openings out across all media outlets will result in all different kinds of people with all different kinds of skill sets applying for positions.  The same can be said for applicants who send their resume to 1000 different job postings in the hopes that someone will bite.  I wrote here and here how this just doesn’t work.

Solution 1: Focus on the Industry

It’s okay to use job boards, but go local.  For recruiters, this allows them to reduce the number of applicants that don’t have the qualifications.  For candidates, this narrows the competition because not everyone uses the local job boards.  You stand out more.  The article lists a lot of unique websites but I would recommend doing your own searches to find out what works best for your needs.

Solution 2: Make Sure the Resume Has the Right Words

The article recommends using special recruiting software that is designed to automate the screening process.  It helps companies narrow the results by ruling out candidates that do not have enough education, or aren’t skilled in a particular area.  For candidates, my recommendation would be to make sure your resume contains the facts needed to get through these screeners.  If the job you are applying for requires project management skills make sure it is mentioned in your resume.

Solution 3:  Pass the Test

They recommend testing the candidates early in the process to measure various skills.  Examples used are typing speed, QuickBooks knowledge, or even people skills.  My recommendation: You probably shouldn’t be applying to the job if you don’t think you are going to pass the test.

Solution 4:  It’s Who You Know

This one is obvious.  Use social-networks such as Linked-In, or ask friends for referrals.  Try and find someone that works at the company and reach out to them.  Being referred internally greatly increases your chances compared to an outsider.

Final Thoughts

It was very easy to apply these recommendations to the candidate even though the article was written for companies.  If you’re stuck in your search don’t be afraid to try to apply a story written for them and relate it to your situation.  Who knows, it just might work.

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I can’t remember how I first heard about Seth Godin.  I added his blog to my Google Reader and have been a fan ever since.  He creates new blog posts daily.  They’re usually short and direct, which is ideal for me.  I recently read The Dip, and here’s what I thought about it and how I relate to it.

What exactly is the Dip?

I interpret the Dip as ‘the point of no return’.  It’s when you are excited to try something new but don’t know a lot about it yet.  So you dive right in.  It’s fun at first, but then you get to a point where a little more skill is required.  Do you stick it out, or do you quit?  That’s where the dip lies.  Sure, you’ll learn a new language.  You buy Rosetta Stone or books on tape.  You do the first couple of lessons and never use them again.  That’s the dip.  You want to learn how to create flash animations.  You buy a book on Flash, read the first chapter, and it collects dust on your bookshelf.  That’s the dip.  You want to lose 15 pounds.  You tell yourself you are going to go to the gym 5 days a week and start eating right.  On day two you have a headache and decide to skip the gym and pick up McDonald’s.  You tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow instead.  That’s the dip.

At first whatever it is you are doing is new and exciting.  But then there’s the dip.  The dip is when it gets hard.  You have to make a choice.  Do you realize it’s not for you and quit, or do you tough it out and reach the other side?  It’s okay to quit if you know it’s not for you.  But quit when you reach the beginning of the dip, don’t do it when your at the bottom.  If you do it when you’re at the bottom of the dip you’ve wasted a lot of your time.  If you can get through the dip, and WANT to get through the dip, then you’ll be one of the best at what you chose to do. Benefits come to the smart people who push through the dip because only a tiny number of people can manage to do this.  Benefits also come to the smart people that quit early and are able to focus their efforts on something that is a better fit for them.

The toughest part is deciding what dips we should quit early on and what dips we should push through.  Whichever ones we decide to stick with, we should be aim to be the best there is for that market.

Last House on the Left – The Cul-De-Sac

Another term mentioned often throughout the book is the ‘cul-de-sac’.  The author describes it as a situation where you work and nothing changes.  It doesn’t get better or worse, things remain the same.  It’s a dead-end job.  If you want to grow as a person, you need to get off it fast once you realize you are in one.  Being in a cul-de-sac prevents you from doing other things.  The types of people I picture in cul-de-sacs are those semi-retired middle aged women working in the local bookstore to pass the time during the day.  They are there for the job, but don’t see a need to move on up.  They really don’t care to satisfy the customer or make their day special.  If your goal is to make it to the top, you don’t want to be in a dead-end job. You should always look to be growing.  Give yourself and your employees something to work towards.  It will motivate them each day to work hard.

An Example

A good example the author uses to explain the dip is with snowboarding.  It sounds new and exciting, so you think about taking it up.  Learning even the basic skills is where the dip lies.  It takes a few days to learn the simple skills during which you will catch a few bruises.  It’s easier to quit than to keep going.  Therefore, the brave thing is to tough it out and get all the benefits that come from scarcity.  However the mature thing is not to start if you know you likely won’t make it through the dip.  The stupid thing to do is to start, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the dip.

Diversification Doesn’t Always Work

Record companies hire thousands of artists hoping one makes it big.  A job-seeker takes a shotgun approach and sends his resume to 100 different companies hoping one will respond.  These people are relying on luck.

Real success is rewarded to those who focus their efforts.  An example Godin uses is a woodpecker can tap 20 times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, or the woodpecker can tap 20,000 times on one tree and get dinner.  The bird focused his efforts, and he was successfully rewarded.

Why Get Through the Dip?

Getting through the dip makes you scarce, perhaps irreplaceable.  Seth Godin recommends cancelling the space shuttle program because it is a cul-de-sac.  No one has the guts to cancel it.  However, if it did get cancelled, it would force us to invent a better alternative. People stick with it because it’s easier to stick with something that we’re used to. I feel the same way about the auto industry; I would not have minded seeing companies the government supported not get help, since it would have led to newer, better, more efficient companies.  I have thoughts about the airline industry as well, not in terms of getting rid of them, but I feel there has to be a more efficient process to board and un-board passengers, taxi planes, etc.  It takes more time to board and take off than it does to fly.

Average is for Losers

The author says that the next time we realize we’re being average and feel like quitting we have only two choices.  Quit, or be exceptional.  Average is for losers.  This is a wake up call to people at the crossroads in their career.

When To Quit

When it’s a dead-end.  When you have a mountain to climb and the reward at the top isn’t worth the effort to get there.  We don’t have the time to be the best at the projects that excite us and at the ones that don’t.  When you’re wasting your time coping.  Our time is better spent doing something else.

My Assignment

Seth recommends to write down the circumstances with which we are willing to quit, and when.  I’ve kept mine private, but they are written down.

Final Thoughts

This book opens up your eyes when you’re stuck.  Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Just because you are breathing does that mean you are alive?  Don’t stick around because it’s easy.  Don’t stick around because you are comfortable.  Don’t stick around out of fear of the unknown.  Stick around if you think you can make a difference.  Stick around if you think you can be the best.  Stick around when you can conquer the beast that is the dip.

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I went to the “Get Motivated” business seminar today in Hartford, CT.  Below is my recap of my experience.

Prior to Going

A few weeks ago we received an email from the CEO and VP of Client Services about the upcoming “Get Motivated” seminar.  I had heard about them in the past, but didn’t know too much about them.  I talked to a few co-workers and did a Google search.  I found mixed reviews.  The worst things I found was that it could be a huge sales pitch, some people view it as very right-wing, and some of the speakers can get a little religious.  On the other hand, it could be motivational, anything is better than nothing, and I’m not easily convinced with things I do not believe in.  With work giving us the day to go, I figured I had nothing to lose.

The Event and the Speakers

There was a lot of debate between my friends on who we would actually get to see, and who might speak ‘live’ via satellite.  I was pleased to say that all speakers were live and in person.  It was open seating and we had a pretty good section.

Joe Montana – Joe Montana was the first speaker to come out.  His key points focused on preparation and fundamentals.  One thing he talked about I found beneficial was to aim for perfection.  If you miss, you will still probably end up doing very good.  If you aim for mediocrity and you miss, you’re not going to do so well.  Paying attention to details is what helps you reach the goal.

Laura Bush – The second speaker was Laura Bush.  She mentioned how George Bush Sr. just went skydiving on his 85th birthday.  I’m shocked but happy to hear it.  When I got home I did a quick search on a video of it, and that motivated me.  He did it for two reasons.  One, it was exciting, and two, he wants to stay active so he doesn’t get old and senile.  I actually wrote about this on an essay in college where I said if people find purpose in their life it helps them live longer.  I worry when people stop looking forward to things, mysterious events occur and they deteriorate physically and mentally.  Anywho, back to Laura Bush.  The main themes I got out of her speech revolved around democracy, freedom, and individualism.  Two books she mentioned during her speech are on my reading wish list, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Krish Dhanam – I never heard of this guy before the seminar, but I was very impressed.  His eloquence captivated the audience.  He quoted many famous people and books.  He has an Indian background, and I believe he migrated to the US later in his life.  His belief is that political correctness will be the death of this nation.  One thing he said that stood out was to make an impact on your new hires.  Do this by telling them “Of all the companies you could have chosen, I sure am glad you chose this one.”  Some other takeaways are, “Give more than you have; leave more than you take.”  “Offer praise to the inner circle.”  This next quote I may have recorded inaccurately, but it was something along the lines of “Look inward and upward before you can act forward and outward.”  In summary, I really liked what he had to say and he was definitely in my top 3 for the day.

Phil Town – Next was Phil Town.  Here is where I thought it got very sales-pitchy. Very quickly (can’t really hold it against him given the time frame of about 60 minutes) he went through his method of successful investing in only 15 minutes a week.  He claimed it was very easy and anyone could do it.  Then he showed us his product on the big screen, and ‘if you sign up now, we’ll throw in this special offer’.  Don’t get me wrong, it sounded very interesting, but it just sounds too good to be true.  His method had to do with covered calls, buying companies on sale using statistical software, looking at legal insider trading, and selling when the software predicts they’ve reached their high.  The software seems like it could work, but it’s $600 a year.  For now, I think I’ll stick with a basic approach of various index funds across a diversified asset allocation.

Tamara Lowe – The last speaker before the lunch break was Tamara Lowe.  She was kind of bouncy which rubs me the wrong way but I think works well with others.  She is the co-founder of the Get Motivated seminars along with her husband.  She briefly talked about how she was born in Hartford but grew up in New Orleans.  She’s a former drug addict/dealer, but has since cleaned up her life.  Her belief is that people fall under 6 types of categories, which makes up their ‘motivational DNA’.  The 6 categories can be broken down by 3 main headers:  “Drive, Needs, and Awards”.  Under drives people are either “Producers” or “Connectors”.  Producers like competition, and connectors like cooperation.  Under needs people either like “Stability” or “Variety”.  And under Awards people either want “Internal Awards” or “External Awards”.  Tamara believes that people can be classified under each of these categories, but I personally don’t think it is that cut and dry.  I think I can be competitive, but I’m also cooperative.  Ultimately I want what is best for the team, but I’m also trying to be the best.  There are certain things in life that I like to remain the same, yet in other areas I get bored and like change.  I had a hard time applying her principles to myself.  However, she did touch upon how to apply these techniques as a sales person, and I did think they could be effective in certain situations.  She was selling a book where 100% of the proceeds go to charities, but then discounted the book to everyone at the convention.  I thought this sent the wrong message…if your money is going to charity, wouldn’t you want to give them more money, not less?  I enjoyed her rap at the end though, it was good.

Steve Forbes – Steve Forbes was the first to speak after lunch.  He had a lot of talking points, but his two main topics were that we should make the dollar king again, and we need to fix the tax code.  But first he mentioned that we need to look at the examples of others to see what has worked in the past.  He discussed the success of McDonald’s and how they became the giant company they are today.  He also mentioned that in order to succeed we don’t have to invent anything new, we just have to use a product better than anyone else.  The example he used here was how Wal-Mart uses computers to help them do business.  He used a car’s gas tank in relation to symbolize pouring money into the economy.  If we pour too much, commodity prices will go up, and in the car we flood the tank.  Don’t pour enough, the car can’t go, and commodity prices drop.  He went on a while about taxes, and how we need to fix it, get rid of all the IRS code, etc.  I thought this was fine, and I was hoping he would follow up with what he plans to replace it with, which he eventually got to.  He is in favor of a flat tax, and had other ideas that could simplify the tax code that I didn’t have enough time to take notes on.  However I thought they were reasonable points.  I thought he was enjoyable listening to, and I would put him in my top 4 for the day.

Zig Ziglar – Prior to today, I had heard the name but not much else.  I knew he was a motivational speaker, but I didn’t know who he really was, how long he had been around, or what his style of motivational speaking was like.  Zig suffered a bad fall within the past few years, and has since developed vertigo and short term memory loss.  He came on stage with his daughter who guided the conversation.  Zig seems like he was a great speaker in his prime, but I genuinely felt sorry for him today.  When he started talking, about 5 minutes in he started to repeat something he said at the beginning (about courting his wife and making her happy everyday), and his daughter reminded him how he already mentioned it.  Zig has some quick wit, and responded he thought that a couple people in the front row weren’t paying attention which is why he was repeating himself.  After doing it a second time, the daughter decided to show a video.  The video contained some highlights of Zig throughout his career, and that’s where I saw that he really good speak well.  When the video was over, he was trying to wrap up but started repeating himself and his daughter had to cut him off again.  As she finished and was trying to get him off stage, you could see they turned his mic off as he was still trying to explain himself.  I felt really sorry for him at that point, and hope his memory comes back.  I think in future seminars, they should try and do it a little differently; use the video as a tribute and try and limit his time on stage; instead of asking him questions that he has to answer, tell them they are happy he is here and he can smile and wave and maybe say a few words.

James Smith – The 8th speaker of the day was a man named James Smith.  I felt another sales pitch coming on.  He started of mentioning how we should position ourself to win the game of life.  We can do this through property investing.  He mentioned tax-liens in relation to real-estate investing as well as other areas. I thought he contradicted himself in the current state of the economy and foreclosures.  At first he mentioned he hopes no one forecloses on their house, and we should help people out if we can.  Later on, he shows us a picture of a foreclosure he bought, and then another picture of the house re-modeled and how it’s gone up in equity.  I will say he was enjoyable to listen to.  I started a “watch this” counter 5 minutes in.  I counted him say ” watch this” 43 times by the end of the seminar.  A friend had seen him speak the prior year, and apparently his recent “Denny’s” story was a repeat of the last time he saw him.  One quote he said that I liked a lot was “I’m not better than anybody else, but there’s nobody else better than me.”

Rudy Giuliani – Rudy was the second to last speaker of the day.  He was a joy to listen to, I’d list him in my top 3 for the day.  He had 6 main principles of leadership.  The first was to have strong beliefs.  Believe in what you do, what you sell, how you live.  Second, we have to be optimistic.  You get more done thinking positive than you do thinking negative.  Third, we have to have courage.  Courage is overcoming fear.  Fourth we have to have relentless preparation.  We can overcome fear and reduce our risk through preparation.  Fifth, teamwork is essential.  What are our weaknesses?  Build a team around our weaknesses so that their strengths complement our weaknesses.  Teams need balance.  Sixth, communicate.  Get your ideas into the hearts of others.  Give people realistic goals to reach.  A leader has to love people.  Statistics are important, but people are more important.  I really like that last sentence.  Companies focus too much on metrics and forget it’s people and quality behind those numbers that count.  Sometimes you can’t always measure that.

Colin Powell – Last to speak (for me at least, I believe there was one last speaker after him, but everyone was leaving) was Colin Powell.  He is also in my top 3.  He was very enjoyable, humorous at times, and kept my attention.  One key point I took from him is “It’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.  Always look forward, you can’t change the past.”  Our job as leaders is to put followers in the best possible path for the organization.  Give the followers a sense of purpose.  Successful leaders communicate a sense of passion.  We need to inspire, make people believe there is a purpose to their mission.  We need to let people know they are important.  People will follow you when they trust you.

Final Thoughts

I read an article in the Courant this morning and it really shows how reporters angle a story.  They completely blasted the religious angle but only lightly touched upon the sales-pitch angle.  Yes it had religious moments, and it was preachy and uncomfortable at times.  But do your homework, I knew that going into it.  I am more worried about people getting excited about the sales pitches and jumping in too fast without doing more research. Do your research, look before you leap.

The cast of speakers was fantastic.   Other people I wouldn’t mind seeing speak at the event are Seth Godin, John Wooden, Joe Torre, or Clark Howard.  I wasn’t able to hand in the survey at the end because I didn’t see where to drop it off, so hopefully they read this instead.  🙂

Get Motivated exceeded my expectations.  I had a mediocre feeling going in, and was worried they were going to sell us a lot of stuff and I wasn’t going to learn anything.  There were only two sales-pitch speakers and it wasn’t as one-sided (politically) as I had read.  It was definitely a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get motivated.

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I started (3/09/09) working at my new job (at my old company, the one I worked at prior to my most recent one, which was my first job out of college).  I met with the CEO on my first day back, and he passed along the book "Wooden on Leadership".  My first question was "Who’s John Wooden?"  But a simple Wikipedia search gave me the answer. In a nutshell, he was a coach at UCLA from 1948 to 1975 and won 12 national championships, more than any other coach.

Since I recently finished reading and reviewing my previous book, 48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller, I figured it was a good time to start reading a new one.


Wooden didn’t care much about winning, he was more happy to see people reach their full potential than win a championship.  He didn’t like the attention that winning a lot of games came with; always having to answer to reporters, conduct interviews, etc.  If he had a magic lamp he would wish for coaches he had a good relationship with  to win just one national championship, and for coaches he did not have warm feelings for he would wish for them to win many championships.  He enjoyed practices more than the games themselves because it was during practices that he could teach others how to achieve greatness by helping the team to succeed.


Prior to the introduction is a picture of a pyramid.  I couldn’t find a good example as displayed in the book, with the definitions, but a decent example of the pyramid can be found here.  More will be explained about the pyramid in later chapters, but feel free to reference the picture.

One quote from the book I really enjoyed was: "I believe leadership itself is largely learned.  Certainly not everyone can lead, nor is every leader destined for glory, but most of us have a potential far beyond what we think possible."  Basically, it means if we work hard enough, we have the potential to succeed.  He carried with him advice his father told him when he was younger:  " Don’t worry about whether you’re better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become.  You have control over that; the other you don’t."

Winning is the by-product of success.  He never fixated on winning during his time at UCLA, rather he focused on making sure his players gave everything they had.  If they did that the score took care of itself.  Wooden emphasized how much the 1959-60 season was his favorite.  They went into the last game of the season with a record of 13-12.    Broadcasters thought it would be a miracle if they finished above .500.  They weren’t expected to be a decent team.  Yet they won that last game, and finished 14-12.  The team wasn’t the most talented, but they gave the best they had.

Don’t Hastily Replace the Old Fashioned with the New Fangled – "There is no progress without change, but not all change is progress."  This sounds similar to the talks about change in the 48 Days book I previously mentioned.  Here, the author mentions that if it’s not broken, don’t change it.  There are methods he used with players early on that didn’t need tweaking since they worked.

Write Down the Tasks, Initiatives, and Actions that Each Member of  Your Team Needs to Do to Perform at His or Her Peak Level – We need to be specific for each of our direct reports.  We can’t afford to be too general, and overemphasize the results.  We can’t assume they will understand how to "increase sales by 15%."  Rather we should give them concrete goals, such as "make 5 more calls per week."  Luckily for me, before I even read this chapter, I did just that with one of my employees.  I noticed their output numbers were slightly lower than those of his peers.  I explained to them the results on Tuesday, and asked him if he could increase his numbers by Friday.  By Wednesday afternoon he had already doubled his numbers from what he had done all day on Tuesday.

Part 1:  The Foundation for Leadership

Chapter 1: The Pyramid of Success

Wooden created a pyramid of success that has multiple layers.  Chapter one describes the bottom tier of the pyramid.  The author spent a lot of time deciding what would go into the pyramid.  After a few years he settled on what will be mentioned in the upcoming chapters.  Much like the Great Pyramid in Egypt, Wooden’s pyramid was built over time.

Wooden sees the two cornerstones of the pyramid as being most important.  They are the foundation that the pyramid is built upon.

Industriousness – "There is no substitute for work."
Enthusiasm – "You must truly enjoy what you are doing."

This goes back to the old saying, "Love what you do, and you never have to work a day in your life."

Within the two cornerstones are the following:

Friendship – "Requires a joint effort."
Loyalty – "To yourself and to all those depending on you."
Cooperation – "Be interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way."

Loyalty was at the center of the bottom tier, just as it should be in all things.  It is not possible to be a great leader if you do not display loyalty to your team and organization.  Outside of marriage, loyalty to your team is probably the strongest connection you will have in life.

I really enjoyed the quote under cooperation of the three center items in the bottom tier.  Your initial idea may not be the best idea, so make sure you get feedback and input from your peers.  A leader has to be committed to what’s right rather than who’s right.  However, the leader must have the final say after a decision is made, and it must be accepted by the team.

Chapter 2:  The Pyramid’s Second Tier

The first item on the pyramid’s second tier is:

Self-Control.  "Keep emotions under control."  Self-Control is a necessary quality of a leader, because if he cannot control himself, he cannot control his team.  Choices we make in our personal lives affect our professional lives.  Self-Control also creates consistency because the leader who has self-control can keep the team in line.

Other items on this second tier:

Alertness – "Be observant and eager to learn and improve."
Initiative – "Learn from failure."  The team that makes the most mistakes usually wins.  Action taken to correct mistakes usually leads to better quality, because the team that learns from their mistakes assesses the situation more carefully next time.
Intentness – "Be determined and persistent."

Chapter 3:  The Heart of the Pyramid

The tiers on this pyramid appear to be more physical in nature, yet are related to the non-physical.  They are:

Condition – "Moral, mental, physical.  Moderation must be practiced."  Mental and moral fitness is just as important as physical fitness.  There must be a balance.  The leader must set an example.  He goes onto mention that workaholics lack balance.  He sees this as a weakness that can cause problems sooner or later.  The first problem is likely to be inconsistency in performance.  Sounds like he’s in agreement with my thoughts on the subject.
Skill – "Knowledge and ability to execute fundamentals."
Team Spirit – "An eager to sacrifice personal interest for the welfare of all."  The star of the team is the team.  Teams win games, individuals do not.  What helps the organization ultimately helps them.
Poise – "Be yourself."  Stick to your beliefs regardless of how bad the situation may be.
Confidence – "Be prepared and keep perspective."

And finally, at the top of the pyramid:

Competitive Greatness – "Be at your best when your best is needed."

Part 2: Lessons in Leadership

Chapter 4:  Good Values Attract Good People

Wooden would interview college applicants before they were offered scholarships at UCLA.  One applicant came with his mother, and was very rude to her when she asked a question during the interview.  He never made an offer to that student because his he didn’t have good values.  Values lead to integrity.  A leader has to make a person believe that their tasks are critical to the success of the company.  You want a team of people who have character.  You don’t want a team of characters who happen to be people.  It’s tough to coach character, and it’s difficult to teach character to adults.  Rather, we need to have the courage to make character count among the qualities we seek in others.

Beware Those Who’ll Do Whatever It Takes to Win A good set of values is part of successful leadership.  Be wary of those who will do anything to win.  It is an attitude of a flawed competitor.

Chapter 5:  Use the Most Powerful Four-Letter Word

You don’t have to treat everyone alike or like everyone the same.  – It’s okay to have favorites within the organization, but never replace fairness with favoritism.  Give each individual the treatment he or she earns and deserves.

Know what time it is. – There are times to be flexible and times to be firm.  Know the difference between rules that can be waived occasionally and those that go to the core of your philosophy.

Chapter 6:  Call Yourself a Teacher

Get a good hat rack.  A good leader will have to play many different roles including teacher, demonstrator, counselor, role model, psychologist, motivator, timekeeper, quality control expert, talent judge, referee,organizer, and more.  A good leader knows when to delegate, but an effective leader assumes many roles and wears many hats.  A good demonstration beats a great description.  A leader has to lead by example.  Be what you want your team to become.

Chapter 7:  Emotion Is Your Enemy

One must control their emotions.  It is okay to show intensity, but keep emotions under control.  A leader cannot be ruled by emotions.  His team cannot be ruled by emotions.  One rule Wooden emphasized was that when a player scored a basket, they were supposed to give a ‘nod’ to a player that helped on the play.  Nothing annoys me more than watching a football game with a team could down by 21 points, and a player on the losing team sacks the QB and then starts showboating and making a scene.  Someone should tell this player his team is down by 21 points, and it is not the time to celebrate.

Chapter 8:  It Takes 10 Hands to Score a Basket

To describe this chapter in one sentence, "The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts."  Teamwork, with each player performing his role, creates success.  An analogy used in the chapter says that although the driver of a race car team gets all the glory, he can’t do it without his team performing their "lesser" duties behind the scenes.  In praising employees, Wooden recommends to praise the superstars in private, but praise those with lesser roles in public.  We should also go out of our way to praise those quiet performers who make things happen.

You can’t let superstars focus on individual statistics.  This mirrors Joe Torre’s thoughts in the book, "The Yankee Years".  Alex Rodriguez was always focused on his individual stats, and Torre wanted him to concentrate more on helping out the team.

Chapter 9:  Little Things Make Big Things Happen

This chapter focuses on paying attention to detail.  Wooden isn’t afraid to admit he doesn’t get things right the first time, and there are many parts throughout the book that touch upon this.  If something isn’t working, he will tweak it a bit.  His attention to detail is almost artistic.  He has drills that teach players how to put socks on properly to avoid blisters, the right way to tie your shoes, and the right way to make free throws.  At the same time, he’s willing to take exceptions to people who might do something a certain way if it produces results.

Chapter 10:  Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

Preparation is the key to success.  Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  One section which I really like is titled "You Can’t Give 110%".  Instead, give all you have, which is 100%.  "Give 100% today, because you can’t make up for it by giving 110% tomorrow.  You don’t have 110%, you only have 100%, and that’s what I want from you right now."

One of the few rules Wooden never altered in all his days of coaching was the requirement to be on time.  We can all work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  How effectively are we using the time we are given?

This chapter really focuses on time management, and being effective.  It is probably my favorite chapter in the whole book. If you read nothing else, read this chapter.

Chapter 11:  The Carrot is Mightier Than a Stick

This chapter compares and contrasts offering rewards for potential good behavior against telling people what the consequences are for bad behavior.  While I appreciate Chapter 10 the most, I probably learned the most from this chapter.  A leader must get his team to perform at their peak level in ways that benefit the team.  Do you do that by dangling a carrot in front of them or by beating them with a stick until they do it?  Wooden prefers dangling a carrot.  Its denial creates desire, yet you get what you want, thereby transforming the carrot into a stick.

As described earlier, Wooden sometimes learns from mistakes he’s made in the past and changes his stance moving forward.  He provides an example in this chapter.  He used to have a zero-tolerance policy on smoking.  He immediately dismissed a student after he caught him smoking.  Because of this, the student lost his scholarship which would have helped him through college.  Wooden changed from having a lot of rules and fewer suggestions to having a few rules and lots of suggestions.  He recommends favoring firm suggestions over strict rules.  Doing this allows you to not get locked into a long list of rigid rules.

He finishes the chapter speaking of how and when to criticize players.  Only the leader should criticize, and you shouldn’t allow teammates to criticize each other.  Additionally, he recommends offering bits of praise when you criticize, and do it in such a way to soften the blow while delivering your message.

Chapter 12:  Make Greatness Attainable By All

Wooden explains in this chapter to try and find what makes someone great and to play to their strengths.  Once you find what a person is good for, make them feel good about their role, and make them want to do it well.  In an example he provides in the book, there were times when he had to do this for players in supporting roles.  For example, one player was soley used in practices.  This player would backup the team’s starting center, and this allowed the starter to enhance his skills.  Wooden went on to say how he had to explain the one players role and how much it meant for the good of the team.  It is our responsibility as a leader to to educate those on our team of the importance of their role.

We should encourage ambition in talented individuals, but they must learn to walk before they run, and before they learn how to walk they must learn how to crawl.  The ambitious individual must master their assigned roles before they can advance into new ones.

Chapter 13:  Seek Significant Change

I liked the opening quote in this chapter.  "Be uncomfortable being comfortable, discontent being content." We can’t get too comfortable.  We have to innovate to improve.  "The uphill climb is slow, but the downhill road is fast." Throughout the book, Wooden is never afraid to try new ideas.  He realizes where things he has tried could be improved.  He recommends surrounding ourselves with people strong enough to change our minds.  I welcome this.  I am quick to admit my ideas may not be the best, but a group of ideas from a team has the potential to generate something really good.  Improvement is always possible, and we must stop saying "No" and start asking "How?" in order to find it.

Chapter 14:  Don’t Look at the Scoreboard

Again the opening quote is something I agree with, "Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out." I find that people who think like this in a group can create positive results.  You have to play with the cards you are dealt, so make the most of it.

Wooden shows his project management skills (although he may not have realized it) by starting with the end in mind.  His goal is to win the conference championship.  So he analyzes what he needs to do to get there.  And when he gets to the beginning, he concludes that it starts (sounds funny doesn’t it?) with taking full advantage of every practice.

Chapter 15:  Adversity Is Your Asset

Here Wooden actually says what I just described above, and that is to play the hand you’re dealt.  He tells how he got started at UCLA.  Initially he wanted to coach for Minnesota.  He had interviewed with both Minnesota and UCLA.  He made the decision to go to Minnesota in his mind, but waited for the offer.  Minnesota told them the offer would be made at a specific date and time.  Wooden gave UCLA a phone call and told them in all likelihood he would be turning down their offer.  When the phone call never came, he told UCLA he would accept their offer.  It turns out that the telephone lines were down in Minnesota which is why he missed the call.  By then, it was too late.  He didn’t go back on his word.

This chapter closely relates to Chapter 14.  We have to make the most of a situation using the assets we have available.  We cannot control what happens, but we can control how we react to what happens.  You cannot let up or quit when things go wrong, because that sends the wrong message to the team.  This reminds me of a saying a lot of my friends have, "Everything happens for a reason…"  I disagree.  I think it is possible to "Find reason in why things happen."  By finding a reason, we can learn from it.  "Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out."

Part 3:  Lessons From My Notebook

The last part of the book contains excerpts from notebooks that Wooden used throughout his career as a teacher and coach.  There is a ton of good information in this section, but I’ll just comment on the pieces I liked the most.

Normal Expectations

Wooden created a list of "Normal Expectations".  Here are some items from his list that really stood out to me:

1.  Be a gentleman at all times.  (I’d change this to act professionally at all times, since this can be better applied to both sexes.)
2.  Be a team player always.  (Working independently is fine, but always keep the team goals in mind.  Is what you are doing for the good of the team?)
3.  Be on time whenever time is involved.
5.  Be enthusiastic, industrious, dependable, loyal, and cooperative.
6.  Be in the best possible condition – physically, mentally, and morally.
7.  Earn the right to be proud and confident.
8.  Keep emotions under control without losing fight or aggressiveness.
9.  Work constantly to improve without becoming satisfied.
10.  Acquire peace of mind by becoming the best that you are capable of becoming.


1.  Never criticize, nag, or razz a teammate.
2.  Never miss or be late for any class or appointment.
3.  Never be selfish, jealous, envious, or egotistical.
4.  Never expect favors.
5.  Never waste time.
6.  Never alibi or make excuse.
7.   Never require repeated criticism for the same mistake.
8.  Never lose faith or patience.
9.  NEver grandstand, loaf, sulk, or boast.
10.  Never have reason to be sorry afterwards.

I really like this list.  I plan to use it.

Your Replacement

In 1972 Wooden was having heart problems and had to go to the hospital.  He appointed two of his assistant coaches leadership responsibilities in his absence.  In the book is a printout of the practice schedule for one of the days Wooden was gone.  Wooden was very impressed with how well it was put together.  The content and substance was very similar to his own.  He goes on to say, "A leader truly dedicated to the team’s welfare doesn’t make himself irreplaceable."  I think the same could be said for members of the team.  They should work hard to make sure other members can fill in for them when they are not available.

Final Thoughts

Overall I thought this was a good read.  You can see throughout the book that Wooden always worked on improving his ideas.  If something could be enhanced, he looked into it.  He learned from his mistakes.  He was very regimented and organized.  I believe it worked for him, and it could work for any of us.  I would definitely recommend it to someone looking to motivate them self, or anyone looking for ways to improve their management skills.

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