A couple of weeks ago I watched a TED talk given by Coach John Wooden on the true meaning of success. I was absolutely riveted by this calm and composed 91 year old man (at the time of the talk) imparting his life’s wisdom on what it means to be successful.
For those of you who don’t know, Coach Wooden is considered to be the greatest basketball coach – as the head coach of UCLA, he won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, just one aspect of his many great achievements.
He defined success in a completely unique way: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”Now that’s a version of success that I had never heard before! To me, success always meant achieving A+’s, making lots of money, having beautiful possessions…and being happy. Except from the last part, all my visualizations of success have been oriented around material possessions and outdoing other people. John Wooden also lived by the words of his father, who said: don’t worry about whether you’re better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become. Our society places such great emphasis on being better than others – but it’s true, what one person achieves doesn’t really affect the contribution you have made or the success that you have achieved. I struggle a lot with the constant need to compare myself and my progress against others. I continually do it at the lab, and sometimes it drives me insane, especially when I see others advance for apparently no reason – but I realize I should focus on being the best that I can be, and leave others to be the best that they can be.
I highly recommend this talk, if only to question why our society doesn’t focus more on success at a personal level.