Finding your success


John Wooden established a legendary program during his 27-year tenure as head men’s basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins.

His final 12 seasons at the helm produced an incredible ten national championships including four undefeated seasons and an astounding 94.5 percent winning percentage.

Because of this uncommon degree of achievement, many books have been written on Coach Wooden’s principles and how they can apply to other professions. 

            Wooden defined success as “peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” He stressed to his teams to never focus on being better than the other player, but rather to relentlessly focus on reaching your own true potential. He noted not all of his players were capable of playing professionally, but nevertheless were successful in reaching their individual potential and thereby contributed to the entire team’s accomplishments.

            So how does Wooden’s philosophy apply to the U.S. Air Force? As military members, we often have thankless tasks we must perform on a daily basis. Nevertheless, those mundane and seemingly insignificant duties are part of our mission and must be accomplished.

Unlike the private sector, we do not have the benefit of reviewing definitive calculations for success such as quarterly profits. We can only measure our “success” in less tangible ways such as taking pride and self-satisfaction in knowing we have prevented another terrorist attack on our soil or knowing our national interests are preserved. Still, it can be quite difficult to directly attribute these strategic accomplishments to our own daily individual contributions to the mission.

Only a small percentage of our Airmen are recognized for their individual efforts via quarterly, annual and other awards. How can the rest of our Airmen find the self-satisfaction in knowing they are effectively contributing to the mission and being successful? I believe Wooden’s definition is quite pertinent in finding the answer.

Notwithstanding what your peers may be doing, ask yourself, “Am I making the effort to improve my job knowledge each and every day, and how can I get better? Am I making the effort to maintain my physical fitness, and can I get better? Am I making the effort to develop my leadership skills for future opportunities, and how can I get better?  Am I a good Wingman, and how can I improve? No matter how insignificant the task may be, do I have the pride to make the effort to produce the best product that I can, and how can I improve upon that?”

Your goal should not be to outperform your peers, rather you should focus on becoming the best Airman of which you are capable. Only you will know whether you are making such an effort. You may not be recognized every day for your performance, but you will find success.