I wasn't older than sixteen or seventeen. Had just gotten my first car and was trying to pay for it myself. The struggle was as real as it had ever been. There was no doubt, waiting tables wasn't going to pay for this by itself, I had to get a second job. Since I bought this car I had been to the car wash almost every-other-day –proud was an understatement. One one of my visits I noticed that the car wash was hiring. Pay was good and it came with free car washes. It was a no-brainier. I was that guy at the car wash that motioned you forward, asked you to take your foot off the break, hands off the wheel, and the car in neutral. It wasn't a difficult job, but being out in the heat all day was never easy.
My boss, however, was a nightmare. He sat in the air conditioned office all day, watched TV and barked orders. It got to the point that when I saw his car wasn't a work, I knew I was going to have a great day. This is one of the only jobs that I legit quit. I'll never forget it. It was probably close to 100 degrees outside. I was helping folks put their money in the machine to select what type of wash they wanted when A customer came through with a coupon. This required me to go inside and put in the coupon code so that their car was would be free. As soon as I walked in the office to put in the code, the boss pulled up. By the time I put the code in, he was about to walk in the door. As soon as he walked in he literally started screaming at me for not being outside helping. I was floored. I literally went to my car, put on a change of clothes that I had in the car, threw my uniform in the trash and left. Right then. The only regret I had was that he charged me $25 for that uniform on my last check for not returning it.
John Wooden has been described as perhaps the best college basketball coach of all time. Known as “The Wizard of Westwood, He won ten national championships while at UCLA -seven of which were in consecutive years, breaking the previous four-year streak record. He owns the most appearances, the most consecutive appearances and the most victories in the Final Four. His UCLA teams from 1964-1974 won eighty-eight consecutive games, and had thirty-eight consecutive victories in the NCAA tournament.4 After his passing in June of 2010, former UCLA player Bill Walton is quoted saying,
"UCLA can easily claim an endless list of alumni who have helped make the world a better place. But of all the special spirits who have given so much, it is John Wooden who has truly had the greatest impact on the largest number of people. It was Coach Wooden's heart, brain and soul that put him in a position to inspire others to reach levels of success and peace of mind that none of us could ever dream of reaching by ourselves."
He goes on to say:
"Coach Wooden taught by example. He never asked or expected anyone to do anything that he hadn't already done himself. He gave us the ability to learn how to learn, and to compete. His keen knowledge and foresight to always be about what's next, always about the future, enabled him to lead an incredibly active, constructive, positive and contributing life."
"The joy and happiness in Coach Wooden's life came from the success and accomplishments of others. He never let us forget what he learned from his two favorite teachers, Abraham Lincoln and Mother Theresa, "that a life not lived for others is not a life."1
There is one key word that sticks out to me about John Wooden’s life. Selflessness. He truly gave himself to his students and players. He genuinely wanted to know them for who they were. I’ve read and watched many interviews where he says time and time again how it was never about the end result of winning for him, it’s all about the practice. In fact, he’s quoted saying, “The score should be a byproduct of the preparation…”2
How true this is for us as leaders. Too many times I’ve seen leaders that think it’s all about them and their ability to lead. This is the opposite of selflessness. When you’re more concerned about your position, power, or prominence, you become a boss and not a coach. When we look at ourselves as individuals that are in charge of people instead of just another piece in a much larger puzzle, we lose sight of our true purpose and potential as leaders.
Leadership shouldn't be about comfort or power, but about service and love.
How are we doing on that today?
Now listen, I'll be the first to tell you that sometimes the more you lead, the higher you go, the easier it is to settle in and get comfortable. But my challenge to you today is to push against that temptation.
Let me ask you something else...
Do you really want to make a difference in the world? How do you want your life to count once your gone?
What about this - Why are you leading? What's your motivation?
Here's the thing - I can't answer any of these questions. Only you can.
Here's what I can say: LEAD WELL.
Look at the way you lead. Ask those that follow you how you can improve. Read books, listen to podcasts, get a mentor!
If you ever think you've made it, it's a sure sign you haven't.
Don't sit in the air conditioning and bark orders. Let the joy of your life come from the success of others.
Until next time.