The Pyramid of Success is the creation of John Wooden, a legendary and renowned former basketball coach for the University of California, Los Angeles. The prolific man was a ten-time National Collegiate Athletic Association national championship winner, once doing so seven years in a row – three years longer than any other team in the league.

Suffice to say that John Wooden was a highly revered coach and has made a lasting legacy in sports history. It’s likely, then, that all that success was only possible due to years of accumulated wisdom. To coach his team, he redefined the ordinary meaning of success and taught them a new ideology via his Pyramid of Success.

The Pyramid of Success is a set of philosophical building blocks meant to help you succeed in life. This pyramid features fifteen rectangular “blocks” arranged in five tiers. Each block is held together by the Mortar. Ten additional triangular “blocks” give the pyramid the support it needs to stand proudly.

Initially, Wooden didn’t create the pyramid specifically for basketball, but he applied this philosophy of the pyramid to his coaching. This significantly changed the game for the UCLA Bruins, and, as it turns out, the idea can be applied to most different parts of life, too. This man’s brilliant work has laid the groundwork for his current success. Here’s how John Wooden’s pyramid of success can help you be happy.

1.      John Wooden Redefined Success

John Wooden’s first foray into the beginnings of the pyramid involved changing the so-called “Definition of Success,” and it’s something we can all learn to do. Most people define successful ventures by a simple metric: did you win or lose? Did you fail, or did you not fail?

These binary concepts are simple to comprehend, but they ultimately don’t serve much of a purpose and can cause you to fall stagnant. After all, the real world is hardly ever cut and dry! John Wooden taught his players this when he was a coach. Instead of focusing on winning or losing, he focused on preparation and how the game is played.

It’s all about fundamental, profound, personal, or team improvement on a level beyond the superficial. In other words, working on internal factors molds you into the best you can be, and that is what success can be defined as. (And, naturally, more common definitions of success are easier to achieve with those improvements.)

So redefine success in your head. Instead of making it about apparent failure or obvious wins, make it about your personal goals and the ways you improve as you work toward them. But what sorts of improvements should you make? Well, that’s all in the pyramid itself!

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2.      The Cornerstones Of The Pyramid

Cornerstones are important features upon which structures are built, and as such, the Pyramid of Success cannot exist without its cornerstones. The two cornerstones of the pyramid are industriousness and enthusiasm, which are crucial to your happiness.

Industriousness can best be defined, simply put, at hard work. As cliche as it is, the fact remains that you cannot achieve incredible personal or external growth without working hard. A vast majority of success stories involve people who simply worked harder than those around them, and there’s no replacement for industriousness when it comes to success.

Meanwhile, enthusiasm is the fuel for the fire of industriousness. While you can certainly work hard and find success that way, it’s easy to burn out and become exhausted when you do fire up that work with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a passion for your career. This can be born from:

  • Putting your heart into the things you set out to achieve
  • Seeking inspiration from those around you and those you look up to
  • Envisioning your goals and vowing to strive toward them
  • Allowing inspiration, motivation, and commitment to power you

It’s straightforward to be industrious and find success, but without enthusiasm, this may not be enough to make you 100% happy truly.

3.      The Foundation Of John Wooden’s Pyramid

Aside from the two cornerstones of John Wooden’s pyramid, there are three additional blocks. These blocks form the pyramid’s foundation. Their details and how they can help your happiness are as follows:

·         Friendship

People overlook the value of social relationships in everyday life, even though studies show that social interaction is significant for mental and physical wellbeing. Surrounding yourself with positive people and good friends who uplift you can help you get further in life, thanks to your healthy support circle. Wooden outlines two additional qualities crucial for friendship: camaraderie and respect. With these two qualities, you’ll become a better team player, a better leader, and a better friend.

·         Loyalty

To achieve higher goals in life, you need loyalty – to those you work with, those who lead you, and those who follow you. It’s in the foundational layer and is the central piece for a good reason. Everyone wants to be a part of a team where you know everyone is loyal and has each other’s best interests at heart. Trust in a respectful, fair, dignified, and well-intentioned system is paramount to happiness and satisfaction when working with others or forming your own friend circles.

·         Cooperation

Great minds are not in isolation. They are the ones that share information, ideas, and opinions. In teams, they share responsibilities, give credit where it is due, and perform tasks as they should. When you’re able to cooperate with other people, only then can you find success. Without it, you lack support, other perspectives, and valuable learning moments.

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4.      The Personal Trait Body Of The Pyramid

The next level of the Pyramid of Success contains four personality traits. You must grow these traits to promote a successful life filled with happiness. The traits are as follows:

·         Self-Control

Research has long indicated that those with better self-control are happier, but why? As it turns out, you must face temptation and formidable, difficult hurdles to stay on track toward goals. The only way to stick to them and feel the power of your accomplishments is through willpower and self-control.

·         Alertness

What John Wooden refers to as “alertness” is often used similarly to describe modern concepts of mindfulness. Essentially, alertness on the pyramid refers to staying aware and involved in the world around you. This allows you to acquire knowledge from all situations in your environment that may have otherwise gone overlooked. It also allows you to prepare for what’s coming next. It’s crucial to avoid tunnel vision. Anyway, studies show that mindfulness makes you happy!

·         Initiative

Taking the initiative is central to taking further steps in your life. As Wooden says, those who fail to act perform the biggest failure of all. It logically tracks, too – you cannot progress without deciding that you will progress and taking the necessary steps.

·         Intentness

John Wooden’s terms can easily define Intentness: determination, persistence, tenaciousness, and unwillingness to back down when obstacles arise.

5.      The External Trait Body Of The Pyramid

You know about the internal traits you must have to climb the Pyramid of Success. Now, we reach the central row of the pyramid, which contains three external traits that form the crucial next steps on the climb to success. These traits are as follows:

·         Condition

John Wooden stated that his players on his team had to be in peak physical, mental, and moral condition for the most success. While you may not be a young basketball athlete, you must build up your condition to perform your tasks to their fullest. Stay healthy, take care of yourself, and align with your values, and you’ll be in the proper condition to propel yourself forward.

·         Skill

Skill is the central block of the pyramid of success. This is where substance really must come in. It’s not enough to only “try” – you have to hone your craft, learn, make mistakes, and earn mastery in your field. This is what will bring you to the top.

·         Team Spirit (Something John Wooden Knew Well!)

Team spirit involves selflessness and the ability to, when necessary, make sacrifices for the greater good – whether that good is on a large scale or just for your team. Of course, this is nuance, and unnecessary or excessive sacrifice is unhealthy. However, the point is that you must aim to make things bigger than yourself great, not just yourself.

6.      The Vertex Of The John Wooden Pyramid Of Success

The vertex of the pyramid is what lies at the very top, the pinnacle of the Pyramid of Success and the goal that we all wish to reach. It promises not just success but happiness and fulfillment if all other blocks on the pyramid have been fulfilled. John Wooden outlines the vertex blocks as follows:

·         Poise

Wooden uniquely describes poise. He says it means being entirely yourself and staying true to your beliefs and principles, acting in alignment with them. In other words, don’t get thrown off or rattled by others’ pressure. This difficult-to-master skill is a big key to happiness.

·         Confidence

Hand-in-hand with poise is confidence: well-founded self-belief that doesn’t fall into arrogance, a knowledge that you’ve prepared yourself well, and an internal faith in your abilities and those you’re working with.

·         Competitive Greatness

This is the very top of the Pyramid of Success. It means enjoying the healthy competition and fostering a love for the battle. Even if you’re not a sports player going against an opposing team, it means enjoying a challenge and stepping up to the plate. This is how you keep yourself moving and growing to achieve greatness and happiness on a deeper level.

pyramid of success

Final Thoughts On How To Be Happy With John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success

John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is one of his many legacies, a testament to his wisdom and expertise as a coach, leader, and human being. Apply his lessons to your everyday life, and you’ll find a deeper, more meaningful kind of success that makes you genuinely happy.