Monday, December 1, 2008

Make Today a Masterpiece

To provide me with a change of pace from various readings on leadership and organizational development, a long and fruitful conversation with a respected colleague here led me to "Reflections on Coaching and Life" by John Wooden, the UCLA men's basketball coach whose teams won 10 national titles in 12 years. I expected to get lost in reading about winning in basketball and found the book to be much more about life in general with applications to me as an individual, as well as what I hope to see happen at the College.

My favorite part of the book was a little section where he talked about making each day a masterpiece. Wooden wrote, "Too often we get distracted by what's outside our control. You can't do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. You can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come. However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. So make today a masterpiece. You have control over that" (p. 11). He has a simple rule for making this happen - apply yourself each day to become a little better. If you do that, over time, you'll become a lot better. When I think about all the continuous quality improvement efforts in business and higher education - and their associated complex frameworks...I like Coach Wooden's take on things - just get a little better every day and commit to that over a long period of time and you'll be amazed at what you accomplish. This idea has a great deal of power in its simplicity when I think of our Strategic Plan and how the next five years may unfold for us at MVCC - we just need to work at it each and every day and try to get a little better as we go.

I was also struck by his indirect approach to focusing his teams. He underscored the fact that winning was not their goal - rather, it was a by-product of their primary focus, which was playing well together as a team. I quickly gravitated toward this notion. I don't see increases in enrollment, graduation or retention rate as our primary focus. I see the pursuit of our vision by fulfilling our mission through the animation of our core values as the focus and, like winning ten national championships, all of the other accomplishments and successes are natural by-products from a collective focus on what matters most.

Perhaps inspired by Dr. Eannace in her last post, I'll close with a poem that Coach Wooden inserts from sportswriter Grantland Rice. I think it applies to sports, theatre, work and life in general.

How to be a Champion
You wonder how they do it,
You look to see the knack,
You watch the foot in action,
Or the shoulder or the back.
But when you spot the answer
Where the higher glamours lurk,
You'll find in moving higher
Up the laurel-covered spire,
That most of it is practice,
And the rest of it is work.

As ever, I'd appreciate your thoughts and insights - presblog@mvcc.edu.