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Given the popularity of college basketball and its annual tournament known as “March Madness,” I thought it appropriate to discuss the concept of a tournament and its affect on the human psyche. But first, here’s a seemingly unrelated book reference:

I recently finished reading the second book in a series called “The Reckoners”. The first book in the series, “Steelheart,” follows a group of freedom fighters attempting to rid the world of super-powered overlords and the book’s namesake antagonist, a Superman-esque villain that is impervious to all weapons. These powerful beings, called Epics, once mere ordinary people,  were corrupted when a powerful atmospheric event turned them into Epics. But due to their powers, every one of them was corrupted. As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I know what you’re thinking. What the hell does any of this have to do with “March Madness?” Good question.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, was known for many things. He was the first person in history to be named to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. He was given the nickname, “Wizard of Westwood,” an appropriate title given his record of winning 10 NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons, with seven of the 10 coming in consecutive years. He was also incredibly humble, making no more than $35,000 a year—$151,918 in today’s dollars—and never asking for a raise.

Despite all of those accolades, Wooden is perhaps best known for his inspirational wisdom, stemming from his Pyramid of Success model. The model was aimed at giving players the tools to be successful in both basketball and life, inspiring players like Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—both former UCLA players—to become future NBA greats.

There’s a point to all of this, I promise.

As you can see in the attached image, the pyramid is built with a list of carefully selected elements, consisting of virtues like loyalty, cooperation, initiative, self-control and team spirit, among others. These virtues all add up to the top section of the pyramid: competitive greatness.

For the 12-volt entrepreneur, this concept should be familiar considering that to be successful in any endeavor, one must be well-prepared to best the competition, or at least put up a good fight. Perhaps the biggest part of being accomplished is how to deal with success without it going to your head. In his book, “Wooden on Leadership,” Wooden said, “You must monitor confidence because it can easily turn into arrogance which then can lead to the mistaken and destructive belief that previous achievement will be repeated without the same hard effort that brought it about in the first place.”

This leads me to “The Reckoners” book reference from earlier. It’s easy to let success go to your head. You can have the appearance of success by gaining fame, professional respect and money, but that doesn’t mean you are achieving it in the best way possible to gain inner peace and self-respect. If you sacrifice any of the elements that make up the pyramid in exchange for the easy way, you will lose sight of yourself as a person and become a self-absorbed, arrogant bore on his way to “the bench.”

Much like the playoff brackets in the NCAA “March Madness” tournament, the pyramid requires patience and determination so that all steps are executed properly. It’s like building a sound system in an RV; it’s a large endeavor that requires planning, long hours and lots of equipment placed carefully in the vehicle. If any step is skipped, the whole thing could be a colossal waste of time and require even more hours to fix all of the errors. 

More often than not the teams that win the championships in basketball are those that follow the pyramid, or any other healthy leadership paradigm from their coach. Those that fail are like “Steelheart”; they take their natural, genetic talent and squander it without tapping into their true potential. If you don’t believe me, just read the words of the man himself:

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

Copyright - Mobile Electronics Association 2020

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