Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Learns to Speak Well – A lesson from the Greatest of all Coaches, John Wooden

What does it take to speak well? Hard work is what it takes.

This would be true for most anything. Good writing. Good team leadership. Good project management. Hard work! And, always working at getting better.

kareem-1One of the all-time greats at this is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And he learned that hard work work-ethic from the greatest of all coaches, John Wooden. I read the review of Mr. Jabbar’s book, Coach Wooden and Me, by Mike James from the Los Angeles Times. These three paragrpahs are brilliant in their simplicity, and what they reveal:

“From the first day of my freshman year until the last practice of my senior year, we ran,” Abdul-Jabbar writes. “And then ran some more. There were no shortcuts in John Wooden’s basketball program. You did it until you did it right, and then you did it again. The basic philosophy that I learned on those long afternoons enabled me to extend my professional career to twenty years, longer than any other player.”

Many of the lessons Abdul-Jabbar learned from Wooden were just as relevant long after he had hung up his basketball sneakers. And that’s a common theme in this book: It was often years later that Abdul-Jabbar would realize Wooden’s teachings in a basketball reference actually carried well beyond that.

“Coach Wooden’s philosophy has proven to be a lifelong lesson for me,” he writes. “When I am scheduled to give a speech, I write it, then practice it, then practice it some more. … My opponent is now myself, my inclination toward laziness. The discipline I learned through those conditioning drills has allowed me to face my devious opponent and beat him constantly.”

“Practice; practice some more. My greatest opponent is now myself, my inclination toward laziness.” Yep!

I remember M. Scott Peck from The Road Less Traveled writing that laziness is the great human weakness. Coach Wooden gave Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the tools to combat that “inclination” toward laziness.

And the result is an accomplished speaker, writer, and human long after the basketball dominance has faded.

So, when you give a speech, how hard do you work at it? My suggestion – maybe you should work a little harder. I know I paid attention to this for me.


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