Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

“One thing I’ve learned as a coach is that you can’t force your will on people. If you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves.”
“What attracted me to the triangle was the way it empowers the players, offering each one a vital role to play as well as a high level of creativity within a clear, well-defined structure. The key is to train each player to read the defense and react appropriately. This allows the team to move together in a coordinated manner - depending on the action at any given moment. With the triangle you can’t stand around and wait for the Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s of the world to work their magic. All five players must be fully engaged every second- or the whole system will fail. That stimulates an ongoing process of group problem solving in real time, not just on a coach’s clipboard during time-outs. When the triangle is working right, it’s virtually impossible to stop it because nobody knows what’s going to happen next, not even the players themselves.”
“Management guru Stephen Covy tells his old Japanese tale about a samurai warrior and his three sons: The samurai wanted to teach his sons about the power of teamwork. So he gave each of them an arrow and asked them to break it. No problem. Each son did it easily. Then the samurai gave them a bundle of three arrows bound together and asked them to repeat the process. But none of them could. “That’s your lesson,” the samurai said. “If you three stick together, you will never be defeated.”
“The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome.”
“That’s why at the start of every season I always encouraged players to focus on the journey rather than the goal. What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow, as human beings as well as basketball players. When you do that, the ring takes care of itself.”
“What I liked about basketball was how interconnected everything was. The game was a complex dance of moves and countermoves that made it much more alive than other sports I played. In addition, basketball demanded a high level of synergy. To succeed, you needed to rely upon everybody else on the floor, not just yourself. That gave the sport a certain transcendent beauty that I found deeply satisfying.”
“There are all kinds of misconceptions about the triangle. Some critics believe that you need to have players of Michael and Kobe’s caliber to make it work. Actually, the reverse is true. The triangle wasn’t designed for the superstars, who will find ways to score no matter what system you use, but for all the other players on the team who aren’t capable of creating their own shots. It also gives every player a vital role in the offense, whether they end up shooting or not.”
“Another aspect of the system I liked was its reliability; it gave the players something to fall back on when they were under stress.”
“But what I’ve learned over the years is that the most effective approach is to delegate authority as much as possible and to nurture everyone else’s leadership skills as well. When I’m able to do that, it not only builds team unity and allows others to grow but also - paradoxically - strengthens my role as a leader.”
“I wasn’t trying to turn the Bulls into Buddhist monks. I was interested in getting them to take a more mindful approach to the game and to their relationships with one another. At it’s heart, mindfulness is about being resent in the moment as much as possible, not weighed down by thoughts of the past or the future. According to Suzuki-roshi, when we do something with “a quite simple, clear mind...our activity is strong and straightforward. But when we do something with a complicated mind, in relation to other things or people, or society, our activity becomes very complex.”
“But the most effective way to deal with anxiety, I’ve discovered, is to make sure that you’re as prepared as possible for whatever is coming your way.”
“But I believe that if you’ve taken care of all the details, the laws of cause and effect - no luck - will usually determine the result. Of course there are plenty of things you can’t control in a basketball game. That’s why we focused most of our time on what we could control: the right footwork, the right floor spacing, the right way to handle the ball. When you play the game the right way, it makes sense to the players and winning is the likely outcome.”
“Much of my thinking on this subject was influenced by the work of Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology who is best known for this theory of the hierarchy of needs. Maslow believed that the highest human need is to achieve “self-actualization,” which he defined as “the full use and exploration of one’s talents, capacities and potentialities.” The basic characteristics of self-actualizers, he discovered in his research, are spontaneity and naturalness, a greater concept of themselves and others, high levels of creativity, and a strong focus on problem solving rather than ego gratification. To achieve self-actualization, he concluded, you first need to satisfy a series of more basic needs, each building upon the other to form what is commonly referred to as Maslow’s pyramid. The bottom layer is made up of physiological urges (hunger, sleep, sex); followed by safety concerns (stability, order); love (belonging); and finally self-actualization. Maslow concluded that most people fail to reach self-actualization because they get stuck somewhere lower on the pyramid.”
“I had to demonstrate that the key to inner peace is trusting in the essential interconnectedness of all things. One breath, one mind. That’s what gives you strength and energy in the midst of chaos.”
“The key to sustained success is to keep growing as a team. Winning is about moving into the unknown and creating something new.”