Tying Your Shoes

In Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s memoir, Becoming Kareem, he recalls the first day of practice with legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden. A young Kareem, known as Lew Alcindor at the time, had high expectations for his coach.

On the first day of practice, Wooden spent it teaching his players how to tie their shoes. First, put your socks on and smooth out the wrinkles. Take your time. Next, put on your shoes and make sure to tie them tightly. At first, they were confused. Why do we need to learn to tie our shoes? Wooden replied:

If you get a blister in a big game, you’re gonna suffer. That doesn’t happen here. Your shoes can come untied during a close game, if not done properly. We prepare the little things to allow us to focus on the big things.

Learning to tie your shoes is a metaphor and a demonstration, that greatness comes from the little details, the little things make the big things happen. It’s this level of detail that lead John Wooden to ten NCAA championships in a twelve year span as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins.

March 20, 2023

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