Can How You Tie Your Shoes Predict Success?

As head coach at UCLA, John Wooden won ten NCAA national basketball championships in a 12-year period—seven in a row — an unprecedented feat. Within this period, his teams won a record 88 consecutive games. He was named national coach of the year six times.

But times weren’t always this good for Wooden.

Wooden grew up during the Great Depression. Times were tough on his boyhood farm in Indiana. His family worked themselves to exhaustion everyday just to make it. Everyone chipped in. Everyone worked hard. Everyone was trying to survive.

But they didn’t make it.

Wooden’s family lost their farm and everything they owned, to bankruptcy.

Despite this difficult childhood, John never gave up. He focused on school. He wanted to be a teacher and took up basketball as a hobby.

By the time he graduated from college, he was one of the best basketball players in the country. The Boston Celtics offered him a spot on their team, but he declined their offer. He wanted to teach.

In his first year teaching at Dayton High School, he also coached the boys’ basketball team. The team wasn’t very good, and in Wooden’s very first year of coaching he had a losing season. Not a great start.

After that losing season, Wooden decided to drastically change his coaching strategy. He knew that his players had to get better at basketball if they were to win games. However, he also knew that they would have to get better mentally, if they were to win championships. Wooden wanted his teams to win championships.

He decided the best way to help his team get better mentally, was to teach them how to tie their shoes. That may sound like a joke, but it wasn’t.

Although that first season was a losing one, it would be Coach Wooden’s last. John Wooden went on to become the winningest coach in the history of basketball. He is often considered the greatest coach—of any sport—to have ever lived.

How did he achieve such a legacy by just teaching his players how to tie their shoes?

When reporters would ask Wooden what his secret to winning basketball games was, he would answer that he just made sure his player’s shoes were tried properly. He knew that if he could instill the discipline in his players to focus on the little things, the tiniest of details, that it would make all the difference in their performance.

So, while he ran practice just like any other coach, he spent just as much time teaching his players how to discipline themselves on the little things such as: tying your shoes properly, always being on time, always being neat and tidy, and to never swear.

Here’s why:

Wooden knew that how a person does one thing is how they do everything. If his players couldn’t master the small things, they would never master the big things. As he would say over and over – “little things make big things happen.” Indeed, the key to excellence is doing the little things correctly.

So, how can you use Wooden’s shoe tying principle in your own journey to success?

Coach Wooden’s Practical Advice For Success

Coach Wooden left us with many examples for success, but if there’s one that stands out the most, it’s that winning is about improving yourself. You might not be an athlete, but Wooden’s philosophy can help you master anything. Here are three money success tips that incorporate Wooden’s focus on the little things:

1. Want to build your savings? Then practice the fundamentals. Every day and every week, go thru the time-tested money drills of using a budget, spending less than you earn and saving the rest. Train yourself to exceed at managing small amounts of money to prove that you can manage larger amounts. Wooden principle: “Practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control. Good judgment and common sense are essential.”

2. Want to build a retirement nest egg? Then get in the investment game by taking a portion of your savings and turn it into investment capital. This means doing more than just investing in your company’s 401K. It means learning the principles of investing so that you can be prepared for wealth opportunities. It means reading and studying and attending seminars to improve your business skills so that you can start a business that makes your income grow faster. Wooden principle: “There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.”

3. Want to build a fortune? Then decide you are going to be a money champion. Decide to work on your wealth when everyone else goes home. Create a wealth plan that results in you holding up the financial independence trophy in five years. Build multiple streams of income that secures your financial freedom. Decide to not just be a student of money, but to be a master of wealth. Don’t just play the money game to win, play the game to conquer. Wooden principle: “Have competitive greatness. Be at your best when your best is needed.”

Successful people, in all walks of life, understand the importance of detail and why everything counts:

  • Engineers and architects know that the stability of a giant bridge depends on the integrity of its smallest component – a failed bolt can have huge consequences.
  • Professional athletes know that one minor weakness in their game can result in a loss rather than a win.
  • Those that have mastered money know that the small detail of spending less than you earn is vital to financial freedom – without it you will never have a chance at becoming wealthy.

World-class achievement is the result of world-class habits and activities. From start to finish, the keys of success are found in the small details. Focus on the little things and watch the big things happen!

To your freedom.



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  • Arrgo

    In many cases, its the persons bad habits and poor decisions that cause them to be where they are in life and not succeeding with accomplishments, money etc.

  • Bruce

    Monty, this post is EXACTLY right. It is the small things that count. Thanks for a GREAT reminder! Well put and concise!

    • Monty Campbell

      Thank you Bruce for visiting the blog.

  • Anna

    Well done. You always seem to come at these concepts from a different angle than most. I appreciate your perspective on what it takes to be successful.

    • Monty Campbell

      Thanks Anna, glad you liked the article.

  • Lewis

    I agree. Once a person realizes the truth behind “little things make big things happen” they no longer view the small details in the same way. The little things do add up to bigger things.

    • Monty Campbell

      Very true Lewis. It can be easy to ignore the little things until they are no longer little. As Buffett says, “the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

  • Sonny

    Wooden is the best! Glad you showcase this man’s principles on your blog.

    • Monty Campbell

      Thanks Sonny. I’m a big fan of Wooden as well. His principles are timeless. Thanks for commenting.

  • Mallie

    I was wondering how you were going to connect tying shoes and success. I share your emails with my closest friends and I am telling you- my wheels are spinning daily to get to that freedom early on in life! Thank you for sharing all these ideas and motivation.

    • Monty Campbell

      You are welcome Mallie. I did get a little creative on the title 🙂