I grew up sharing my school lunch each day with legendary college basketball coach John Wooden.
While the parents of my young classmates packed notes like "Have a great day!" or "I miss you lots!" along with peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, my dad tucked into my Power Rangers lunchbox napkins on which he had printed such messages as:
"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."
"Happiness begins where selfishness ends."
"Earn the right to be proud."
Or, on the day of a spelling test, perhaps a reminder to "Be quick, but don't hurry."
By the time I was in middle school I knew by heart the Seven-Point Creed that Wooden's father had given him when he was twelve years old because my own father had included each of its lessons so many times in my lunch:
"Be true to yourself."
"Make each day your masterpiece."
"Drink deeply from good books."
"Make friendship a fine art."
"Build shelter against a rainy day."
"Pray for guidance, and count and give thanks for your blessings each day."
Indeed, my older sister and I not only grew up with Wooden-isms in our lunch bags, we sometimes discussed the sayings at the family dinner table.
We also talked about the Pyramid of Success based on Wooden's personal definition of success as "peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
When I was eight and my sister ten, we had the great fortune to spend a long afternoon visiting with Coach in his home; it remains one of our most cherished childhood memories. (You can read more about this experience in my article "The Self-Esteem Wizard.")
Now everyone can spend time with Coach, so to speak, and be inspired by his lunch-box wisdom through Wooden & Me: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help "Make Each Day Your Masterpiece." This new memoir is written by my dad, Woody Woodburn -- a national award-winning sports columnist and Jim Murray Memorial Foundation Journalists Hall of Fame inductee.
In 1987, as a young sports writer and newlywed, my dad met John Wooden while covering a talk Coach gave. A thank-you note from Wooden for the column my dad wrote led to a shared morning walk. Soon Coach became a friend and mentor to my dad, offering guidance and advice through letters, phone calls, and personal visits; from the births of my sister and then me through our growth into young adults; through the death of my dad's mother; through career decisions; and more.
As my dad aptly writes in Wooden & Me:
One did not have to play for Coach Wooden in order to be one of his students, and of this I am a privileged example. I was not one of his basketball players -- except for one glorious week at his youth camp in 1975 -- but make no mistake, I was his pupil. No coach or teacher or professor has taught me more, or taught me more important things.
Indeed, just as Coach Wooden was beloved and revered by people of all ages and all backgrounds, readers from teens to parents to grandparents, sports fans and non-fans alike, will find Wooden & Me enlightening and inspiring. Unlike other books by and about John Wooden, this one is not written solely for the basketball fan or business leader, but rather it is a relationship memoir of wide appeal. It is even a great parenting book.
"Wooden & Me is an inspiring combination of Tuesdays With Morrie and Chicken Soup for the Soul" is how author Randy Robertson describes it.
Now that I am grown and out of the house, my dad sends me "lunch box notes" via text messages, such as the Wooden-ism: "It takes ten hands to put the ball in the basket." I have been blessed to see the time, effort, and wisdom put into this memoir: Coach Wooden's lifetime of learning; his 20-year friendship with my father; and the two years my dad spent crafting the manuscript.
Wooden & Me has also given me even greater appreciation for the helping hands that contribute to my life each day -- including all those handwritten lunchbox notes.