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Words to live by

-Karthik Gurumurthy


On the occasion of his graduation from elementary school, young John Wooden received a piece of paper from his father, Joshua. On one side his father had copied a short verse, later summed up by his son in these few words: “Think clearly, have love in your heart, be honest, and trust in God.” On the other side he had handwritten a list of “Seven Things to Do.” As he handed the paper to the boy, he said only, “Son, try and live up to these things.” The paper remained in the young man’s possession until it was tattered, at which point he transferred its contents to a card.

In a 2005 interview, the coach shared how much the words had framed his daily life. He said, “I tried to live by this and I tried to teach by it. I haven’t always been perfect, but I’ve tried.”

Here are Joshua Wooden’s seven principles for daily living:

  • Be true to yourself.

Who am I? When no one’s around, who am I? I’m talking about my character, not my reputation. My character is who I really am, while my reputation is merely what others think I am. Are they different? Are there secrets and flaws I don’t want anyone to know about? Have I led people to believe I am better than I am? They say, “You can fool everyone else but you can’t fool yourself.” I’m not sure if that’s true. I can rationalize my flaws and my secrets. I can fool myself.

If I want to be true to myself, me and myself need to have a talk and get things out in the open and on the table so they can be dealt with. “Hey, you know that habit you have? Aren’t you tired of hiding it? Aren’t you tired of knowing, at the end of the day, you’re not the person they think you are?  Then do something about it.”

The foundational, and first, step to living a meaningful and productive life that is an example for others to follow, is to be true to yourself. If this trait is not in place, somewhere down the line, you will fall by the wayside.

  • Help others.

It has been said, “You cannot love others until you can love yourself.” When you are true to yourself, you will love yourself. Now you are ready to love others. Now you are ready to begin a life of meaning and purpose.

A woman was planning a trip to see her friend in another state. Just before leaving home for the train, she telephoned her friend to make sure everything was in order. She asked, “Who will pick me up at the train station?”

Her friend said, “My husband will.”

“But,” the woman said, “I’ve never met him. How will I know who he is?”

Her friend replied, “Oh, that’s easy. He’ll be the one helping someone.”

That husband had a good reputation but, more importantly, he had a life of meaning because he made a difference. The life of purpose, significance, and meaning always involves helping others. 

  • Make each day your masterpiece.

A life of meaning and purpose, a life that others notice and follow, is a day-to-day consistent life.
It is no accident life is divided into increments we call, “days.” Yesterdays are happy memories and lessons learned. Tomorrow is only a faint promise, at best. It is today, that I have and, in order to live a meaningful and productive life, each day must be treasured and taken full advantage of. From the moment I get up to the moment I lay my head down again, I must try to make that day a masterpiece.

The Mona Lisa, The David, and The Night Watch are masterpieces because each ounce of paint or marble contributes, as much as it can, to the beauty and perfection. Likewise, a masterpiece day is one where each minute is spent doing only the things that are important such as in the morning, talking to your loved one over breakfast, reading the paper, perhaps doing a crossword; at your job, being organized, focused to get as much good work done as possible and earning your pay; and in the evening, reading to a child, having friends over, or counseling someone that needs help.

How many days remain in your life? Hopefully you have a lot and that means it’s a going to be a long journey. According to Joshua Wooden’s creed, in order to consistently, day-by-day, try to make each day a masterpiece, you’re going to need help from three outside sources: Those that have gone before you, Close friends, and God.

  • Drink deeply from good books.

On your journey to a meaningful and productive life, if you look carefully to the side of the road, you will see Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Paul, Lincoln, Gandhi, Washington, Edison and more. Through their writings, and the writings about them, they have left a blueprint to show you the way.

Every day, stop and sit fireside with each one and not only hear, but listen. Drink deeply by analyzing, understanding, believing, and swallowing all the advice they give you. Their wisdom will help you live masterpiece day after masterpiece day. 

  • Make friendship a fine art.

Strong friendships are carefully built. When the creed says to make friendship a “fine art,” it means you must work at it daily with the goal of making it something beautiful. Friendships are built through consistent interaction, give and take, and listening. They are deepened by accountability, truth, and understanding.

The wisdom of those that have gone before you and the support of your close friends, will help. But the greatest strength that will help you sustain a life-long string of consecutive days where you attempt to make masterpieces, is God. He will give you the faith to believe.

  • Build a shelter against a rainy day.

Pretty self-explanatory…however, I don’t think Wooden means this literally.

A shelter could be physical, financial or emotional…family and friendship, afterall, are perhaps the most valuable shelter to be building in your life.

  • Pray for guidance, and count and give thanks for your blessings every day

No day can be a masterpiece day if it doesn’t end with acknowledging your blessings and asking for guidance. Thanks acknowledges to God and you, that He is responsible. Asking for guidance and counsel is important because, while you sleep, God is preparing to help you make the next day, another Masterpiece.


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