Focus in 3-Steps: Executive Coaching John Wooden Style

In a previous post, I talked about the acronym F.O.C.U.S.S. and how a person can create greater levels of purpose, self-confidence, and direction. Today, I’m going to approach the concept of “focus” from the perspective of one of the greatest coaches in basketball history, John Wooden.

“In 1948, I began coaching basketball at UCLA. Each hour of practice we worked very hard. Each day we worked very hard. Each week we worked very hard. Each season we worked very hard. For fourteen years we worked very hard and didn’t win a national championship. However, a national championship was won in the fifteenth year. Another in the sixteenth. And eight more in the following ten years.” ~JW

My question is this, “Did the teams develop to a point where they could finally win a national championship or did Coach Wooden develop himself into a national championship coach?”


First Step: Be clear who you are and what Skill you choose to pursue excellence in (internal focus).

If you are going to become a master at a skill or craft, make sure it is one that you love and will emotionally support you for the next 20 years. Then, work to be the best!

To support this assertion another quote, “I am not what I ought to be, not what I want to be, not what I am going to be, but thankful that I am not what I used to be.” ~JW   Focus on being your best now in this moment, every moment!

“For an athlete to function properly, he must be intent. There has to be a definite purpose and goal if you are to progress. If you are not intent about what you are doing, you aren’t able to resist the temptation to do something else that might be more fun at the moment.” ~JW


Second Step: You must set goals that align with the expression of who you want to become and the skill you are choosing to master.

Set BIG, HUGE GOALS (external)!

For example, I chose a skill set of running many years ago. After thousands of miles of mastery, there was room for growth to always set the bar higher in terms of external goals: a 10K, half marathon, marathon, Goofy Challenge, 50-Miler, 100K Ultra and the pinnacle…100-Mile Ultra. Those goals took 20+ years of focus. As I took yoga along the way to keep flexible and train, I didn’t set a goal to become a yoga guru.

Big Goals provide the impetus to learn to perfect yourself in the execution of becoming more. They create the pressure to become meticulous because every detail counts. A hot spot on your foot in a 10K or half marathon is not big deal, on a marathon it becomes a little more important but during an ultra-marathon it means the difference between success and epic failure. Large goals are critical because they provide motivation to be diligent, prudent, and sustain a heightened level of awareness; internal and external. That creates focus.

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” ~JW


Third Step: Large goals create large obstacles to overcome.

This scares other people away from you so you have more time and energy to focus on your pursuits and not be presented with their problems.

How often during the day are we interrupted, distracted and presented with other people’s problems and life issues? People tend to conspire with others who will give them solace, empathy, and commiserate with them on their problems. The more a person commiserates with another, the more they keep coming back for more commiseration! If a heavy set person starts telling you how bad they feel, most people think it is OK to say, “I’m sorry, you know, it’s not really your fault. After all its genetics, thyroid issues, etc.” What happens when they get that response?  They keep coming back!

Granted it’s not polite to say to them, “then get off your fat buns and do something about it.” BUT, if you are setting a high goal of health for yourself, that person will naturally shy away from you. They know intuitively, as they see you pack your bag for a lunchtime workout, they won’t get much sympathy. You scare them away by setting higher standards.


BIG Goals scare people away because they suffer internally by comparison.

This cuts down in interruptions, distractions, and people telling you their problems. FOCUS comes from setting a higher standard than your peers. An added benefit is that the only people who will interrupt you are the people who have high standards and the exchanges will be more in the form of support, encouragement and sharing of tips that help you refine and master your craft. These can be good because they actually boost your energy, efficiency and the time spent for the interruption is time saved with what is learned by sharing.

Welcome the adversity and feelings of “being alone” in your singular pursuit. This creates focus. Here’s a supportive quote.

“When everyone is thinking the same, no one is thinking.” ~JW


Let’s recap these three steps:

1. Be clear on who you are and what skill you want to master (internal mindset)

2. Set Goals in that skillset that are HUGE, stretch yourself as high and far as you can go!

3. Get comfortable with scaring other people away and being alone…set a higher standard. Your only interruptions will be from others with high goals. Those interruptions will be fewer but very supportive!

 “The road to real achievement is usually bumpy and long, but you do not give up. You may have setbacks. You may have to start over. You may have to change your methods. You may have to go around, or over, or under. You may have to back up and get another start. But you do not quit. You stay the course.” ~JW

To your continued success,

James, Executive Business Coach

Learn more about Coach John Wooden here:

How to Be a Magician…

Throughout time there have always been stories of knights, damsels in distress, Kings & Queens, Dragons and Magicians. One of the greatest magicians of lore was Merlin. And for the younger generation, I guess we have to include Dumbledore!

And inevitably, the magician always seems to fade into obscurity as humankind moves from the age of creativity, possibility and imagination to logic, reason and commerce. Did you ever stop to see how the story parallels the human condition?

As a child, anything is possible. Building castles in the sky, creating something from nothing and turning lead into gold. When I started coaching full time in 1999 with Tony Robbins Companies, my wife gave me a small Hallmark ornament of a magician, arms outstretched, in the clouds and a rainbow behind him. I have it on my desk and see it every day to remind me of certain things.

The magician is in all of us, you have talents and skills to create something bigger of yourself and your impact in life.

What is it and how can you reconnect to it? By looking through your experiences of life and seeing what no one else sees! Then asking, “where are my opportunities to create?”

My neighbor is an engineer and he is always looking at things like a simple light switch and is amazed how it works, but more importantly, he naturally sees even deeper than that. He asks, “Who was the person who was able to dream it, create it and make it work?” That is what he naturally wants to know and apply. That is how he creates his own magic.

I see people every day who tell me their problems. As they speak, somehow I am able to see the expressions, gestures, thoughts inside their mind; I can see their goals, challenges, emotions, and more importantly for my clients I can see the patterns of how it all connects. From there, I see the pathway of possibility and infinite potential for them to overcome it all. Somehow, that is how I create magic. And yet, I walk past a light switch every day without naturally noticing the magic there. But when I see it through my neighbor’s eyes, the light switch comes on and I see the magic he creates!

Being a magician and creating magic comes from being curious, learning, growing, and seeing the infinite potentiality in you, others, places and/or things in a way no one else does. It is noticing it in a way that is unique to you! Most of us shut down our internal magician with the thoughts that come right after these magic moments of awareness. Those poor questions come out like, “But how could I do that, what will people think, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the time, I’m not good enough” With those thoughts, your magician slips away and becomes a thing of the past.

Ask yourself this, “Where is the magic in your business, relationships, finances, physical health? What do you see that others don’t?”

Magic comes from knowing yourself and working what you have inside. Increase your awareness of your environment and take notice of what is important to you.

Be the magician, connect with your creativity, imagination and appreciate your special view of the world. Through that gift, work your magic. You will see a path that others don’t, be able to lead them down it, and bring out the infinite potential of yourself and them.

There are still dragons to slay, damsels to rescue, sunsets to ride off into and magic to work! And, if you look in the right place and work your magical gifts, you will find that Merlin is still very much alive.


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Take Control of Your Life

My daughter was telling me that other day that it seemed an eternity going from 6 to 7 years old. For me on the other hand, the older I get the faster time flies by. As things move faster and faster in life, finding a balance between work, health, finances and career becomes harder and harder. It is easy to start feeling powerless and out of control.
It is easy to blame feeling out of control on the events and circumstances of life; the boss is too demanding and does not care, the kids’ activities after school are just too much, or stress from your relationship causes you to overeat and drink.  
There are always two ways to take back control of your life. 
The first is to shift your procedures and take control by changing the events and circumstances of life. A person can change jobs to get a new boss, sign the kids up for one less extracurricular activity next season, or join Weight Watchers and start counting points. These procedural changes we all know how to do, but still have a hard time implementing. Most people know what to do, they just don’t do it. 
Your second option?  Change your perception. “Changing perception” involves changing the way a person thinks.  All learning, change, and behavioral shifts happen at the unconscious level. 
Asking yourself better questions and adopting a different identity will help change your own perceptions of who you are and what you believe. The above examples of being stressed presuppose an identity that a person who can’t handle the stressors of life.  If they wanted to, one could choose to adopt different beliefs, such as, “The more energy I put out, the stronger I become”, “The busier I am, the more organized and the more efficient I become”,  “I thrive on life’s challenges: the faster life goes, the more momentum I have”, or “It is good to have a full life of opportunity.”
Implementing new procedures can change your life, and many times, that is precisely what is needed.  But sometimes, the solution lies in changing your perceptions of your identity and adopting a different internal beliefs system.  Those new beliefs are what will allow you to take control of your life!  
What is a more empowering identity and belief that you can adopt? Are there some areas of your life where you need to change your procedures?  Are there some areas of your life where you need to shift your perceptions? 
I look forward to hearing your response and comments! 
To your continued success,