“The first thing I would show our players at our first meeting was how to take a little extra time putting on their shoes and socks properly.”— John Wooden, UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach

Master the Little Things to Master Quality Outcomes

​I have run multiple trail ultra-marathons. The ones I ran were 50 kilometers long. I had to cross creeks full of ice-cold water, sometimes still with ice chunks in it. I had to pull myself hand over hand up mud hills. I sometimes ran for hours through deep forest alone. And yes, I considered this a fun weekend activity.

These races were much more fun for me than they were for some of the other runners because I prepared well. Preparation entailed not just putting in enough miles to go the distance. Preparation also consisted of little things. It was knowing the course, terrain, and expected weather ahead of time. It was bringing along proper nutrition to get through a long day.

It was also knowing on race day that I had taken the extra time to make sure my socks and shoes were put on properly. John Wooden was right. It does take practice.

John Wooden had many of the best high school players in the country join his program at UCLA. The first thing he did was teach them how to put on their socks and shoes. He did this because he knew that loose socks and shoes would lead to blisters. Blisters would lead to missed practices. Missed practices would lead to missed shots and lost games. He knew which of the little things were important, and he made sure to teach those things and expect that they would be done each day. His coaching led to 10 national college basketball championships in a 12-year period.

What are the little things that make a difference for the teams you lead? Do you teach them? Do you follow through on your expectations every day?

My family was surprised by my appearance when I crossed the finish line after 50 kilometers. I was muddy, running fast, and smiling.

How do your projects end?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo: David Marcu from unsplash.com

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