Short Term and Long Term

Written by Jim Stovall


We are all constantly faced with decisions.  In many cases, these decisions are divided into two areas:  Things that will make us happy now versus things that will make us happy later.  If life were a three-day weekend, it would be easy to make the right choices, but we have to balance getting the most we can out of today while planting seeds that will make us happy tomorrow.  


Recently, I read about an incident involving my late friend and mentor, the legendary basketball coach John Wooden.  During the 1960s and 1970s, Coach Wooden's UCLA Bruins won 10 out of 12 NCAA National Basketball Championships.  This feat was unprecedented then as it is now.  When sports analysts and experts debate the records that will likely never be broken, Coach Wooden's run of national championships is always on the list.

In the midst of UCLA's dominant streak, there was a great high school center who wanted to play for Coach Wooden.  Swen Nater was a top prospect who could have started on virtually any college team in the country except for Coach Wooden's UCLA Bruins.  Coach Wooden had just signed Bill Walton to play center for him, replacing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who had dominated college basketball for several years and had just moved into the NBA.  Coach Wooden told Swen Nater that if he really wanted to come to UCLA, he could but he would likely never start one basketball game.  However, he would play against Bill Walton every day in practice which would make him an attractive pro prospect.  

As usual, Coach Wooden was right.  Swen Nater never started in a basketball game during his college career.  He sat on the bench and filled in for Bill Walton on several national championship teams, but after he graduated, he was a high selection in the NBA draft and went on to play 12 successful years in professional basketball including a season when he led the NBA in rebounds.  

Swen Nater gave up the fame and adulation he could have gotten by being the starting center at any other college in America to fill a backup role on Coach Wooden's national championship teams; but as the wise old coach had predicted, it paid off.  Not only because Swen Nater improved his skills while at UCLA but also because he demonstrated to NBA teams-which are often made up of egotistical, immature athletes-that he was an unselfish team player who was willing to sacrifice in order to win.  

As you go through your day today, remember Swen Nater and make good choices.


Today's the day!

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