By: Alan Stein, Jr.
Originally Published in: Raise Your Game
Controlling the controllables also comes down to basic preparation: being ready when and where others are not. John Wooden won ten National Championships with the UCLA Bruins, including a record seven straight titles, a record that is so eye-poppingly insane that I would wager it will never be broken. How many schools even go back-to-back? (Only Florida and Duke have done that since UCLA's streak ended in 1973.) Wooden is an icon and a legend, but let's not get confused. He was not a wizard. He worked on what he could: he managed the basics.
Every season at UCLA one of the first things Wooden would do in the locker room was teach his players how to correctly put on their socks and shoes to alleviate chaffing and blisters. Most eighteen year-olds would laugh off such an instruction, but Wooden had a reputation, so his players trusted him. They knew his record so they did what he said.
Because of this little, seemingly insignificant - almost childish - thing, Wooden's players almost never got blisters. By the end of the game, when the other team's feet were aching like blazing coals, Wooden's guys were as fresh as they were at tip-off. Socks and shoes are as basic as you can get, but Wooden understood that the players' game started there. If they couldn't stand up, if they couldn't run, they couldn't execute a single thing he taught them. Start with what you can control.
Any time spent on something outside of your attitude or effort is wasted, because it's energy and time away from what you can control. Most people waste a tremendous amount of time and energy complaining. What do they complain about? They complain about everything outside of their control. No one ever seems to complain about their own attitude or effort. It's always someone else's that they find fault with.
"Complaining is like throwing up," my friend Jon Gordon likes to say. "It makes you feel better, but it makes everyone else feel worse."
Focus on your attitude and your effort and do so consistently. That's how you win.