Coach K and The Definition of Success

Mike KrzyzewskiYou’ll never be successful if you can’t first define exactly what success is.

And as Coach Mike Krzyzewski points out, while each individual’s outward goals can be—and should be—different, everyone should share the same ultimate definition of what success is…


When I sign autographs for kids, I almost always put the same message: “Always try your best.” If they get nothing else from meeting me, I want them to remember these words.

Excellence is not measured the same way for everyone. A .500 season may be a perfect standard of success for one team, while a National Championship is the standard for another.

Define your own success and failure: only you know whether or not you have given it your all. The persistent pursuit of excellence determines winners, not the score of the game.

To be excellent, you must be yourself. Do the very best you can do.


– Mike Krzyzewski, from his book Beyond Basketball

If you’ve read my book, Think Like a Warrior, you know that Coach K’s advice sounds a lot like that of John Wooden’s. They both believe that success is dependent on how you answer one simple question: “Did you give you absolute best effort?”

Two important takeaways come with this teaching:

1) You—and you alone—have total control over whether you’re successful or not, and

2) Only you—and you alone—can truly know if you are successful.

Together, Coach Wooden and Coach K won 15 national titles and more than 1,700 college basketball games. Isn’t it interesting that they both define success the exact same way?

Maybe they were on to something.