Roy Williams’ Secret to Success

Roy WilliamsNorth Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams has now won three national championships. This ranks him as one of the greatest coaches of all time, joining Jim Calhoun, John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, and Mike Krzyzewski as the only basketball coaches to win three or more national titles.

How did Roy Williams reach the top of his profession? What is his secret to success?

Hard work. Extremely hard work.

Everything Roy Williams has accomplished is a result of his relentless work ethic and his willingness to make long, hard sacrifices. In his autobiography, appropriately titled Hard Work, Williams shares this story about what he had to go through in his early days as an assistant for Dean Smith at North Carolina…


I used to joke that in Coach Smith’s terminology, my job as a part-time assistant coach meant full-time job, part-time pay. It was extremely difficult to survive financially during my first couple years back in Chapel Hill. I was doing every odd job I could possibly find to feed my family. My day was dominated by two things, coaching and trying to figure out more ways to make some money.

I had five jobs my first year. I ran a little basketball camp for children of the university faculty and staff. I worked for a transport company taking staples out of eight-inch-thick stacks of bills, putting them in numerical order, and then stapling them back together. I thought, “I’ve got a dadgum master’s degree and now I’ve got to learn how to count again?”

Every Sunday during the football and basketball season, I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning to drive videotapes of the UNC football and basketball coaches’ shows to the local television stations in Greensboro and Asheville. For me, Sunday was not a day of rest. I spent nine hours in the car. I did that for five years.

The hardest job I had was selling calendars. It was awful. That summer I drove 9,000 miles, sold 10,500 calendars in nine weeks, and made $2,400.

I still have our income tax returns from 1980, and our combined income, two 30-year-olds with two kids, was $8,910. It was hard sometimes, but we managed.

I don’t know many people who paid a higher price to get started, but I did those kinds of jobs for many years to be able to stay in coaching. There were times when I despised it. It was demeaning. I felt like I was begging. I nearly got to the point of thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.”


— Roy Williams, from his book Hard Work

Sometimes when we see people who have achieved great things, we tend to focus on the end results and overlook all the sacrifices they made to get to where they are. These sacrifices can involve long, hard hours and they can be a humbling experience.

Roy Williams now makes millions of dollars a year to do something he’s passionate about at a school he loves. But he didn’t just walk into Dean Smith’s office, ask for a college coaching job, buy a house, and start winning championships. He paid his dues for many, many years. He kept going when most people would’ve quit. He made the sacrifices that most people aren’t willing to make.

In an era of famous-overnight reality TV, when everyone is looking for shortcuts to the top and instant gratification, it can be easy to lose sight of what it really takes to achieve great things.

To achieve your dreams, whatever they may be, it’s going to take a lot of patience, hard work, humility, and perseverance. It’s going to require many sacrifices. It’s going to take GRIT, and lots of it.

Nobody is going to knock on your door and hand you your dream life. You have to go out and get it.

 Are you willing to pay the price for making your dreams come true?

The good news is that most people aren’t willing to make the sacrifices required for greatness and if you are willing to make those sacrifices, you’ll quickly separate yourself from the competition.