Redefining Success in Our Economy

imageBy all accounts the famed basketball coach John Wooden is one of the most successful in the history of the game. He boasts an all-time winning percentage of over .800 (620-147), and won an incredible 10 national championships over a twelve year period (from 1963-1975), which included four perfect seasons (1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973) and an 88 game winning streak. Despite all his victories however, a deeper look into Coach Wooden’s philosophy reveals that winning was something he actually never talked about, as he did not believe that success should be judged by comparison with anyone else.
Instead of citing his stars – which included the likes of Bill Walton and Lew Alcinder (later Kareem Abdul-Jabar) – as his best players, he often spoke of players whose names we may not recognize because, as far as he was concerned, those were the players that came the closest to reaching their full potential. In fact, much of Wooden’s success came because he redefined the word. Distinctly different from winning, success he defined as the following:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

His famed pyramid of success then flushed out those qualities one needed to reach this definition of success.

Just as Coach Wooden redefined success in his profession from wins and losses to peace of mind, so too has Pope Francis challenged us this week in his encyclical Laudato Si to redefine economic success from that of purely material gain to one that takes into account the environmental stewardship of “our common home” and the moral development of the person.

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. … I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. ”

“We need to remember that men and women have “the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments”. Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.”

So what would this new, redefined successful economy look like? What type of people of character could it produce? How do we get there from here? Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers but if I were to guess, I would think that Mobile Loaves and Fishes, the worker-owners from CERO coop, and Tim Harris from Tim’s Place, could help show us the way.

One thought on “Redefining Success in Our Economy

  1. Pingback: The Local and the Global: Lessons from Detroit | The New Localization

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