As the nation ponders who will win the NCAA National Championship next week, it is hard to talk college hoops and not mention legendary Coach John Wooden and his impact on the sport. Everyone who spent time with Coach Wooden has shared the incredible impact he had on their lives - both professionally and personally. Although my time with Coach Wooden was brief, it was to this day one of the greatest perks of my career.

As many of you know, I spent numerous afternoons with Coach Wooden during my time as an event planner in Los Angeles. Coach, as we would call him, was a regular guest speaker at my events and for nearly three years I was able to see him weekly during our peak event season.  My teammates and I were by far the luckiest employees in our organization as we were able to spend hours with Coach one on one before every presentation.  He liked to be early to his appointments and to our benefit! We would arrange to have him picked up at his house, meet him when the driver arrived to our building, and we always took turns on who would walk downstairs to greet him and escort him up to the 55th Floor where our seminar room was.  Once upstairs, we would sit with Coach and chat about everything - his lovely family, his visitors, world events, the Presidential Medal of Freedom he earned in 2003, the launch of his children's book... he was one of the most humble and fascinating people I have (and likely will) ever meet.  And so sharp for his age. He was a great listener and actively wanted to hear about our own families and our own adventures. He was the grandpa everyone wanted to have.  Our visits always were cut short -- as we'd get the queue that it was time for Coach to go "on." We'd then have the incredible honor of escorting him inside the meeting room, always to a crowd giving him a standing ovation when introduced. I loved those moments.  I'm sure he didn't care for the hoopla over him, but I always felt like the luckiest girl in the world.  There aren't too many people who can say they had Coach in their rolodex - but I was one of them and I always wanted to pinch myself.  The last day I saw Coach was Thursday, July 21, 2005. My heart was heavy as I said goodbye to him as I knew it would be the last.  He wished me well on my new adventures - the next day I was leaving American Funds and Los Angeles for an exciting career opportunity, one that would eventually lead me here.

Whenever I find myself questioning my level of success, comparing myself to others or struggling with how to define what "success" really means, I remember Coach and his lessons.  Coach defined success as "the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming." His Pyramid of Success has two cornerstones I never lose sight of - Industriousness & Enthusiasm:
Industriousness - you have to work - and work hard.  There is no substitute for work.  None.  Worthwhile things come only from real work.  It is more than merely showing up and going through the motions.  You can work without being industrious, but you can not be industrious without work.

Enthusiasm - you must love what you do. Your heart must be in it.  Without enthusiasm, you cannot work up to your fullest ability and potential.  If you don't like what you're doing - get out.  Don't whine, complain, and make excuses.  Leave.  Maybe you can't leave immediately, but understand you must eventually do so.  If your heart's not in your work you cannot prepare and perform at your highest level.

In preparing for this post, I came across an email update to my friends from ten years ago in 2003.  I was explaining why I decided to take additional classes on Saturdays despite already having a degree in Business from Cal Poly and arguably one of the best corporate event planning jobs anyone my age could want:
"I've been taking a "Professional Meeting & Events Planning" certificate course through CSULB's extended education program.  It is a nine week program that meets on Saturdays.  I'll be done in two weeks.  I decided to take the course for a few reasons.  First, I wanted to improve my performance in my current position.  But it has also been a great way to expose myself to other areas of meeting and event planning (outside of just the corporate planning role that I'm in).  There are an overwhelming amount of possibilities out there and I feel like I've just started to brush the surface of what I can do in this industry.  Corporate Meeting Planning is cool (and one of the most desired and well-paid positions in the industry) but part of me wants to at least research some other things just in case.  I've dabbled with the idea of Wedding Planning and perhaps one day I may get to thinking about it more seriously.  A short term benefit of the course is preparation for the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) exam.  This is a professional designation that I really want to work towards. I have one more year and a whole bunch of other qualifications to meet before even applying.  Besides just getting to add some fancy initials after my name (Amber Butler, CMP), the designation will definitely make me more marketable regardless of which area of the industry I want to pursue.  So anyways... it's been fun but I'm looking forward to getting my Saturdays back! - November 2003

I loved coming across this note for so many reasons.  It made me proud.  Proud of myself for saying my goals out loud to others.  Saying dreams out loud allows others to encourage you and also keep you accountable.  Proud for realizing that although I didn't exactly know where I wanted to end up, I knew that only with hard work would I be given opportunities in the future.  Proud of my young self for putting in the hours and commitment to self-improvement that paved the way.  I have to think Coach would be proud too.

The Pyramid of Success diagram, quotes and original ideas all via Photo of Coach & Amber via personal archives. In case you're wondering, I did earn my CMP designation and even eventually taught CMP candidate prep classes too!  And if you're reading this, you likely know how that wedding planning thing worked out...



  1. Stephanie/ Reply

    Amber, I so enjoyed reading this. Thanks for taking the time to share your memories.

  2. Cameron Ingalls/ Reply

    This is amazing! Love hearing a little bit of the story that led you to where you are and I’m so excited to see where you adventures take you! You really do bring those two qualities with you; Hard Work and Enthusiasm and you are a joy to be around and work with. Much Love!

  3. Susie/ Reply

    That insight solves the prlmbeo. Thanks!

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