Last night I came across a great TED Talk from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, in which he lays out his philosophies of life and basketball. Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves, and in his inspiring talk he shares the advice he gave his players at UCLA, quotes poetry and remembers his father’s wisdom (you can watch it in full by visiting TED.com). I fell asleep not long after taking in Wooden’s wise advice, and something must have resonated deep within me, because earlier this morning I came across a similar idea expressed by Leo Tolstoy which carries a similar message.
As Maria Popova of Brain Pickings took note recently: “[It’s been just over 129 years] since Leo Tolstoly conceived of ‘A Calendar of Wisdom‘ — his Tumblr-like compendium of famous thoughts on the meaning of life, which took him twenty years to complete.” But it’s not only Tolstoy’s written words from A Calendar Of Wisdom that continue to ring true nearly thirteen decades since its publication, it’s Tolstoy’s spoken words that have stood the test of time as well. In 1909 — exactly four years after the book was published and one year before his death — Tolstoy was recorded reading a passage from the book which champions the merits of self-improvement. You can read and listen to it below:
“That the object of life is self-perfection, the perfection of all immortal souls,
that this is the only object of my life, is seen to be correct by the fact alone that every other object is essentially a new object. Therefore, the question whether thou hast done what thou shoudst have done is of immense importance, for the only meaning of thy life is in doing in this short term allowed thee, that which is desired of thee by He or That which has sent thee into life.
Art thou doing the right thing?”
-Leo Tolstoy, ‘A Calendar Of Wisdom’
These thoughts were likely among the many that flooded the mind of Nashville-based singer/songwriter NIGHT BEDS (a.k.a. Winston Yellen) when he was writing his recent song “Cherry Blossoms”. A few weeks ago I was listening to it and was so struck by its emotional weight I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. All three of the messages I’ve referred to here are each from their own unique time, yet each carry the everlasting message that as human beings we are in a constant state of self improvement, personal growth, and self discovery. It’s a long road, but the most important thing to know is that success is not measured by the score at the end — it’s measured by how you carried yourself along the way.