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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Lodestar: A Guiding Light

Written by: on February 16, 2021

Like many others, I have always been fascinated by the stars. It is a nightly ritual to gaze into the night sky when I lock up our home for the day. As a youngster I was raised in the country on a small ranch at the base of Mount Jumbo outside of Missoula Montana. It wasn’t uncommon on a warm summer night to hike up the mountain and sleep under the stars. My initial tendency was to seek out the North Star which is located at the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. Since the bowl portion of the Little Dipper isn’t always visible, I often needed to locate the Big Dipper first. The two stars that create the far edge of the Big Dipper are perfectly aligned with the North Star. As I would stare into the night sky, my mind often wondered in amazement at the realization that throughout history everyone who has ever lived has looked at the stars in some fashion, some out of amazement, and others for guidance.

The North Star is classified as a lodestar. A lodestar is a star that can be used as a guide. For many seafaring sailors, the North Star was their loadstar. So it was for South African Americans during slavery. The North Star was a symbol of hope and freedom. For escaped slaves, the North Star was a guiding light that helped them navigate the many secret sites of the Underground Railroad that led to freedom.[1]

John Wooden’s lodestar was his Pyramid of Success. Each player received a copy of this during the basketball season. For many it was nothing more than a piece of paper, but for Wooden it was a guiding light. It was framed and hung on his office wall. It was to him a defining factor is his life. Though Wooden was very competitive and he loved to win, it is no coincidence that the top of the pyramid is Competitive Greatness. Nor is it coincidental that surrounding the top of the pyramid are four essential characteristics of success. The first characteristic is “Fight”, being defined as a determined effort. Second, “Integrity”, which is defined as purity of intention. Third, “Faith”, something done through prayer, and finally “Patience”, having a definition of “good things take time”.

Many coaches focus on one aspect of the game for too long. Wooden’s philosophy was different. If he didn’t accomplish what was needed in one practice, he would come back to it at the next practice, moving forward as each thing was accomplished.[2] His coaching theory was: “explanation, demonstration, imitation, correction, and then repetition, repetition, repetition.”[3]

Coach Wooden would often tell his players that the team was like a machine. He would explain that each team had a starting lineup which was like the engine of the machine. He would go on to explain that some players were like the wheels on the machine and maybe those who didn’t play as often were the nuts holding the wheels on the machine. Each part of the machine played a key role in order for the machine to function successfully. Though some parts could be harder to replace, each part played an essential role in assuring the proper function of the whole.[4] Wooden was into details. “Little things add up, and they become big things. That’s what I tried to teach each player in practice, “he said. “You’re not going to make a great improvement today. Maybe you’ll make a little bit. But tomorrow it’s a little bit more, and the next day a little more.”[5]  For Coach Wooden, practices were of key importance and the game was the “final exam.” Wooden didn’t have a play book. He felt that a good coach only needed to make “four or five real decisions during a game.” To him there were far more mistakes made by over coaching his players than under coaching them. Though basketball was a precise game, there was no need to over complicate it.”[6]

We tend to over complicate things. Jesus had a way of cutting through the crap and getting to the heart of a matter. He wasn’t one to over coach a situation; he kept it simple. When asked what the greatest commandment was by the Pharisees (those in bondage to the law), Jesus replied “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your souls and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He then lets the Pharisees know that these two laws were the lodestar for the rest of the commandments.[7]  Jesus made it simple in a world that was complicated by the spiritual leaders of the day; “Love God and Love People.” Despite my leaning toward the academic and the philosophical side of things, I still need to be reminded that the “KISS” method is still the best; KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID! It is hard to imagine what this world would look like if our lodestar was as simple and timeless as “Loving God and Loving People.”

[1] https://theweeklychallenger.com/the-north-star-a-symbol-of-inspiration-and-hope/

[2] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 176

[3] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life, 177

[4] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life, 175

[5] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life, 175

[6] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life, 177

[7] Matthew 22:37-40

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

10 responses to “Lodestar: A Guiding Light”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Thank you for an introduction to the term “loadstar.” I grieve that it seems like sports has been reduced to competition and not the holistic development that Wooden offers through his pyramid.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Shawn, I agree it seems that now college and pro sports are all about the money and glory. Education and character tend to fall to the way side. One of reasons I am a serious Duke fan is I have heard Coach Krzyzewski say more than once in his leaders talks the he teaches his players leadership he just happens to use basketball to do it.

  2. mm Dylan Branson says:

    As great as simplicity is, we tend to dislike it haha. The fancy flourishes make something seem grander than it actually is and distract us from the core principle. I remember an MMA movie I watched back in high school called Never Back Down and there’s a scene during the tournament where this guy flips into the arena and starts doing these crazy break dance moves to show off when the fight starts. As soon as he gets on his feet, his opponent knocks him out with one punch.

    Complicated may get the crowd’s attention, but it rarely holds up to the scrutiny of Simplicity’s one-hit punch.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      I agree. We often forget that character matters. We tend to excuse a lack of personal character in our public leaders and focus on their public performance without realizing they are both connected.

  3. mm John McLarty says:

    Great post Greg! When in your own leadership- at any level- have you been able to apply this principle of focused preparation that enabled your team to perform without much “in-game” coaching or management on your part? How was your process similar and different that Wooten’s? Did you also have a “post-game” process to evaluate and correct?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      John,
      The last 12 years I have been on a solo endeavor in business. When I managed in the pipeline world we placed a heavy emphasis on training and job empowerment. I did very little personal managing during the week. We had an accountability meeting every Friday mornings where we discussed what was accomplished for the week and what each operator was going to accomplish that following week. I also asked what they needed form me to make their week successful. On projects we had daily planning sessions and weekly SWOT meeting to discuss progress and challenges. It is odd, but even though I am a solo business owner without employees I still do monthly SWOT sessions figuring out what is working and what isn’t.

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    My family is currently in the Bay Area for two reasons. (1) We did a house swap with some of our best friends in an effort to change up some of the monotony of the pandemic. (2) My daughter is a competitive swimmer who, because of Oregon’s mandates, hasn’t been able to get in water for 3 months. California pools, being outside, are operating and taking reservations.

    But it’s not just the time in the pool that she was excited about. It was also the early morning one-on-one sessions she’d have with a dear friend of mine who happens to coach Olympic swimmers. He is truly a master.

    This morning, I watched in awe as he isolated one tiny deficiency in my daughter’s technique. He filmed it, viewed it with her, talked it through, and then explained the pivot that, should she make it, could transform her freestyle stroke. It was now up to her to make the pivot and turn it into a habit (repetition, repetition, repetition).

    As I watched her improve with each repetition, I wondered again at the power of coaching when matched with the desire and teachability of the coached. His brilliance was powerless unless embraced and embodied by my daughter.

    While I left this morning’s session inspired by him, it is my daughter teachability that I most want to emulate.

  5. mm Greg Reich says:

    It is amazing when a coach and player can get into to sync. It takes a mutual trust and respect to get top results. Kudos’ to your daughter for her teachability.

  6. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    I love how Wooden was such a student of life. As he honored and honed the character of his players, he brought out the best in them both on and off the court. While I appreciate maintaining a simple North Star in life, such as “Love God and love others,” the reality is there is a piece missing in that phrase which is absolutely key- “..as yourself.” Here is where I think many people struggle. It sounds like Wooden was able to love himself. He knew he was valued and worthy of love and attention, thus was able to give that same love to others. Many people do not have that grounding in life, and thus struggle with the simple “Love God and love others.” As leaders, it is imperative for us to acknowledge and build resiliency in our shame triggers to move to a place of loving ourselves well. We can then love God and others more fully, and consequently “coach” others to do the same.

  7. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Interesting how doing the little things well can turn something into greatness. Perhaps the opposite is the same too, doing the little things poorly…

    How about facing the little mistakes without an intention toward learning? What happens when we face the little mistakes with such intention?

    I suppose it could all be a sweet interweaving somehow. A flow-of-sorts that can be lived into easier than it can be figured out?

    Without fight, is there a chance? Could ‘fight’ have to do with caring?

    Thanks Greg!

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