Fun Friday: John Wooden’s advice on threats

A friend of mine sent this excerpt from legendary basketball coach John Wooden’s book, ‘On Leadership’. When John Wooden was coach for the UCLA basketball team, he never specified what his penalties were for any misconduct. He used this fictional story to explain why:

“A cowboy hitches his horse outside the local saloon, goes in, and orders a cold mug of beer. When he’s finished drinking it, he goes back outside, but his faithful horse is nowhere to be seen. The cowboy stomps back into the bar, slams his fists on the counter, and yells, “Somebody in here took my horse. Now, I’m going to order another cold mug of beer. When I’m through drinking it, I’m going to slowly walk back outside. I would strongly suggest whoever took my horse bring it back and hitch it to the hitching post. Otherwise, I’m gonna do what I did down in Texas – exactly the same thing as I did down in Texas.”

Image Source

The cowboy orders another mug of beer, drinks it, and walks outside. Sure enough, his horse is at the hitching post. As he prepares to ride away, the bartender comes running out asks, “Say, fella that was very impressive. But I’ve got to ask ya, “What did you do down in Texas when they took your horse?'” The cowboy looks down at the bartender and says, “I walked home.”

John Wooden said that individuals who knew exactly what the penalty was for a particular act could subconsciously measure the risk against the reward. That person may decide the risk was worth it. Those under Wooden’s leadership didn’t know the penalties they would face, like the cowboys in the story. They feared the unknown more than the known as they couldn’t determine if the risk was worth the reward of breaking the rules.


I found this story hilarious and I agree fully on the use of threats. They may work once or twice but over a long period, they generally don’t. I feel respect works better than fear.

What do you folks think? I’m especially interested to here from the parents who have the tough job of disciplining a kid.. :-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s