Wooden Wednesdays: Confidence

Note: this is the fourteenth of a series of posts investigating the leadership style of John Wooden and its applicability to choral music education.

John Wooden has only two blocks in the tier below the peak of his Pyramid of Success. The first was POISEThe second is CONFIDENCE.

Wooden says, “There is no stronger steel than well-founded belief in yourself; the knowledge that your preparation is fully complete and that you are ready for the competition.

“Confidence cannot be grafted on artificially. True abiding confidence is earned through tenaciously pursuing and attaining those assets that allow you to reach your own level of competency; that is, excellence.”

As with poise, this is part of the reflective portion of the pyramid: this block is knowing the work in the blocks below is secure, and entering new experiences with the knowledge that your preparation will serve you well.

Again like poise, the best way to achieve confidence is to build the more actionable skills below, and to experience how your preparation carries you to success.


As teachers, we can encourage confidence by maintaining the long-view and, when possible, reminding our students of the progress they’ve made. We can put our students into situations where they can succeed, thereby building confidence. Most important, though, is to help our students build concrete skills, and then deploy them successfully.

One caveat: confidence has an evil twin.

Wooden says, “You must monitor Confidence because it can easily turn into arrogance which then can lead to the mistaken and destructive belief that previous achievement will be repeated without the same hard effort that brought it about in the first place.”


There are no shortcuts to consistent success, and there are far too many examples of lightning-strike success being unrepeatable. Part of the reason is first successes leading to arrogance instead of confidence. It takes as much effort to prepare for the spring concert as it does for the fall concert – and while we want our students to have more confidence at the end of the year, we do not want them to mistake that for no longer needing to work hard.

Confidence is needed for consistent performance at the highest levels–whether in music, athletics, mathematics, or business–and we must actively work to give our students that confidence, ideally in this formation:

“I have my confidence in my ability to achieve ______ because of the hard work I have done to prepare myself.”

Associate confidence with hard work, and then earn it.