Wooden Wednesdays: Industriousness

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

John Wooden made INDUSTRIOUSNESS the first cornerstone of his Pyramid of Success.

Call it hard work if you want, but “work” in Wooden’s mind had lost its meaning by the time he completed the Pyramid in 1948. For too many, work means the routine exertion of assembly-line jobs, assembly-line education. Mindless labor.

Wooden defines industriousness as high-capacity work: engaged, focused, absorbed. He writes “You can work without industriousness, but there is no industriousness without work.”

We might define it as “mindful work” rather than “mindless work.”

Industriousness is indeed a cornerstone of success in the choral classroom just as completely as on the basketball court. It is our challenge to cultivate this industriousness – a pervasive work ethic – in the face of an industrial education system that increasingly rewards mindless work.

How many times have you been in a choral rehearsal that hums along with no significant progress being made? That is work without industriousness. On the other hand, can you remember a rehearsal where everyone is eager to continue, to get better? I watched a tenor 1 sectional last week that defined mindful work: all four singers engaged and eager to address issues and make improvements as a team. This is industriousness.

The ways to develop industriousness in your students are as clear as they are challenging:

EXAMPLE: Let them see your industriousness in preparation for rehearsal, in your energy during rehearsal, and in the way you behave between rehearsals.

EXPECTATIONS: Be clear in rewarding industriousness and in not accepting mindless labor during your choral rehearsal.

EXPLANATION: Communicate with your students about industriousness, about how it feels, what it looks like, and why it’s important.

I agree with John Wooden that mindful work–INDUSTRIOUSNESS–is at the heart of success. As my own mentor Steve Zegree often said:

The shortcut to success is hard work.