Phil Jackson has won more NBA Championships than any other coach in the history of the game; 11. As a player, he won his first two rings with the NY Knicks. He holds the NBA record for most combined championships as a head coach and player. This man is a winner.

I always thought, and perhaps you felt the same, that Phil was handed these rings on a silver platter because he had a stable of some of the greatest players of all time. Michael, Scottie Pippen and company during the dynasty bull run from 1989-1998 as the Chicago Bulls racked up six rings. Then again with the Los Angeles Lakers, taking home five rings from 2000-2010 with Kobe and Shaq at the helm.

After listening to “11 Rings” I can tell you unequivocally:

Those 11 rings were no slam dunk.

Just because you have superstars doesn’t mean you can get them all moving in the same direction. Phil had to figure a way to tap into each player to think team ball vs. me ball.

Jackson leveraged Ted Winter’s triangle offense to keep the defense off balance and always guessing. In addition, he used unorthodox eastern philosophy teachings discovered in the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig to shape his coaching methodology.

As I was listening to the audio book version of his book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success,” in the car going back and forth from yoga, numerous runs to Wegmans, and networking meetings, I almost stopped listening  after the first two of nine CD’s.

I thought Phil wrote more about X’s and O’s, draft picks, and back office politics (though I did enjoy the few stories of Kim Jong-un fave Dennis Rodman) vs.  more of the -Zen Master- insights I was hoping for. He sparingly and repeatedly discusses his eastern philosophy and team development, having you wanting more.

In spite of all that, I listened to the entire audio book. In fact, at some point down the road, I’ll listen to it again. Ya, it’s that good, in my opinion.

Here are the first 10 of 20 favorite excerpts and quotes (I’ll cover 11-20 next week) from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success followed by my italicized comments:

  1. It takes a number of critical factors to win an NBA championship, including the right mix of talent, creativity, intelligence, toughness, and, of course, luck.  But if a team doesn’t have the most essential ingredient — love — none of those other factors matter.

One of the five practices of exemplary leaders from Kouzes and Posner’s best selling book “The Leadership Challenge” is Encourage the Heart. (End Game Business is a certified facilitator of The Leadership Challenge workshop.)


2.  The key to sustained success is to keep growing as a team.  Winning is about moving into the unknown and creating something new.

Are you the type that waits for everything to be perfect? Stretch outside your comfort zone and you’ll experience sustainable change.


3.  In basketball, statisticians count when players make assists, or passes that lead to scores.  But I’ve always been more interested on having players focus on the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the score.

Phil got Michael Jordan to understand if he wanted to win championships, he couldn’t take the overwhelming majority of the shots. He needed to move the ball around and get the entire team engaged in the process.


4.  At its heart, mindfulness is about being present in the moment as much as possible, not weighed down by thoughts of the past or the future.

Mindfulness is riding a huge wave in today’s personal development arena. You need to get to a place where you’re completely focused and in the flow.


5.  When I’m hiring coaches, my strategy is to surround myself with the strongest, most knowledgeable people I can find and give them a lot of room to express themselves.

It takes a strong leader to hire the best and let them sink or swim. The best leaders enable others to act.


6.  The most effective approach is to delegate authority as much as possible and to nurture everyone else’s leadership skills as well.

When a leader truly cares about the team members development, they’ll run through walls to get the job done.


7.  When the mind is allowed to relax, inspiration often follows.

We live in a multitask world; constantly looking for, waiting for, or anticipating information. How is that healthy?


8.  Though mindfulness meditation has its roots in Buddhism, it’s an easily accessible technique for quieting the restless mind and focusing attention on whatever is happening in the present moment.

Simply meditate with your eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes and focus on the breath. Stress be gone.


9.  I always tried to give each player the freedom to carve out a role for himself within the team structure.

When a player finds what makes them valuable to the team, you’ve tapped a hidden motivator that’s invaluable to success.


10.  If you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves.

One way leaders do this is by modeling the way.

Next week we’ll follow up with excerpts 11 – 20.

Photo compliments of Steve Johnson.









Photo by  Ursula Le Guin Photography

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