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Success is a Choice

By Rick Pitino w/ Bill Reynolds

The book that I read is about a great coach, and an unbelievable motivator, Rick Pitino. Pitino is most remembered for his incredible years as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. In 1996 he led them to a national championship and in 1997 he led them to the final round. After that year he decided that he was going to make the jump to the professional basketball league, and to coach one of the greatest organizations in the history of basketball, the Boston Celtics. Pitino is married and has a child and currently lives in Boston, Mass. Over his years as coach he has sent numerous players into the NBA and what he is even prouder of is the fact that he sent them prepared into the game of life.

To identify just four ideas is impossible, being that the book itself is based on what he calls the ten steps to overachieving in business and in life. The ten steps are:

1) Build your self- esteem

2) Set demanding goals

3) Always be positive

4) Establish good habits

5) Master the at of communicating

6) Learn from good role models

7) Thrive on pressure

8) Be ferociously persistent

9) Learn from adversity

10) Survive your own success

Building your self-esteem is the first step to achieving. The first part that you must remember is that you are in control. You are the one that will be deciding how good you are, or if you deserve to win. He talks about one of the first players that he coached in college and how he blamed his lack of success on every other reason except the fact that he wasn’t working hard enough. Remember, first you must have the reason for your high self esteem before you can show it. You have control over what you are going to accomplish, everybody has doubts about how good they are, that is just simply how life is. You must also remember that you can build your self-esteem at any level, it is never too late to accomplish your goals.

The next part is to set demanding goals. What you must remember is that you are setting your goals, not getting ready for a genie to pop out of a lamp. If you just went 0-22, do not set your goal to win the national championship; instead set your goal to achieve a .500 season. According to Pitino, you have two types of goals, behavior changing goals, and level goals. Your behavior changing goals is a personal goal, this is when you frame a personal weakness and try to frame your goals around fixing them. The other is just your goal that will lead to your dream. These are short-term goals that lead into each other. He also reminds us not to set your goals to low. If you reach your goal too easily, you become lazy. He says not to set goals and not try to achieve them, because “Hard work is not fun”.

Next is a fault that I have, Always be positive. He explains that if you are not positive, you can not achieve the goals that you have set. You must discipline yourself to be positive. “We can control our moods” he explains that if you believe that you are mad you will be mad, and the same with being positive. If you always look at the glass as half full then you will always have more to take from it. Next he says is to cut loose all the disruptive people around you, they will be the ones that drag you into the abyss that is failure. You must just remember to be positive even in the worst times. This he says is accomplished by living in the present. Most of your anxiety is from the past or the future, if you live in the present then you can feel safer.

Next is to establish good habits. This is probably one of the most important items that he talks about. He says that a structured, controlled day is the key to success. The keys are to do your unpleasant chores first, just to get them out of the way. Next is to keep yourself ready for success. Keep yourself ready for that next first impression. Lastly, “do your homework. Your competitor is”.

The art of communication, without it you will have no success. You must remember that sometime, your goals are not those of the person that you are talking to, you must explain your goals thoroughly. Explain what you want and need from the player you are talking to. Then you must be able to verbally confront your problems as soon as they arise. Confront them properly, because most problems between two people either are do to misunderstanding or if you react poorly, can lead to many more problems. Remember that even if you are the boss, nobody responds well to “because I told you so”. You must properly reinforce the behavior that you want.

Learn from good role models. You want the people that can show you the way to achieve your goals. You want somebody that can help you to make up for your lack of experiences. You need somebody whose traits you can hopefully mimic, and his or her mistakes you can stay away from. Take advantage of the fact that there is somebody that attempted what you are doing. Have them show you what is right and wrong.

You must have the ability to thrive on pressure. Enjoy when you are in the big time situation. Focus on the situation before hand so that you are ready for them when they occur. Become so focused at what you are doing that you have put the most pressure on yourself. When you are the pressure situation is when you have the ability to accomplish the outstanding. “Pressure is only a negative if you let it be”.

The key to life is persistence. He uses the terms “poor, hungry, and driven”. These are the keys. You must want to be at the level you want. If you work hard, it is harder to give up. The most important part is to eliminate the word quit from your vocabulary. “People who won’t quit, don’t”

He then explains how you must learn from adversity. First you must accept responsibility for your failure, and then you must ready yourself or next time. He says that you must remember to stick to your fundamentals and always have faith in your vision. It is the means you have taken, not the goal itself that has gone wrong. Do what you feel you must to put he bad behind you, and keep working on the next step.

The final step, the tenth step, is the surviving of success. You need to remember there is no end point. You need to continue your success to become truly successful. Your goal is to fix what went wrong, because nothing and nobody is ever perfect. “If your not getting better, you’re getting worse”.

I have been a long time fan and believer in the Rick Pitino style of coaching, but until I read this book I didn’t fully understand it. I believe that his ten-step method is the best style of coaching that there is. His detailed, step by step, way of achieving the success that you strive for. My leadership style has just grown ten times. When I have thought about how successful people end up that way, I believed that it was some in depth, impossible way of life. After reading this book, I now know that it is just ten easy steps. The problems that I have always had in my leadership style have been dealt with thoroughly in this book. First I have never been the most positive person on the team. According to Pitino, that is easily changed. All you need to do is remember that you control your mood, even If the team you have isn’t the best team in the world, anybody can be great if they are just motivated correctly.

The next idea that he has changed of mine is the idea of role models. I have always been the one to choose a great superstar as a role model, but they are not the people that I plan to mimic my life after. I need to find somebody that is doing something at the level that I want to achieve in the field that I want to enter, that person is the role model that I need.

The last major problem that I have always had, that he dealt with, is the establishment of good habits. I have never been the person finishing my work more than two days early. I hate to wake up early. I dread doing the bad, or boring things. I am a terrible procrastinator and most of the time I am not organized in any way. This chapter explained a lot to me. It showed me how his teams organization and overall good habits have made them all winners.

I would recommend this book to everybody that wants to succeed. The breakdown of what you need to do is great. It gives you the ways that he has succeeded and what you need to do to be like him. The best part of this book is that it is not directed at the person that is trying to succeed as a coach, but it gives you little stories on how to succeed in the business world as well as in life. This book will appeal more to a basketball fan, but I would definitely recommend it to someone that has liking towards basketball in any way. The only thing that you need to be a fan of to enjoy this book is success.

I can not say that I learned only one lesson from this book, but I have found my new style of leadership. This book is a leadership bible. I have learned that success is truly a choice, if you want to succeed at anything all you need to do is work hard at it and it is accomplishable. You need to ready yourself for all the possible actions that may occur. To be a great coach or leader you need to do your work, because your opponent is and they are always a step ahead. This book was outstanding and the only thing that I want to do now is to read it again incase I missed anything the first time.


For the truth is, we control our life. We control how lucky we are. We create our fortune with our effort.

We alone have the power.

- Rick Pitino

There are no days off in life.

-Jim O’Brien (Asst. Coach)

A man is a hero, not because he is braver than anyone else, But because he is brave for ten minute longer

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are not getting better you are almost certainly getting worse.

- Rick Pitino

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