Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion

Image of Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion
Release Date: 
July 12, 2010
Reviewed by: 

There seems to be no end to the number of businessmen, politicians, and coaches who, upon achieving success or some elevated position in their field, write a book claiming to have some insight into successful leadership that they are dying to share with the world. Jack Welch and Jim Collins are relatively contemporary examples from the business world. The sports world is filled with them as well—even Rick Pitino wrote a book entitled Success Is a Choice about 10 years before he made a choice to have sex on a table in a restaurant with someone other than his wife.

It is easy to assume that people in these positions have attempted to capitalize on their good fortune and spin their successes on the field into additional dollars on the speaking circuit. The more one hears about big time college and professional coaches, the easier it is to become a skeptic.

In most cases, it would be better advice to turn to legitimate researchers such as Michael Fullan and pick up his Six Secrets of Change, than to trust that these other books have much to offer. In the case of Pete Carroll’s Win Forever, the results are mixed, but better than one might expect.

Carroll bolted from his position as USC’s head football coach for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks one step ahead of the law. The NCAA has recently hit USC hard with sanctions for violations that occurred under his watch, which he, as one might expect, disputes. So when he claims that he wanted to take his vision that he perfected over 22 years as a college and professional coach back to the NFL to continue to prove that, “If you want to win forever, you must always compete,” enter the inner skeptic.

Books by successful coaches that are geared toward the coaching profession or, more specifically, coaches in their respective sport, tend to be useful, but it usually a major leap to assume that success in their isolated situations can translate into other realms. Carroll wants us to believe that, in this case, it is so.

Carroll states that John Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach was the inspiration for him to develop his own personal vision of success, which in his world is based on competition—not so much against external forces, but rather, against oneself on a daily basis in every single activity of each individual’s life.

Carroll’s philosophy is similarly based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Carroll’s base philosophy is to, “Do things better than they have ever been done before.” His three rules are: 1) Always protect the team; 2) No whining, no complaining, no excuses; and 3) Be early. Upon this the ethos of competition is built with the belief that practice is everything and that ultimate performance comes from “knowing that you’re going to win.”

As he expands on his beliefs, the book is filled with stories from his childhood, playing career, coaching career, and, of course, there is ample name-dropping along the way.

Most of what is contained in Win Forever is rather generic, and in some cases, cliché in nature. Often, it is difficult to tell if this is supposed to be a leadership book or an autobiography, and the book might have been strengthened if the lines in this regard were clearer. It seems as if Carroll’s ego gets in the way a few too many times for the reader to internalize his main message.

The message itself is actually better than one might anticipate; however, most of Win Forever is simply a system of organizing and articulating ground that has already been covered. On this point, it is important to point out that Carroll is adamant that many successful people have a vision, and that those who can articulate theirs are ultimately even more successful. To him, this is a critical factor in achievement. Admittedly, the book inspires reflection and thought on one’s professional and personal life.

Carroll is extremely consistent with his philosophy throughout the book. Chapter 13, “Coaches are Teachers,” is very good. In this chapter, he discusses the importance of knowing your learners (players). Other pieces of advice, such as in Chapter 12, “ Coach Your Coaches,” in which he gladly wants people to move on and be successful and personally fulfilled, is another example in which his advice is clearly dead-on. There are several other nuggets sprinkled throughout.

The primary reason USC won as much as it did under Carroll probably has more to do with the fact that they had better players than everybody else than anything contained in this book; however, it is hard to argue that he was just the right person at the right time for that job. Stay tuned to see if it is so in Seattle.