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on May 21, 2013
11 Rings: The Soul of Success is Phil Jackson's newest book and an interesting look inside the mind of one of the greatest American professional sports coaches in history. The entire book is filled with interesting quotes, historical and personal examples, relevent analogies concerning his theories on coaching, leadership, and teamwork. I find Jackson's mind to be very fascinating, and in a way, much less organized than John Wooden's more disciplined approach to life, leadership and coaching. I am reminded of the differences between an artist and an engineer, if I was generalizing.

There are a few points I found most interesting. Jackson discusses the limited similarities between part of a winning sports team and part of a tight-knit military unit. He also discusses the difference between championship teams and less successful teams, and even the variences between championship teams he has coached or played for. Since I have had the privilege of living both experiences (not at the professional sports level), I found the comparisons and contrasts effective. He rightly points out that playing basketball is not the same as being willing to smother a live grenade to save a comrade's life, but that the best teams, in any walk of life, develop trust and love for each other. Their ability to perform at the highest levels goes beyond purely technical skill or physical talent and approaches the spiritual.

Jackson talks frequently about Kobe Bryant and there are some comparisons to him and Michael Jordan made in the book. I found all of the comments Jackson makes about the many players he's coached to be interesting because he recognizes each had particular challenges and gifts, as do we all. How he helped individual players, and the teams, to overcome their challenges and successfully utilize their individual and collective gifts was insightful and a demonstration of his genius at people skills.

The last point I want to share is that I feel Phil Jackson often gets unfairly criticized because he won championships while having all-world talent on each championship team. Any coach would like to have Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant play on the roster. It takes talent to win-both playing and coaching. All of those players played for other coaches who didn't win championships while they were teamed up. Phil Jackson repeatedly brings home the lessons of team chemistry, motivation, maximizing an individual's talents, human relationships and a myriad of other "soft-skills" which are difficult for some people to accept as the other reasons for his success. It wasn't just about having the best players. John Wooden, Pat Riley, Red Aurbach and Phil Jackson were successful because they knew how to develop and utilize the talent of their players to become champions. Jackson shares insights on how he was able to help great players become part of great teams.

11 Rings will read like Phil Jackson's other books, so if you liked them, you will most likely enjoy this one. I believe he merits discussion as being the greatest basketball coach in history, if that means much to you. Certainly, anyone who reads 11 Rings and is a basketball fan will find some nuggets here. Likewise, anyone who is interested in building family, teamwork, people skills or leadership skills can read 11 Rings and find some useful lessons and interesting insights.

11 Rings is quite good, but not a significant or innovative contribution to literature. Because of the organization of Jackson's thoughts and the similarity to his previous books, I believe this rates 4 stars. Enjoy!
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on June 13, 2013
As a mom who spent 12+ years watching my daughter play volleyball, basketball, and throw discus/shot put, I have seen my share of coaching styles. Some were awesome, some should have been fired, one was fired. Throughout it all, I always knew it could be more humane and motivating without the degrading, intimidating, and negative approach many coaches used. I always loved watching Phil Jackson coach the Bulls and read some about his coaching style at the time. But his book has great information that can be applied to any job, including parenting. Clearly, championships can be won while coaching a team respectfully and influencing them not just as a player, but as a human being. Every coach, teacher, camp counselor, parent would learn from this book. All athletes/children of those who do, will benefit greatly. I bought it for my Kindle, but just bought it in hardback too, as I want to highlight some parts and get all the book referrals he includes.
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on May 26, 2013
I love this book. It's a perfect storm in reverse: every good thing about it is enhanced by all the other good things that surround it.

For a lifelong basketball fan with a deep interest in spiritual practice, creative improvisation, managing talent, and eliciting outstanding performance, it's a heady mix.

The book backfills my memory of the great games I still replay in my mind, going back to a limping Willis's unforgettable two shots in the final game against the Lakers in 1970. But it is more than an intimate history of the game from a brilliant analyst. You get to follow the growth of players like Jordan, Pippin, and Bryant, people who were great to start with, as they into something beyond mere skill and athleticism. You understand the delicacy with which Jackson handled someone as flamboyant and ornery as Rodman, successfully converting his eccentricities into consistent contributions at the highest level.

But the book is also a toolbox filled with brilliant how-tos: How to fuse gifted individuals into what Jackson calls a "tribe;" How to instill confidence and independence in fragile egos; how to elicit consistently great performance from every member of the team, from the stars to the role players coming off the bench; how to manage "the elephant," (i.e. Jerry Krause). There are even simple but effective instructions in Zen Meditation.

Eleven Rings is a lucid exposition of the ways it is still possible to function originally, creatively, and responsibly, while working with others. He reminds me of Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson in that respect. Both were filmmakers with a religious dimension, who were known for their creative collaborations. But they worked at one remove from the commercial mainstream. Jackson seems to have succeeded under the glare of the bright lights and the pressure of the big bucks.
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on May 22, 2013
I pre-ordered the book and received it on the 21st of May. This is a side of Phil Jackson I didn't know existed, I knew about the Zen side of what was reported by the media, but I was especially pleased he shared some minor intimate things about his childhood and the players he coached. He even leaked out a few methods he's used to coach at a high level.

I feel he was as transparent as he could have been and related the essence of his winning formula in a way that was simple and practical. Great read!

If coach Jackson happens to read this review, I want to say thanks for not putting superficial stuff in the book and adding depth to the manuscript.

Very much appreciated!
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on August 6, 2013
Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success was just the right book for me to read. Two of my passions are learning about spirituality and following professional sports. Long time NBA coach Phil Jackson discusses both these topics in depth in his new autobiography, giving a behind the scenes look at Jackson's eleven nba championship teams.

On the basketball side, I enjoyed reading stories of Jackson's rise from a high school basketball player in North Dakota to the NBA's New York Knicks, and his coaching stints with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He tells stories of the star players he mentors, such as the Lakers Kobe Bryant. "When I'd first arrived in L.A., I'd encouraged Kobe to spend time with his teammates instead of hiding out in his hotel room studying videotape," Jackson recalls. "But he'd scoffed at the idea, claiming that all those guys were interested in were cars and women. (Soon) he was making an effort to connect more closely with his teammates and figure out how to forge them into a more cohesive team."

Having long been a fan of NBA basketball I found Jackson's anecdotes about different high profile stars fascinating. In addition to Bryant, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, Dennis Rodman and other players on Jackson's teams are profiled in the book. Jackson's love of the game comes through. "Some coaches are obsessed with winning trophies; others like to see their faces on TV," he writes. "What moves me is watching young men bond together and tap into the magic that arises when they focus--with their whole heart and soul--on something greater than themselves. Once you've experienced that, it's something you never forget."

Equally intriguing was Jackson's spiritual journey. His mother and father were Pentecostal Christian ministers, a path Jackson almost followed himself. He was initially reluctant to play for the Knicks as he wanted to go to graduate school to become a pastor. Jackson's transformation from fundamentalist Christian to Zen Buddhist is described in detail in Eleven Rings. "I am anti lemming by nature. It goes back to my childhood, when I was force-fed religious dogma by my parents," he writes. "I was expected to think and behave in a rigidly prescribed manner. As an adult, I've tried to break free from that early conditioning and develop a more open-minded, personally meaningful way of being in the world."

How Jackson applies his spirituality to the ego driven, competitive world of the NBA comes across in page after page in the book. "For a long time, I believed I had to keep my personal beliefs separate from my professional life," he recalls. "In my quest to come to terms with my own spiritual yearning, I experimented with a wide range of ideas and practices, from Christian mysticism to Zen meditation and Native American rituals. Eventually, I arrived at a synthesis that felt authentic to me. And though at first I worried that my players might find my unorthodox views a little wacky, as time went by I discovered that the more I spoke from the heart, the more the players could hear me and benefit from what I'd gleaned." He teaches his Bulls team mindfulness meditation and gives players books to read to aid in their spiritual development. He even describes his basketball strategies in spiritual terms, calling his unique triangle offense "five-man tai chi".

If you are a fan of NBA basketball, you'll love Eleven Rings for Jackson's insights into the game. The book is equally valuable in profiling the coach as a highly successful professional living his spirituality in everyday life.
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on June 8, 2013
I truly enjoyed this book. The stories, the insight, the journeys and battles. There is message about how even the greatest figures in their craft have a long journey of ups and downs to get to the great victories. How we understand and manage ourselves is a big part. Our relationships with others on an individual basis are critically important to getting things done as a group. Leadership by letting go.
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on July 10, 2013
Phil Jackson's memoir of his life as a basketball coach at the highest level doesn't have a single boring page. There are not many nonfiction books that I've happily read in long stretches, in competition with a good mystery by Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, or Michael Connelly. This is such a book.

It is not only hugely entertaining - it is tremendously and engrossingly revealing. What in the world did Jackson do to meld teams with superstars such as Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Bryant, and O'Neal into bands of warrior-brothers, instead of the usual dysfunctional preening and sulking daddy-bought flash mobs of delicate entitled egos?

Jackson reveals, in his amazingly deep and relaxed, natural narrative, how it was done. It is inspiring - because it reveals with stunning clarity how expansive values are the best foundation for success in all fields, and not just NBA basketball. This book deserves to be place reverently on the shelf next to John Wooden's My Personal Best and Wooden on Leadership.

It is an important book. The world has entered an age of energy awareness (all the major inventions of the last 100 years have been about energy). In sports, wise use of energy (including human energy resources) is emerging as a foundation for highest success. In the NFL, Bill Walsh led the way. In the NBA, Jackson is the pioneer, showing how the game can rise above the soul- and sport-destroying obsession with money and ego to demonstrate that joy and success can be found in the same place.
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on June 28, 2014
This book has a "ghost written" feel to it. 70% of the book is just a recap of the Bulls and Lakers playoff and championship games- boring. Jackson's first book "sacred hoops" is much better. When reading this book I did wonder about why if Jackson is so "zen - like" he cannot apply these principles to his marriage(s). The book left me coming away that it was basically a " look at how cool I am " statement by Jackson with a few cool Zen quotes thrown in. If you want a playoff run recap from the glory days- this is your book. But if you looking for a Zen reading, save your coins and just buy " Not always so" on amazon- you will be happier - and more at peace :)
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on January 29, 2014
I am a huge Bulls fan, so naturally, I have great respect for Phil Jackson. I've read a few of his other books and have mostly enjoyed his wisdom and writing style. However, this book ended up reading more like a series of news articles -- especially the seasons with the Lakers. If I wanted a summary of those seasons, I could have gone to Wikipedia. There is a decent amount of personal insight in this book, but not nearly enough.
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on June 26, 2014
I never really cared for Phil Jackson before. I always respected him, especially cause he coached Michael Jordan and won all those rings with the Bulls and Lakers as a coach. After I read this book, my respect for him grew soo much!! Phil Jackson is an amazing human being and the way he wrote the book was easy to understand even if you don't know much about basketball or even care for it. What i love most about the book, is the life lessons you can take away. Even if you don't like basketball or aren't into sports that much, get this book and read it!!!
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