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The Zen Master Revealed!
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!