(As published in Technica Magazine™, October 2014)
History is full of myths and legends about fantastic quests. Usually there’s a tangible treasure at the end, like Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, or the many quests in search of the Holy Grail. Even Rama’s quest for Sita in the Hindu epic Ramayana has at its end the treasure of true love.
More often than not, however, the prize that the hero seeks is symbolic of some form of enlightenment that provides a key to a greater understanding of the human condition – and of oneself.
But the true treasure at the end of any worthwhile quest is the realization that the quest itself – the challenges overcome, the relationships established, the knowledge gained along way, especially that knowledge that resulted from stumbles and defeats – is perhaps the most important prize of all.
That’s why legendary UCLA basketball coach - turned - philosopher, John R. Wooden, placed the block labeled ‘competitive greatness’ at the top of his iconic Pyramid of Success. Developed and refined over 50 years as a visual guide to convey his ideas about personal development and success to his students and players, the Pyramid is composed of many such building blocks. Industriousness, enthusiasm, skill, team spirit, initiative and self control are among the many lower blocks.
Competitive greatness is the point on the pyramid where all of the other blocks converge. It’s what’s required in those moments when everything ever learned and experienced must be applied.
Wooden chose to cap the pyramid with competitive greatness to drive home the point that this culminating principle can not be supported by a foundation of air. It comes only at the end of a long building process – at the end of a quest. In Wooden’s case, the quest to build his students and players into winners at basketball, and at life.
Those who try to compete for a prize without dedicating themselves to the mastery of the fundamentals required by their chosen field of endeavor – their quest – will find the same difficulty that a builder does were he to attempt to construct a penthouse before the lower floors have been built.
Heroes both fictional and real have endured in the human psyche for as long as stories have been told. We celebrate them as much for the completion of a quest as we do for embarking on the quest in the first place.
Technica Magazine is proud to feature the student and professional award winners that will be honored at Great Minds in STEM’s 2014 HENAAC Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. They are the heroes in their own quests, and role models for our community, and for our country.