Fundamentals - The Building Block of Success

  • Published
  • By Mr. William Lane
  • 421st Air Base Squadron

While innovation and “thinking outside the box” get much of the headlines these days through a focus on process improvements and an array of innovation programs, we must ensure that we remain diligently focused on the basics and fundamentals if we are to have lasting and meaningful success both personally and professionally.

Many years ago, I was fortunate to have played baseball at The Citadel, a very small NCAA Division I school. Despite a student enrollment of less than 2,000, the coach, Chal Port, was able to build a nationally ranked program that competed with far larger programs with better resources and talent. His coaching efforts culminated in a trip to the 1992 College World Series in Omaha and a victory over a perennial powerhouse program that has won four national championships.

Coach Port’s success was due in large part to an almost obsessive focus on the fundamentals. This was repeated on a daily basis through an endless assortment of mundane drills and exercises that seemed completely irrelevant for an elite college-level program. However, upon further examination, it was these mundane drills that resulted in his teams committing far fewer mental errors and mistakes and as result, achieving victory in the close games.

Another stalwart at focusing on the fundamentals was legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach, John Wooden, who amassed 10 national titles in his career and is regarded by many as the greatest coach of all time. A wonderful story that depicts his special emphasis on the fundamentals was his annual ritualistic instruction to his players on how to properly put on their socks and shoes to prevent blisters and avoid missing playing time.

Coach Wooden also developed his timeless Pyramid of Success which outlined fifteen fundamental building blocks or behavioral traits that he viewed as essential to achieving success in athletics and life. The blocks include: Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm, Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness, Condition, Skill, Team Spirit, Poise, Confidence, and Competitive Greatness.

As Air Force leaders, our focus on the fundamentals starts with our Core Values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. These serve as an excellent foundation for everything we do to carry out the Air Force mission and meet our organizational objectives. We must avoid the allure of shortcuts and focus on the little things that will build teamwork, improve efficiency and ensure mission effectiveness. We must stress accountability, improve writing skills, meet suspenses, show up for meetings on time, listen with intent, and build relationships through an active presence throughout your organization. These are but a few of the little things that can have a significant effect on our overall success.