7 Life Lessons for Success I Learned from John Wooden, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, and Other Mentors in My Life

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s journey from Catholic schoolboy to world-class athlete, social activist and best-selling author was guided by a series of well-meaning mentors. Based on Kareem’s newest autobiography, Becoming Kareem, this exciting and poignant multimedia spectacle showcases Kareem’s top 7 mentors and the most important lessons he learned from each. In some cases, the lessons learned were not the ones intended but were a reaction to what Kareem saw as a flaw in the teaching.
From the schoolyard to the basketball court to the streets of America’s civil rights marches to the stages of Hollywood, we invite you to sit back, watch, listen and learn from the moments that have inspired one man’s incredible journey.


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Kareem’s 7 Learned Lessons for Success


“The Love You Get”

Lesson: The loneliness of being the Good Boy.

Meaning: My parents brought me up to be respectful to authority, whether the authority of the government, society, or the Catholic schools. I tried to live up to those expectations, but soon discovered that the world outside, especially regarding the civil rights movement, made that impossible.

2Jack Donahue

“Blood, Sweat, and Tears”

Lesson: When you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.

Meaning: This old Buddhist saying isn’t as shocking as it sounds. It means that there comes a time when we can no longer follow teachers blindly but have to choose our own paths, even if it means going against their advice. We have to know when to be our own teachers. Coach Donahue taught me a lot about basketball and teamwork. My own parents trusted him with choosing my college. But when he called me the n-word in an effort to motivate me, I realized that I could no longer blindly trust any coach or teacher.

3Wilt Chamberlain

“Too Big to Fail”

Lesson: The Good Life wasn’t good enough.

Meaning: Wilt showed me all the perks of success, from fancy cars, trendy nightclubs, and gorgeous women. While I certainly enjoyed being included in these revels, I came to realize that these pleasures weren’t fulfilling. I needed to use my success not just for selfish gain, but to help the rest of the community.

4Martin Luther King, Jr

“Breaking the Silence”

Lesson: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Meaning: Meeting MLK during the press conference was like finding the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle that was me. I knew Wilt’s lifestyle wasn’t the life I wanted. Hearing Dr. King speak of our need speak out about injustice made me realize what I wanted, and needed, to do. MLK said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That was the message I would spread.

5John Wooden

“The Man of a Million Quotes”

Lesson: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Meaning: One of the main reasons we were so successful was Coach Wooden’s insistence in building our stamina. He was determined that when other teams would become tired, we would still be running at 100 percent and thereby capitalize on their fatigue. We soon began to realize that this lesson extended to other aspects of the game, and not just the game, but of our daily lives.

6Bruce Lee

“Master of Adaptation”

Lesson: Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.

Meaning: Although Bruce was well-versed in many traditional martial arts, his genius was in using all of them to create a practical form of martial arts. Instead of the person adapting to art, he made the art adapt to the individual. Each person was encouraged to find their strengths and capitalize on that rather than focus on their weaknesses. This lesson became useful in everything I did, from sports to business to writing.

7Muhammad Ali

“Champion for the People”

Lesson: It’s not enough to be champion of the people, you must be champion for the people.

Meaning: Ali was a man of little education who taught the world what it meant to be a fighter, both in the ring and out. He became world champion on his terms, and he set about to change the world on those same terms. He taught me to stick with my moral convictions, no matter what the financial cost. That lesson guided me when I turned pro and chose my first team, even though it cost me millions of dollars.

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Tour Dates

Sunset Cultural Center, Carmel, CA

March 9, 2019

Contact: (831) 620-2048 or boxoffice@sunsetcenter.org

Tickets: Tickets available now.


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