Competitive Greatness

Episode 121 is a special edition of The Far Middle as Nick offers insight into the development, growth, goals, and future of the one-of-a-kind CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy. Before diving into the Academy, Nick pays tribute to John Robert Wooden for this installment’s sports dedication.

The “Wizard of Westwood” was not only one of the greatest basketball coaches ever and a Hall-of-Fame player, but also a teacher and mentor to countless student athletes. “He was as much Harvard Business School professor as he was UCLA hoops coach,” says Nick. Wooden’s teaching tools and tactics, such as his Pyramid of Success, not only apply to basketball but business, personal success, and organizational leadership.

The building blocks of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success—from self-control to initiative and from confidence to competitive greatness—are central focus areas of the CNX Mentorship Academy.

Nick proceeds to discuss the Academy’s origins and its aim to assist students from urban and rural economically disadvantaged communities in Western Pennsylvania who don’t intend to pursue a college degree right after high school.

As the Academy is gearing up for its third year and third class, Nick attributes many keys to its success, including partners spanning the building trades, energy industry, manufacturing, hospitality/ travel, real estate, construction, health care, and more. And then there are the mentors, which Nick describes as, “the glue that holds everything together…no mentors, no success, it’s that simple.”

In closing, Nick observes, “I can say without hesitation that every student that enters the Academy, and shows up over the course of the year, they will be in a markedly better place when it comes to life skills, awareness, and confidence than where they were when they came in. It all comes down to how you define success. It’s measured in different ways in this thing we called life, and I wish it were more ideal, but this is how it is.”