Coach Jay Wright and the Stonecutter

Tonight was the annual talk by Coach Jay Wright to our business school freshmen. As always, Coach Wright was inspirational, sharing his thoughts on leadership, teamwork, hard work, and positive attitude.

I thought one story he told was particularly powerful, that of the stonecutter. When I came home later I looked to see if I could find the exact story online, and I did.

The story is attributed to Jacob Riis, a Danish-American social reformer, “muckraking” journalist, and social documentary photographer. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City.

Here is the story:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter
hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as
much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last
blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Coach Wright related the story to his basketball players. You might watch a game and see a play perfectly executed. While you might marvel at the beauty of the play at that moment, you also need to realize that getting the play to work perfectly at that moment in time was the result of practicing that play over and over and over again in the gym.

Coach Wright then noted such an attitude is helpful in all aspects of life, not just in basketball. The student who gets a 100 on a test or delivers an outstanding presentation does so as a result of the hard work he or she put in to get to that point.

The stonecutter is a powerful analogy for many situations in life. Very few people get things right the first time or are instant successes. Success is the result of hard work; often done in isolation, far from the adoring crowds. It’s another example of what Seth Godin refers to as drip, drip, drip. If you keep at something long enough, you may eventually achieve what you set out to do.

So thank you, Coach Wright, for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your hard-earned wisdom with our students. They seemed to enjoy the presentation as much as I did.

P.S. One of the great things about these annual talks by Coach Wright is that he will stick around after his presentation for as long as necessary so that students can get a photo with him or have him sign something for them. As you might imagine, there’s quite a line of students waiting for such an opportunity.

Certainly longer than the line of students waiting to get my autograph.

6 thoughts on “Coach Jay Wright and the Stonecutter

  1. Great post Jim. I’m going to share the stone cutter story – ABD your post – with my kids.


    1. Hi Bob,

      Thanks for sharing the Randy Pausch story; The Last Lecture is one of my favorite books. The message is the same from Coach Graham and Coach Wright and Coach Gazowski; success is the result of hard work and having someone who is committed to helping you achieve that success.


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