Never Despise Small Beginnings


He is considered by some to be the best college coach ever.

His basketball teams won an unprecedented 10 NCAA national championships, including an unmatched 88-game win streak. ESPN named him, "Coach of the Century." He is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. His name is synonymous with excellence, integrity, and leadership.

In light of that resume, it is interesting to read what John Wooden thought about himself as a potential leader:

I was so bashful as a young man that you would never have picked me as a future coach, a leader, who could stand in front of strong-willed, independent-minded individuals and tell them what to do--and how to do it.1

The man who would become the Wizard of Westwood, "officially became "Coach" Wooden on Monday afternoon, September 5, 1932 . . . at Dayton High School in Kentucky. [He] was 21, married a month, and recently graduated from Purdue University with a major in English and a minor in poetry."2

Never despise small beginnings!

But that is hard to do isn't it? Did Neil Armstrong's mom ever dream that her toddler's first steps would lead to a walk on the moon? Did anyone in Abraham Lincoln's life look past the farmhouse to the White House? Did any neighbors envision that Steve, the 21-year-old kid tinkering in the family garage, would one day lead a multi-billion dollar company called Apple?

It is easy to fixate on what is and miss what can be. That's where Eliab went wrong. Eliab, the oldest of Jesse's sons, was irritated when his "little brother" David paid a visit to the battle lines. Israel was toe-to-toe with the Philistines and Goliath,  their giant of a leader. When David took issue with Goliath, Eliab took issue with David:

And David said to the men who stood by him, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" And the people answered him in the same way, "So shall it be done to the man who kills him." Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, "Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle." 1 Samuel 17:26-28 ESV

Eliab saw a brash young man, just an insignificant shepherd with "those few sheep." God saw a bold warrior and the future shepherd-king over Israel, His flock.

What is your attitude toward the "emerging leaders" around you? Is there someone God has placed in your path that gets under your skin, or that just has a long way to go? Ask God to help you look past where they are today to what they can be tomorrow.

God may not be using you to nurture a Wooden or a David . . . but then again, He might! Never despise small beginnings!

Here are three previous posts that may help you in the process:

  • Change takes time. Click here for a short lesson from Jonathan Edwards.
  • Change takes persistence. Click here for a reminder from Jim Collins about "overnight success stories."
  • Change takes wiping out Stinkin' Thinking! Click here for a great story on tattoos of the mind.


1 John Wooden and Steve Jamison, Wooden On Leadership: How To Create A Winning Organization, page 4.

2 Wooden and Jamison, Wooden On Leadership, page 3.