Are you willing to tend sheep?
Perhaps the most common Biblical story in the sports world is that of David and Goliath. The young shepherd boy defeats mighty Goliath and eventually becomes king of Israel. It’s the quintessential Cinderella story.
David, the underdog, seems to come out of nowhere to defeat the superior Goliath…but the backdrop to the battle is that David spent his life preparing for that moment. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book and makes a compelling argument in this Ted Talk that David, in fact, had the advantage over Goliath. David was a young man of faith, but he was also trained, confident and ready to take on the challenge. As a shepherd, he’d already fought off lions and bears to protect his sheep.
What fascinates me more than David having an advantage over Goliath is what put him in the battle in the first place. We all want the opportunity to do something great, but oftentimes it means doing years of ‘dirty work’ to even have the chance. Long before David took up Goliath’s challenge, he was anointed King of Israel — but he didn’t go straight to the palace; he spent years in the pasture. It makes me wonder, “Am I willing to tend sheep?”
Furthermore, David wasn’t even in the army when he faced Goliath. He was on an errand for his father bringing food to his brothers in the army. It makes me think, “Am I willing to serve in humble ways?”
I’ve helped teach many young kids the game of basketball. They all want to shoot 3’s, and thanks to Steph Curry, shoot deep 3’s. I think it’s great! It’s fun, motivating and challenging to emulate the best — but the kids that develop into great shooters are those that are willing to do the simple and mundane drills. And they must do those drills consistently for thousands of reps. It takes humility, years of hard work, loads of resilience and dogged persistence to master any craft.
Greatness is available to any of us if we are willing to submit ourselves to the process. Like David, I want to hold onto the promises of something greater, while humbly serving and embracing right where I am. I’m learning that little things don’t just lead to bigger opportunities; little things are the opportunity.
Nick Nurse just won a ring with the Toronto Raptors in his first season as an NBA head coach, but it took him 30 years to get to that stage. He coached at lower levels, including over a decade in England, and even started his own (then) D-League team in Iowa after he wasn’t able to land an assistant job in the developmental league.
“I loved every job I had,” Nurse says. “People asked me, ‘Why aren’t you doing something more important?’ When I was doing well in the D-League, they were like, ‘Why can’t you get an NBA job? Or a college job?’ I don’t think people thought much of what I was doing. That’s fine.” – espn.com