Wax On … Wax Off

A Word to Young leaders Who Feel They Are Being Held Back

by Scott Hagan

Never before has Egypt fought so diligently to name our young. A baby in a basket was pulled from the Nile; he was named by Egypt. His temporary identity came from Pharaoh’s house. Yet, something inside Moses became agitated as he grew into manhood. His origin came calling. His purpose pushed to the surface.

Egypt named him; his mother nursed him. Taught him. Her investment came first.

Egypt and her allures were powerful, but the nursing rights prevailed over the naming rights. Moses was created Hebrew. That seemed all but lost save his few moments of intimacy upon his mother’s breast, but somehow that early and secret investment and his designed purpose prevailed over the second offer of Egypt’s royal clothing.

Leadership grows like tree bark. It takes time. Choosing purpose over the palace is not a question; it’s a debate. For us who have passed through far less dramatic portals than Moses on our journey toward leadership, we can affirm that long droughts without measurable progress is more the norm than the exception.

So how do you sell young leaders on the idea of repetitions before reputation?

Or help them see that the meaningless little leadership behaviors they begrudge mostare the secrets to meaning and influence? Many young leaders are losing heart and defaulting to the call of culture rather than the call of God. Anything that requires time in a speed-first world is in itself an enemy. But leadership is not simply time sensitive; it is time consuming. And therein lies the challenge for most emerging leaders.

King David was first kid David. He was part of the sheep police. He medicated his boredom with target practice, hand plucking his bullets from the still waters without a single set of eyes there to notice. Killing trees was a tough way to kill time, especially when you have a passion to kill giants. We all know that the tree would one day become much more; but, at the time, who could blame the guy for an enthusiasm drop?

I have watched new leaders roll their eyes when asked to do things that feel fake. In Bible college, the homiletics syllabus said I had to preach a canned sermon to pass the class. So there I stood, sick and sweaty before a fake congregation. In keeping with the motif of the moment, I asked for a fake response when I was finished. It was an exercise in make-believe. Two years later I graduated and found my way onto a church staff where the pastor quickly assigned me to the 8 a.m. service. My job was to give announcements. This amounted to greeting 100 or so tired-faced folks and then welcoming mythical visitors to a service totally void of visitors. I was certain the whole thing was a waste of my valuable time and talents. I wanted to preach for real instead of experiencing more of the same.

Wax on … wax off.

I needed Mr. Miyagi as my mentor.

My punkish little Daniel-san attitudes raged. I did not realize that my public speaking muscle was slowly but surely developing. I was learning how to communicate in a Petri dish. God was growing a piece of me in a safe and sterile environment. But it still felt like my passion was in prison. I wanted to say real things to real people. Instead, I was back taking snaps against the scout team.

It was my season for killing trees, not giants.

Had it not been for those brief years of waxing on and off, I never would have developed a skill set for connecting as a communicator. Here is some free advice when someone you respect tells you it is time to wax on and wax off.

Do not blow it off.

Grab every opportunity you can, even when it feels puny. Because living idle and pessimistic while waiting for the phone to ring with your big break is a bad strategy. Negativity is never the road map to greatness.

Go after small assignments to speak, communicate, and write — no matter what it is.

Do it for free.

Take the stuff nobody wants.

And smile big while doing it … like you know something nobody else in the room does. If there is one shred of activity tucked inside the assignment that smells like the future, take it.

Mr. Miyagi, our global leadership mentor, nailed it.

For Daniel-san, waxing the car become waxing the Cobra Kais. For David, the tree-bully got a bullet between the eyes. The same shifts await every one of us in leadership. Sooner more than later it all turns very real.

So do not despise small things (Zechariah 4:10). Even passion requires practice.