Do you want to be the absolute very best you can be?  Do you want to reach your full redemptive potential as a leader?  Are you tired of settling for average performance or mediocrity?  If so, let’s take a look and see what we can learn from someone who came from humble beginnings to become the very best at what he does.

Great leaders never despise humble beginningsHouston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has gone from a 1-star high school recruit to a tight end at Central Michigan to delivering pizzas to All-American defensive end at the University of Wisconsin to the best defensive player in the NFL.

Recently, ESPN’s Jon Gruden interviewed Watt to hear about his personal journey.  As I watched the above interview I gleaned eight lessons that all leaders can be learn during humble beginnings.

  • That Good Choices Must Be Made –  Transferring from Central Michigan was a difficult decision for Watt but it was necessary for him to achieve his goals. 
  • To Recognize Opportunity – There is a difference between sensing opportunity and seizing it.  Watt wanted to become a NFL player.  Catching 8 passes as a tight end was not going to make that a reality.  He needed a different opportunity.
  • To Seek Wise Counsel – Successful leaders allow quality people to speak into their life.  Watt went to his parents for advise before transferring.
  • To Have A Financial Resource Strategy – Dreams cost money.  Ministry cost money.  Great leaders, even early in their development, quickly learn that great leadership requires a fruitful resource strategy.  Watt received financial assistance from his parents.
  • Have Big Dreams – Successful leaders dream big and are undeterred.  Even while delivering pizzas, Watt was telling others he wanted to play for the Badgers.
  • Welcome Feedback – When Watt was told he was not big enough to play for the Badgers, the feedback motivated him to improve.  
  • Are Humble – Watt was forever marked by meeting a 10-year-old while he was delivering pizzas.  Most effective leaders I have ever met are also marked by humbling moments.  What is yours?
  • Embrace Hard Work – After becoming initially motivated, Watt worked and trained very hard.  There are no shortcuts to sustainable success.  It is one of life’s true lessons that you will either pay now and play later, or you will play now and pay later. In either event, whatever you do later will compund and be greater. Successful leaders pay early. Sacrifices are made but the payoff is HUGE.

Good Choices, Opportunity, Wise Counsel, Financial Resources, Big Dreams, Feedback, Humbleness, and Hard Work.  If you learn these 8 qualities early in your leadership, you will likely have effective and sustainable influence.

To further see the type of leader and person Watt has become, watch the video below of the impact he is having on one family going through an extraordinarily difficult time. 

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