Embrace a Small Beginning

Kevin W. McCarthy


Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!


“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Zechariah 4:10, NLT



medical-563427_640It was 1994. Jorge looked me straight in the eye and matter-of-factly confessed, “Kevin, with all due respect to the amazing work we’ve all done, I can’t lead my team to live into it.”

The “amazing work” was a major strategic initiative designed to double the hospital foundation’s annual fundraising capacity from $4 million to $8 million in two years. Months of planning, strategy sessions, research, thought, design, writing, and approvals went into this effort. Done right, the multiplier effect of this effort would have far-reaching impact on the overall health and services of the entire community for decades. At the patient level, research could be done, recoveries sped along, lives would be saved, and more. So much was at stake for so many.

As calmly as I could muster it, I asked, “What’s the problem, Jorge?”

“I’m twenty pounds overweight. If I don’t have the discipline to lose twenty pounds, then how can I expect my team to follow me? What kind of role model am I?”

Let’s consider Jorge’s professional background as the president of the hospital foundation. Working with the staff and board, we had created a succinct articulation of the organizational purpose, vision, mission, and values. A plan was in place to bring it to life. The right people were engaged. A campaign based on strategic storytelling was in development. Everything was poised for success. Yet, the real work had yet to begin. At the eleventh hour, this otherwise highly capable leader’s belief system was impeding the possibilities for remarkable improvement. All the normal excuses were gone. We were left with the weight of Jorge’s “truth” and the need to just begin.

Change can become a very complex and complicated matter. As coaches, however, we have a vantage point and a healthy measure of emotional distance from the seemingly irrational, yet real, perspective of the client. For Jorge, his weight was a visual metaphor and reminder of what was “wrong” with him. Most people wouldn’t give their extra twenty pounds a second thought with regards to their work; but Jorge did, and that’s all that mattered.

On the front end of any change, small or large, personal or professional, it always appears more monumental to the person making the transformation than the person observing or coaching it. Brainstorming and dreaming about “what it will be like when” can be intoxicatingly addictive. But at some point, the planning must end and plumb line pulled out to begin the work. That’s the real work—making it happen.

Yeah, But…
As a coach, how many times have you heard a client utter, “Yeah, but …”? Avoidance by conversation and planning enables us to postpone the reality of our needed transformation. Talking about making a change may feel like change, but it is incomplete without action.

Zerubbabel’s challenge was to rebuild the temple. His charge required leveling a mountain and transforming its stone into a mighty place of worship. In the book of Zechariah, we read of Zerubbabel’s simple act of holding the plumb line to begin the work. And God rejoices. The plumb line sets the cornerstone in the right vertical relationship so the true work can begin.

img-2Whether rebuilding a temple, expanding the capacity of a hospital foundation, losing twenty pounds, or facing a growth opportunity, scripture informs us, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Hint: Get started!

At some point the true work must begin in humble earnestness. In Genesis 2:15, before the Fall, the Bible says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Work is God’s instrument of transformation designed into His creation. How easy it is to plan and talk about what it’s going to be like when…, but the work must begin.

Jorge did lose his twenty pounds and gained his form. Within a year, the hospital foundation blew past their two-year goal and raised more than $12 million. Today, the only weight Jorge carries is that of being a leader of excellence.

Every Three Hours
se-zfgkun4y-alejandro-gonzalezIn the spring of 2008, I faced a growing battle with being overweight. Despite my active and athletic nature, my years of unhealthy eating and misconceptions had packed on the pounds. Over the top of my athletic body I wore my fat suit. One day I planned to take it off. One day …

A health coaching company booked me sight unseen to be their national convention keynote speaker. In three months, the pioneer of the On-Purpose® Approach to life and work would stand before 850 health coaches as a fat guy. More importantly, I was not a good, honest steward of the temple God had provided me. What was my On- Purpose message all about really?

Something had to change! Lori became my health coach. She asked me a simple, yet defining question: “Kevin, can you eat every three hours?” Of course I could. In essence, she set the plumb line and the work began with a small beginning.

On stage three months later and fifty pounds lighter, I was in the company of passionate life-changing coaches. More than my weight had changed. Yes, I lost weight, but more importantly, I gained health, clarity of thought, confidence, and a return to being a good steward of the person made in God’s image.

Clients and friends asked me what I did. I referred my wife and eight others to my health coach. Judith lost those pesky mid-section twenty pounds that sneak up a pound or two per year. My friends came off of medications, cleared their minds, and rediscovered life beyond the fog of being fat.

How could we keep this gift of good health to ourselves? With Lori’s mentorship, late in 2008 Judith and I launched a health coaching business. Since then, more than two thousand clients have returned to good health … in three-hour increments. Truly. We live by the phrase: “Do not despise these small beginnings” as we rebuild the temple of the body.

When looking up at your insurmountable mountain of change, get with your coach to plan and prepare.

  • Your purpose ignites you with a reason
  • Your vision inspires you to see what can
  • Your mission charts the path
  • Your values govern your


Your on-purpose plan is solid. Now, get to work!

Coaching the Coach Tip:
Embrace the small start by identifying what’s next; keep it simple, reasonable, and measurable. Pray, begin, complete it, and repeat. Once you’ve accomplished your change, share your lessons learned.

Kevin W. McCarthy is the Chief Leadership Officer at On-Purpose Partners in Winter Park, FL. He is the author of the groundbreaking book series, The On-Purpose Person and The On-Purpose Business Person. The four major obstacles to change and how to overcome them are addressed in his book, FIT 4 Leading, Discover the Joy From Taking a Hard Look at Yourself. To learn more, go to www.onpurpose.com and www.FIT4Leading.com.
shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

This entry was posted in Coaching Blog. Bookmark the permalink.