PART ONE - WHAT GREATNESS IS NOT
GREATNESS IS NOT UNREACHABLE
I’ve always loved the changing of one season to the next—both in nature and in life. Commencement ceremonies mark the beginning of a new season and provide the opportunity to challenge graduates to boldly start on their own individual journey. The idea of the final and ultimate lecture from business leaders, like Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs, has always filled me with an unbelievable amount of hope, optimism, and a renewed drive for success. It’s the mama bird’s final push to her little baby birds to force them to go flying, full force, into the real world. They are treasure troves of life advice, words of wisdom, lessons learned, ideas on how to be successful, insights on how to be happy, and they focus on thethings that truly matter in life.
Even though it was forty years ago, it seems like yesterday when I graduated from high school and was humbled to receive the Student of the Year award for outstanding leadership and achievement. I felt unstoppable! This was my time to go forth and be great . . . Before it’s too late 26 make my life count toward the greater good.
And while I had many opportunities to go to college, I did not pursue them because of the advice from those closest to me at the time. Because I did not go to college, I resolved that both of our sons would attend (and graduate) from college. Our sons, Jeremy and Jonathan, both attained Master’s Degrees, and it was one of my proudest moments as a father when our son Jeremy addressed his graduating class at ASU.
The commencement speech affirms the value of a student’s search for knowledge. Many of us hear one or two commencement addresses as graduates, or we listen to a handful as people who have grown up and entered the real world. Yet as we graduate—from one year to another, one relationship to another, one experience to another—we are always learning.
Unfortunately, these tiny, everyday graduation moments of real life are rarely met with ceremony or any inspirational speeches; however, the words ring true and can inspire us at any hour. At least they did for me.
In May of 2016, I watched Pastor Jentezen Franklin online as he spoke to graduates from middle school through college at Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia. His message was simple: “Be great before it’s too late.” The Bible verse below is the foundation of Pastor Jentezen’s message and of this book:
“But in a great house there are not only vessels
of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some
for honor and some for dishonor.”
- 2 Timothy 2:20, KJV
The NIV translation paraphrases it differently. “In a large house, there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use” (2
Timothy 2:20, NIV, emphasis added).
Here I was a fifty-seven-year old man, hearing the commencement speech I always needed. I began thinking to myself, Do I want my life to be for a special purpose or a common one?
I began thinking about how curious it was that the illustration is about a great house. As a builder for forty years, I have had the opportunity to build many homes of different sizes, architectural styles, and with a wide variety of materials and building sites.
Our company has built a large house with only one bedroom and lavish furnishings. We have built other houses with many living areas inside and out and almost no furnishings. We have built homes that are 6,000 square feet, and we have built homes that are over 60,000 square feet. Some of these properties are completed with the finest design, materials, construction and landscaping. Many have rare and original pieces of art. In many cases, as you enter the property and make your way through the home, you sense that you are in the presence of royalty.