I recently rewatched a short talk by Tyler Perry speaking about the early years of his career as an entertainer and producer. In the video, he speaks about how hard he worked and how easy it would have been for him to get discouraged by Hollywood not taking notice of him and giving him his big break. Then he paraphrased from the Bible and advised those of us who are striving for personal and professional dreams: “Do not despise small beginnings.” He goes on to explain how his own small beginnings allowed him to build up his platform, his audience, and then negotiate with the “big boys” on his own terms once he was truly ready. He felt that God had “hidden” him from view of Hollywood to protect him from making deals the old way. By the time he got his big break, he was successful and confident enough in his work to negotiate from a place of tremendous strength. The idea of embracing one’s small beginnings struck a chord with me, and I’ve been trying to keep it in mind. Day in and day out, I work to achieve my dream of being a happily married writer and teacher with abundant time, energy, and wealth to enjoy and share with my family, friends, and communities in need. I often lose sight of the goal and start spending time on ego-centered pursuits that don’t necessarily advance my goal or help me live out the feelings that most matter to me.
I often get caught up in being overly concerned with the outcomes of my efforts rather than focusing on doing my best in the present moment. I am an action-oriented idea person but I can also be a perfectionist, so this combination can be a recipe for some major anxiety, frustration, and disappointment. I often find myself not wanting to take action on an idea unless I’m confident that it will be successful—or losing steam pretty quickly if something I try out is not met with instant success, whatever that is. Basically, I often wish that there was a crystal ball that would tell me which step to take to ensure that everything I do will be an instant success. Thankfully, no such crystal ball exists (that would make life really boring), and it’s up to me to have faith that I’ll be led where I need to go.
The phrase “do not despise small beginnings” is so encouraging to me, because it reminds me that going for what you want is not about the end goal of just the “getting” of what you want but of the journey and the daily challenge of living in the present what you want, of “being” and “having” now, since the past is already gone and the future doesn’t yet exist.
For me, embracing small beginnings as an author means enthusiastically planning live events in my city and beyond to build up a fan base rather than waiting around for national magazines to rain glitter and praise on me. It means individually emailing people who purchased my book, thanking them for believing in me, and asking them to leave a review to help spread the word. As an entrepreneur, embracing small beginnings means being willing to put myself out there, to send messages to individual colleges and universities to let them know how excited I would be to come speak to their students, and preparing for an audience of ten just as much as I would for an audience of one hundred.
Whatever your personal and professional dreams are, I want to encourage you to embrace small beginnings. This doesn’t mean I want you to settle for less or not do your best. It means that I want you to fully enjoy and appreciate every step of progress you make toward your goal, knowing that the small steps add up to something truly meaningful over time. Sometimes, you may be wondering if you are even making progress. Let me assure you, every day that you are present while doing your work—not kicking yourself about the past or fretting about the future—you are making progress. So many people give up on their dreams far too soon and too easily. I agree that not all of your dreams need to stay with you for your entire life (I used to want to be a performer on the Mickey Mouse Club on the Disney Channel. I’m over it!), but for those core dreams—writing, teaching, and healthy partnership are mine—you are never to give up. One thing that keeps me going and that I think could help you along the way is to keep that phrase in mind on a daily basis: Don’t despise small beginnings. Remember: a beginning, no matter how small, always leads somewhere—and quite possibly to an outcome far bigger than you could have imagined.
Where in your life do you find yourself in a state of “small beginnings”?