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If we fear the test, then we will never get a chance to develop the talent.”

Churchill’s talent in leading Great Britain in WWII was developed because he had the courage to test it first.

“A great deal of talent may be lost for the want of a little courage.”

This favorite quote of Coach Wooden was originated by Sydney Smith, an English writer and cleric.

This idea goes along perfectly with the Pyramid of Success, in which Coach Wooden identified 15 character traits or personal qualities a person would need to possess to reach their potential. The blocks are placed in a sequence that builds as each character trait is added. The first seven blocks on the pyramid have to do with developing talent. 

  • Industriousness – You must work hard, plan carefully and pay attention to detail.
  • Enthusiasm – You must enjoy what you are doing and be a positive influence on others. 
  • Friendship, loyalty and cooperation: You must be able to get along well with others. 
  • Self-control – You must have your emotions under control in order to perform at your peak capability.
  • Alertness – You must be observing, open-minded and eager to constantly improve.

A person who has all these qualities in a particular area would certainly be considered talented.

The next two blocks on the pyramid say you must have courage to act on that talent for it to be developed. The two blocks are initiative and intentness. You must not be afraid to act when action is needed, and if it doesn’t work out, you must not give up. 

Initiative + Intentness = Courage

Once you have the courage to test your talent—if you are properly conditioned—you will develop a skill. But without the courage to test your talent, it will be lost.

John Maxwell wrote in his book Talent is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent, a commentary about Winston Churchill that demonstrated this idea:

“Before he joined the Army, Winston Churchill had a desire to create a reputation for bravery, but he didn’t know whether he had the talent for it. To make that discovery, he went to Cuba. His goal was to test his courage in a relatively controlled and somewhat safer environment than he thought he would face in India. It was what he called a ‘private rehearsal.’ He understood that a person doesn’t know what he’s really made of until tested. 

Don’t waste your talent. Use your courage to test it.

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.