Five Stones: Conquering Your Giants

The First Stone: Draw A Clear Picture
“A man can’t be too careful in his choice of enemies.” – Oscar Wilde

Scripture reference
to David and Goliath
"Your servant has fought both lions and bears. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them because he has insulted the army of the living God."
1 Samuel 17:36

John Beckee was an artist whose career flourished during the 1850’s. His name was not known past the local dealers and artists from the community where he lived, but his reputation was slowly making its way through the mainstream. His goal was to be the very best artist of his generation. However, John’s paintings were never the ‘art of the day’. His themes never touched the chord of the artistic world. Yet, one of John’s gifts was the ability to draw clear pictures of human beings and of actual settings—‘sketch out’ as it is called. They were precise and detailed, clearly depicting both the main subject and the context of a scene. The drawings were so good, many compared them to the new ‘photo picture machine’ that had recently made such a huge impact.

John’s work was useful. Law enforcement agencies, in particular, valued his skill. John created renderings of criminals on the loose, so that they could be found and brought to justice. He drew pictures of people who were in trouble, so that they could be found and given assistance.

It is estimated that John Beckee created renderings of thousands of people over the course of his career. His work was used to locate missing children, apprehend numerous criminals, and identify persons for various other important situations. His work made a real difference in people’s lives. There is certainly an important place for art in our world. But, at times, a simple, clear picture can be invaluable.

We must envision our desired outcome. We must focus on a clear image of what we are aiming for and where we are going. Surely young David focused on his desired outcome. There were many other possible outcomes in that moment: The giant could have exploded into a new rage and crushed the shepherd boy. Or he might have been injured by David’s first stone, and run back to his camp. Or he might have changed his mind about the whole thing, and simply walked away, leaving David and the Israelites alone. But David did not focus on any of those outcomes. Instead, he envisioned the giant dead, powerless, lying bloody and lifeless on the ground. We must focus on a clear picture of what we are aiming for and where we are going, but we must also picture how we will get there.

Seeing the Shot

Over the last generation of professional golfers, most agree that Jack Nicklaus was the greatest champion. For the past forty years, two generations of golfers sought to recreate Nicklaus’ example of success both on and off the course.

Nicklaus is a fascinating person. Incredibly well organized, he approaches every facet of his life from a very disciplined perspective. This included everything from his golf swing to his design of a new golf course.

In Nicklaus’ classic golf instruction book, ‘Golf My Way’, Nicklaus shares a significant principle for his success. He calls it ‘Seeing the Shot’. Nicklaus was a firm believer that every shot in golf, whether a longer shot or a shorter one required one swing. But, one of the most important parts of the shot happened before he ever hit the ball.

Nicklaus would stand behind the ball to begin his ‘pre-shot routine’. He would find a point just ahead of the ball that was on the line of his target and then he would ‘imagine the shot’. That’s right, before he ever hit a single golf shot, he would envision the shot in his mind, painting a clear picture of how he believed the shot should fly.

Nicklaus believed that by ‘seeing the shot’, the mind sent signals to the body during the golf swing (which is basically a series of muscle memory executions) and, thus, assisted the body during the actual shot as though the body ‘had experienced the shot before’. This technique became popular with the next generation of golfers, and the ‘pre-shot routine’ became as important as the swing itself. It gave the golfer a ‘mental picture’ of what they wanted to happen.

But, Nicklaus was not the only great athlete to use this technique. Hall of Fame running back, Jim Brown, used to sit at his locker before games and ‘see’ everything that he believed could happen during the game. He would then, purposefully (in his mind) remove the negative images and focus only on the positive ones. Brown considered this technique as critical to his success as the actual execution.

Sports psychologist calls this technique ‘visualization’. Visualization creates positive images in your mind before practice and competition. Its purpose is to simulate the event as clearly and vividly as possible to create a déjà vu experience when you are performing in real time. In the real time situation, your memory muscle is engaged, and your body responds accordingly, almost instinctively. The result increases a reaction time whereby you have programmed the mind and body to perform automatically and without hesitation. Speeding up this reaction time, if only minutely, can be the difference between executing at a high level and coming up just short.

In the story of David and Goliath, one of the first principles we see David use is to distinguish between Goliath the mythical figure and Goliath the champion warrior but a man who could still be killed. The rumors amid the Israelite encampment had Goliath at such an outrageous place in the Israelites' psyche, that most of the soldiers were defeated long before they entered battle...

Sound familiar? Do you often feel defeated before you even begin the battle? How might your life be different if you developed a strong spiritual memory muscle? What if your thoughts and actions were consistently moving toward a positive outcome? What would it be like to feel empowered, capable, and confident? We must remove the obstacles of fear and distorted imagery. They cloud our thinking, dampen our resolve, and drag us into a state of inertia or even hopelessness. We must replace these obstacles with clear and positive images of our desired outcome and our path toward it.


So, you must draw a clear picture of your desired outcome, and you must visualize how you will get there, developing a spiritual memory muscle so that you think and act instinctively, with positive motion toward your goal. But how, exactly? We’d like to offer three questions to help you clarify your own thoughts and conclusions.

1) Is it fact or fiction?
2) What is in the frame of the whole picture?
3) Is it winnable?

Question One: What is Fact and What is Fiction?

There is a great story that dates from the Civil War about an encounter between a young Union Soldier and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, who loved to walk over from the White House to the nearby Willard Hotel in order to calm his mind, arrived at the hotel one afternoon and sat in the front parlor. Across from Lincoln’s sofa was a young, Union soldier who was newly appointed to the staff of one of the Army’s generals. He was waiting on his commander to come down from his room.

Lincoln struck up a conversation with the young soldier about the progress of the war. The young soldier was new to conflict and still ‘wide-eyed’ about the uniforms, the fanfare, and the glory of it all. When Lincoln asked what he thought was the most important reason for recent successes of which the young soldier referenced, the young man replied, “It is the leadership of President Lincoln, sir.” Before Lincoln could offer a word of deference for the compliment, he realized that the young man had no idea who was sitting across the parlor from him.

‘Tell me about the President’ Mr. Lincoln smirkishly asked.
“Oh, he is a giant of a man” the young solider answered. “It is rumored that he walks as though almost on the clouds. His eyes are like fire, and his voice like the booming of trumpets.” The young soldier went on and on about his version of Lincoln—grand, glorious and completely… inaccurate.

Mr. Lincoln, the story goes, smiled, stood and shook the hand of the young soldier, and playfully said, “Well, then, with that countenance, I wonder why he has not ended this war sooner”. Mr. Lincoln knew the real difference between the fiction of the young man’s image and the fact of who he (Mr. Lincoln) truly was. On the carriage ride home, Mr. Lincoln reportedly said to his assistant, “I’m glad some of us know the difference.”

One of the first things David did when creating a clear picture for confronting Goliath was to separate fact from fiction. As large and destructive as Goliath was, he was still a man, and, thus, not invincible.

Giants can grow to sizes in our minds that are much larger than in life. And, after a few setbacks, they just keep growing larger and larger until they become overwhelming.

Sure, Goliath was big and destructive. But, at the end of the day, David knew that Goliath was still flesh and blood, and that the battle was only lost if they believed otherwise.

How about you? Do you believe the lies? Does your giant feel too large to handle? Separate fact from fiction.

Question Two: What is the Frame of the Whole Picture?

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota is one of the world’s leading medical institutions. Nearly 1 million people fly to Mayo every year from all over the world to take advantage of the world-class medical care. Though now with clinics in large metropolitan areas like Jacksonville, FL and Phoenix, AZ, the first and primary Mayo campus is in the small city of Rochester, population approximately 100,000.

Mayo has an impressive backstory. In the late 1800's, Dr. William Worrall Mayo arrived in Rochester after completing medical school and began practicing medicine in the southern Minnesota town. For the first several years, he had a normal practice, building a network of specialists that he could call when a patient had a particular issue. This was the beginning of what would be called integrative medicine, a process that Dr. Mayo both championed and would perfect. However, several years into his practice, a tornado nearly destroyed the Rochester community. If it had not been for the St. Mary's convent from Wisconsin, many debate as to whether the city of Rochester would have survived. Certainly, it would not be what it is today. The nuns heard about the disaster and moved their convent to Rochester to assist with the damage.

The Sisters of St. Mary’s spent months helping people rebuild and recover, and they developed a particularly close relationship with Dr. Mayo. Together, they worked for weeks rebuilding the town and tending to the broken bodies and lives of its citizens.

Given the level of doubt about the future of Rochester itself, Dr. Mayo informed one of his nurses that he was planning to leave Rochester in search of a new practice where he could continue to support his family. According to local legend, the Sisters of St. Mary’s made him an offer.. They would permanently relocate their convent to Rochester and to found a new hospital, if Dr. Mayo would continue to operate his clinic in the city.

Dr. Mayo was skeptical and unsure at first. The task, as he would later describe, seemed too daunting. However, the Sisters of St. Mary’s had a bigger vision. Where others, including Dr. Mayo, saw a nearly hopeless situation, the Sisters saw possibility. They saw the bigger picture. The Sisters encouraged Dr. Mayo to simply ‘show up’ and see how things would unfold. And, ‘show up’ he did. Today, Mayo Clinic is a world-class institution where people from 150 countries and every state of the union receive life-saving treatment.

Of course, following the near catastrophic tornado, meeting the needs of Rochester seemed too much for one person, let alone the idea that one clinic would grow to also meet the needs of the world. To confront and conquer our giants requires first putting the pieces of the picture together in the right place at the right time. Together, Dr. Mayo and the Sisters of St. Mary’s started where anyone should… at the beginning. For the Sisters, and later for the Mayo Clinic, the picture was big, the possibilities were noble but intimidating.

Two points are important here. First, we must look for the bigger picture, the possibilities that are beyond ourselves and our own interest. We must be open to them, even when they intimidate us. Second, we must start at the beginning, one step at a time. We must keep the whole picture in mind, but focus on the first step, then the next, and so on. It is a given that fighting the giants of our life will be overwhelming at some point or another. It would be foolish to disregard that fact. But, much like the old proverb of eating the elephant, conquering giants also happens ‘one bite’ at a time…. beginning with the first one.

Question Three: Is it Doable?

(Shane Stanford) My wife Pokey and I are two very different kinds of air travelers. Pokey doesn't worry about a thing. She arrives at the airport with minutes to spare, but without a single bead of sweat from worry. She ‘glides’ to the gate, takes her seat, closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep for the trip.

I, on the other hand, over-analyze and worry about every detail of the trip. If we are to be there 1.5 hours before our scheduled departure, I prefer to be there two hours prior. I follow all of the rules and am prepared for as many contingencies as possible. So while Pokey has already settled down in her seat with her eye mask on, ready to go, I'm performing my own pre-flight pilot check of the plane.

This is not a good time for someone to explain the science of flight to me. But, on this particular flight, across from me sat a guy who was just as nervous as I was. He looked over at me and said, “Can you believe that this thing will actually get airborne?” I ignored him.

He repeated his statement. Finally, I replied, “Well, I was trying not to think about that right now—with us about to ‘lift off’ and all.” But, he continued, “You know, it really is like strapping yourself to a bullet and being fired across the country, isn't it?”

At this point I wanted to take the mask off Pokey and insist that we get off the plane. All the while, the man kept talking about the miracle of aerodynamics. He claimed that talking about it made him feel more secure. “The more I can explain about flight, the more I know I'm in control.”

I looked at him with what I know must have been the most puzzled look. He was sitting across from me… in the middle of the plane… far from the cockpit. He was nowhere near ‘in control’.

If you’re like me, you like to be in control, or at least to maintain the pretense that you are in control. But if you think and act from the standpoint of a powerless, control-less person, you will never be able to conquer or even face your giants. We must evaluate our circumstances reasonably. If it is reasonable to conclude that something is doable, then we must consider the possibility that is really can be done, and that we can do it. We must be reasonable, and then we must act on faith. At some point, I have to trust that this plane has flown before, that the aerodynamics work, that there is a trained pilot and copilot, and that we will get off the ground and then eventually land where we are supposed to land. Sometimes you have to believe, in spite of what you can't understand, that something is simply ‘doable’.

I Didn’t See That Coming...

(Brad Martin) When assessing an opportunity, dealing with a challenge, or even facing a giant, a clear picture of the outcome one wants from the situation is critical. Whether it’s a task you’ve been assigned, a challenge you wish to undertake or must contend with, or a giant which might appear in your life, you must have a clear picture of how you want these encounters to turn out. A clear picture doesn’t have to be a complicated picture. It can be unconventional and certainly can be improbable, but complicating the picture can actually limit chances for success. Certainly “clear” doesn’t mean easy. It may very well take a significant amount of time to get clarity on the opportunity or the challenge, but once you’ve done so, the picture must be straightforward and easy to understand.

Years ago as a 21-year old student at Memphis State University, I was invited to deliver the commencement address at the University’s graduation ceremony. I had recently been elected as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and I think the novelty of my election while still a student at the University, made me a different, if somewhat risky, choice to deliver speech. Even though I hadn’t yet graduated, I had attended a few commencements. I couldn’t recall the content of any commencement speech I had heard, but I did remember each of them as being long-winded. So I pictured a commencement speech which would take less than three minutes to deliver. And trust me, the preparation and edits to focus the key thoughts on this “picture” I wanted to share with the graduates required a significant effort. It would have been much easier for me to write a long speech.

A few days before the graduation ceremony, I was asked to submit a copy of my speech to the University leadership for review. After seeing my speech, the Vice President of Communications from the University called me and said, “This is a terrific start. Please send the rest of your speech.” “That is the complete speech,” I replied, “and it will last less than three minutes.” I’m convinced if the University had had time to get a suitable replacement, they would have found a new commencement speaker. So on graduation day, I drew the picture I wanted to share and delivered the remarks in three minutes, exactly as I had drawn them up. The applause from the audience lasted longer than my speech.

I simply said what I thought was important, and then stopped talking. I had a clear picture of what I wanted to share. I did not need to overcomplicate it or make it too fuzzy for others to see.

Picturing myself as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives while I was still a college student was perhaps a bit preposterous, but was crucial, if I intended to seriously pursue my passion for public service at that stage of my life. In high school and college, I had developed an interest in community service, and I thought that government was a place where I might do something significant to help. Certainly there was nothing else I could contemplate at such a young age which could give me a comparable forum to have an impact beyond my years. So as a political science student at the University of Memphis, a participant in the legislative intern program, and President of the Student Government, I decided to tackle the challenge of getting elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives.

The picture I drew of the task was a bit daunting. I was 20 years old, had no significant work experience, no college degree, no money, and no name recognition. My opponent was a 48-year old, two-term incumbent with campaign funding and support from other politicians and had a resume that might suggest superior “qualifications.” The picture wasn’t pretty at first glance, but as I separated fact from fiction, other elements of the landscape emerged. A statistical analysis of the district and its historical vote patterns indicated that there was an unconventional vote path by which I might actually win. And the frame included an opponent who in spite of superior resources, I believed, was more focused on self-interest than public interests. I thought I should and could defeat him.

So the picture I drew was one where I became a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, elected by a diverse cross section of support from the community, and one who would have a positive impact on issues and challenges facing my fellow Tennesseans. I was off and running.

When I shared the picture with others, the common feedback I received was that I would gain experience from this campaign which I would surely lose, and it would help prepare me for a winnable race in the future. And perhaps that picture was more realistic than mine. But if the picture suggested that I might not win, that would surely be the outcome. My picture had to reflect victory.

After not taking me seriously for most of the campaign, my opponent panicked during its last three weeks. The race became heated and intense, and I endured name calling and a barrage of allegations and insults. While responding calmly to these attacks, I maintained an intense focus on executing my strategy and winning the election. And I was appropriately ruthless in executing that strategy. As we saw with David, tough battles require that.

So on election night, two days after my 21st birthday, the picture I had drawn turned out to be the accurate one. I won the election, became the youngest person ever elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, served for ten years, and, I think I was helpful.

Sure, many of my friends and supporters thought my picture was a dream. But, for me, it was a vision.

On election night at the victory celebration, one of my closest friends and most loyal supporters hugged me with joy and shared, “Well, I really didn’t see this coming..."  “I did,” I replied.


When David made his way to the battlefield to fight Goliath, he must have believed that conquering the giant, no matter how big and daunting a task it had been for those before him, was doable. If he didn’t have that confidence, he was defeated long before the fight started. The first stone in our arsenal must be a clear picture for our desired outcome. This picture must be your own. It is important that YOU see the victory and that it becomes part of your spiritual muscle memory. This ‘reflex’ propels you forward even when the adrenaline and the difficulties of the battlefield crowd in. Just remember, you have seen the site before; you have watched victory unfold time and again; and you are ready for what comes next. This giant may be big, ugly and dangerous, but it is still beatable. You will not be denied. Take heart, today, the battle belongs to you. Remember, you have seen all of this before…

excerpted from: Five Stones: Conquering Your Giants by Shane Stanford and R. Brad Martin ©2013 Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

comments powered by Disqus