In Bobby Clinton’s classic book The Making of a Leader, he writes about the concept of “sovereign foundations”– the contexts a person was born into that give shape to their lives. That could include the family they were born into, any disabilities they have, the schools they attended, the environments they were exposed to.

One such sovereign foundation in my life, related to the family I was born into, was my involvement in a soap box derby when I was 12 years old.  Having to work on making that car for the race helped me develop quite a bit of persistence and discipline. I had to give up other activities for a sustained period of months. The character developed during that season of life has helped me even now to stay with things when they get challenging.

Participating in the soap box derby was a formative experience, and with it came some formative opportunities. I won, with three photo finishes. That win got me all sorts of public speaking opportunities not common to 12-year-olds. I created talks, put together a slide show, made points. I was telling my story, about how when I was making the car and feeling tired, I’d say to myself, “Well, maybe this will give me the extra inch that I need to win. Maybe this will make it more streamlined and fast.” As it turned out, that was the inch that I needed. I was able to share my story and what I learned from the experience with all sorts of groups: Kiwanis clubs, church groups, school groups.

These speaking opportunities prepared me for learning how to communicate well to a wide variety of audiences. In many ways, the slide show I created is not that different from the PowerPoint presentations I create today when I speak or do trainings. It’s amazing to look back on my life and see the sovereign foundations God puts into place in our lives to prepare us for where we are today.