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To Inspire Courage

When I decided I wanted to write for my college’s newspaper my sophomore year, writing the inspirational column seemed to be the only fit. I grew up in a household that had the television stuck at ESPN and I loved pretending to read newspapers before I could even make out half the words, but writing for sports or news never crossed my mind. Something about inspirational writing simply appealed to me.

By this point, I had been running The Smile Project for two years and was pretty committed to the idea of sharing happiness with the world. It wasn’t until I began writing the biweekly columns (all of which can be found on this blog, just look for the tag “Holcad article”) that I really began to think hard about inspirational writing.

Around this time—and even throughout my past—I had enjoyed reading what would theoretically be defined as “self-help” books. I wasn’t looking for guidance. I wasn’t even sure I needed inspiration. I was drawn by the way these authors strung together letters into something that could push someone to persevere.

Somewhere in the midst of all of the reading and writing and learning it hit me: I want to be a motivational speaker.

Now that’s not my end all be all plan for existence. As mentioned in previous posts, I have quite a few ambitions that differ in discipline from working at Disney to writing a book; yet one thing that still pops up in the back of my mind is the idea of inspiring others through words.

According to a 2001 Gallup Poll, 40% of people are afraid of public speaking, falling second only to snakes. I am not one of those people. I have always enjoyed talking to strangers—safely, of course—and sharing stories. When I tell people about my interest in public speaking I’m met with various reactions. While standing on a stage in front of one thousand people would horrify many, I would love nothing more than to deliver a powerful speech in front of a captive audience.

On one occasion, I mentioned my desire to speak motivationally and my companion turned to me and said, “But what would you talk about?” I must have been puzzled because they immediately elaborated something along the lines of how the only people that can speak with inspiration are those who have been through incredible hardships and struggles.

Now obviously, this post is not the time to dive into the issue of personal history, but I heard my friend out and found myself understanding both arguments.

Yes, there is something incredibly inspiring about hearing a Holocaust survivor tell their story of fortitude. There is something tearfully moving about watching someone who has overcome all the obstacles to achieve something great.

But what about the others? What about the people who simply know the right words and have the power to move us to do more?

They can speak about life, or love, or happiness. They explore topics that many of us fear and dive into the big questions that we avoid.

But most importantly? They encourage us. They push us to wake up every morning and fight for today. To see the world differently. To be a little kinder to those we meet. To have a better tomorrow. They challenge us to count our blessings. To give more compliments. To be more sincere. They show us how to live better.

The word “encourage” literally means to inspire with courage.

But you don’t need to be on a stage in front of hundreds of people to do that.

Be brave. Be kind. Be good. That might be all the encouragement someone needs.

Love always,


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