Recently I spoke to a company’s sales and marketing T*E*A*M that was rated by USA Today as “the fourth fastest growing business in America today”. The CEO who introduced me referred to me as a “motivational speaker”. That happens a lot. Although I know what the term implies, I also know that motivation comes from within and that change and growth must be self-started.

The old joke is: “How many motivational speakers does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: Just one, but the light bulb has got to want to change!

I prefer the word “encourager”. It does sound odd, however, to say to an audience, “Ladies and gentlemen please welcome our speaker—’The Encourager'”. What strikes me as key to the word—encourage—are the seven letters C-O-U-R-A-G-E. Yes, it does take courage to be self-motivated, to accept change as a friend, and to step up.

That “step up” idea was dealt to me as a high school baseball player. As a senior at Alhambra High School, I was the “starting second baseman” (applause, please). We were playing El Monte High School and tied for first place in the league. It was the bottom of the ninth. El Monte at bat. Bases loaded. We were ahead 3 to 2 and there were 2 outs.

‘Got the picture. Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. We’re ahead 3 to 2 and 2 outs. I said (to myself, of course), “Don’t hit the ball to me!!” I thought, if they hit the ball to me, it is likely to go right between my legs, two runs will score, we’ll lose 4-3, and who will get the blame? Me! I didn’t want that.

Then I realized that’s the voice of a “loser”—and I want to be a “winner”. So, after high school, I played baseball at Occidental College. We had a good T*E*A*M, 23-2. Every pitch, every play, I said, “Hit the ball to me!” Oh, it wasn’t that I wanted to be the star, I just knew I COULD MAKE THE PLAY that I could “step up”. Stepping up develops the C-O-U-R-A-G-E needed not to be afraid to fail. Motivation and/or encouragement appears in many forms. When it does, know that you can “make the play”.

Will you step up and make it happen?

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