Thursday, January 24, 2013

Aspire to inspire before you expire

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Okay, I’ll confess it up front: I loved the title of this essay. It was one of the over 150 topics that I wrote down as possible subjects for future essays, and I have no idea what ignited the idea. I do, however, believe in the topic.
I just finished reading the book The 7 Minute Solution: Creating a Life With Meaning 7 Minutes at a Time (New York: Free Press, 2012) by Allyson Lewis, and I’ll have to admit that Lewis was inspiring. It is loaded with advice and suggestions, and if you are looking for a kick in the pants, Lewis can do it for you! (Read my review of her book at

I have no idea where my own desire to inspire originated. I have always enjoyed education, and my courses—throughout my entire formal education—have not just been sources of knowledge, but they have instilled, too, a strong desire for continual learning. I love learning.

Perhaps my desire occurred when I switched my college major from pre-med to speech. I had never had a speech course before the one I was required to take for my pre-medical concentration, and that one course—really the instructor of that course—inspired me to take a second one, and after that one (in which he was also the instructor), caused me to change my major and my entire college focus.

Having speech as your major makes you think. What in the hell am I going to do with this major once I finish college? That’s enough to put you on the road to inspiration. Sounds like a town out in the western desert somewhere!

My parents were both educators, so becoming an educator, for me, was a natural fit. It was in my genes—although that was not a thought I had back then. At the same time I changed my major, I decided, too, to pick up a teaching certificate as a safety net if all else failed. Who knows when you start out on a new adventure what roadblocks lie ahead?

I absorbed the information in my college classes with a new sense of urgency, as if I was sucking it up through my pores—I was engrossed completely and occupied wholly. There was now, like no other time during my formal education, a light at the end of the tunnel, and this may be the time when the desire to inspire was hatched. It seems right that it would have been coordinate with a desire to teach!

When I finished my formal education—about six years after this transition from pre-med to speech had taken place—I began teaching speech-communication classes at the University of Massachusetts. It was during my work for the Ph.D. at Indiana University when I learned about having to publish to stay afloat as a professor—the "publish or perish" syndrome. I never thought about it very much, but I learned that others did. After all, if they chose to teach at a Ph.D.-granting institution, it (their publication record) was likely to determine their fate!

I wanted to be a great teacher. Fortunately, for me, I didn’t have to worry much about the "publish or perish" syndrome simply because I never had a problem writing. It came easily.

With all the classes I had taken, all the books I had read, and all the professors with whom I had contact, I realized that I had accumulated a wealth of information. Although I hadn’t yet formulated any specific philosophies, unique convictions, outstanding theories, distinctive doctrines, or particular principles, my views were traditional and represented, for the most part, what others in the profession were thinking at the time.

Perhaps that was a good thing considering that during my first year after having earned my Ph.D., I received a call from Saundra Hybels asking me if I wanted to write a textbook with her. I already had instilled in me the desire to be a great teacher, and I thought that writing a textbook might serve as an extension of my strong desire to teach well. Also, I thought it might help me achieve tenure.

What was interesting at this early point in my career, was that I began to discover I could inspire others at various levels and using a variety of venues as well. My early academic publications—begun because I saw them as one route to gaining tenure and a permanent faculty position and security—started immediately. I published six chapters out of my dissertation. Each of those had been a paper I wrote for one of my college classes at Indiana University.

I was writing feverishly.

But, what I discovered was that I could write and publish academic articles, teach my classes effectively, and write speeches and pieces for the local papers at the same time. I didn’t have to restrict myself to only teaching, or only writing the textbook (work on which began at once), or only writing and giving speeches.

When I left the University of Massachusetts for Bowling Green State University, the textbook was already in print, so I adopted it as the required textbook for my basic course. Not only that, I put together a book of readings I used for my third-level course, interpersonal communication.

The textbook Saundra Hybels and I wrote did well immediately. This gave me confidence to continue. I was one of the first people in the profession to write a book on the subject of interpersonal communication. Now, my desire to inspire had reached full bloom. It was all the confidence I developed from that first textbook, but it was more than that, too.

I wrote (and delivered!) fifteen, fifty-minute lectures for the basic, required, speech-communication course—one for each week of the semester. I had never done this before, but the reaction of students to the lectures was overwhelmingly positive. I was even nominated for a "Best Teacher" award!

Also, my effective lecturing resulted in a large number of invitations to speak at a wide variety of local functions. Now I was on an inspirational high and loving every minute of it. I was giving motivational lectures, motivational speeches, writing colleges textbooks that contained motivational undertones, and soon I began writing motivational essays for the local newspaper.

My need to inspire (before I expired) had been fully realized. Reactions to my speeches, my essays, and—most important because it paid well!—my textbooks, was truly sensational. Yes, it took awhile, and although I’m not certain exactly when the desire to inspire took hold, I realize, looking back on it now, that that doesn’t matter as much as I now felt fulfilled! ----truly inspired.

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Dr. Harry Carter, at the Firehouse website , in his essay, Aspire to Inspire before you Expire, when he said, "A number of years ago, a Brother Maxon and fellow fire person from Texas, Hank Salzmann, sent me an email which included a series of ‘New Church Signs." There were a number of really cute cartoons each with a slogan which was created to get the reader thinking about their faith and their church. The slogan which caught my eye immediately is the one which now serves as the title for this commentary." I get those emails as well, albeit from a different source, but I’ll bet that’s where the idea for my title came from as well.

Steven Pace also wrote an essay, Aspire to inspire before you expire, which is all about choice and the choices we make: "We get the choice of whether we let the external world determine our fate, or if we determine our fate. Inside of you lies the power to create or destroy. To rise or to fall. That is the power of choice and decision. If you believe that you are beaten, you are. If you believe that you can achieve anything, you can. It is really that simple."

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Copyright January 24, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC

1 comment:

  1. Maximillion Ryan IIIJanuary 24, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    You have inspired and continue to inspire!


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