Watch a clip from "The Messengers"
"Inspire me. Go ahead, I dare you!"

I hear those words every time I sit down to write a story or prepare a speech. I don't know who is saying it, because usually I am imagining a faceless group of people in an audience.

So how do I handle such pressure? Truthfully, I simply ignore it. I could never produce a piece worthy of sharing if I permitted that kind of pressure to influence me. I just tell the story I need to tell and hope that someone benefits from it.

I believe that inspiration comes in many forms. Each one of us needs more than one source of inspiration to really call us to action and keep us on the right track.

Inspiration is like a puzzle. In order for it to work, one needs to collect several pieces of that puzzle before it all makes sense and causes us to respond. One of those pieces, the inspirational writer or speaker, is to be found in "The Messengers," a reality series on The Learning Channel (TLC), which aims to "find America's next great motivational speaker." Here's the setup: From a pool of 650 aspiring motivational speakers, producers chose 10 finalists to appear on the show. Those who made the cut include poets, a financial whiz, and a filmmaker, as well as a Christian minister, a Muslim youth lecturer, a yoga practitioner, and an Orthodox Jewish substance-abuse counselor. Each of them brings a fresh look at the challenges many of us face in trying to find and preserve our own uniqueness, our way of looking at life, and what makes us complete. And while there are religious and spiritual overtones in all of their talks, the finalists are practical without being preachy.

The show tosses the 10 finalists into challenging real-life situations--such as living as a homeless person or a disabled person for a day--and asks them to prepare speeches in response to what they've experienced. They are judged by two experts, a speech coach, and a preacher, and the small studio audience then votes on who influenced them the most.

The series progresses in “American Idol” fashion. As the contestants are whittled down, one will rise to the top and win a book publishing contract and a television special on TLC.

I must admit that my first reaction to the show was, "We don't need another motivational speaker trying to sell us the 'Ten Steps to Success' or the "Secret to Making a Gazillion Dollars and Driving a Big Fancy Car Like Mine." I always tell my audiences to go to their local library and find the oldest inspirational books on the shelf. These books of wisdom have been telling us these same "secrets" for decades. Many of today's inspirational speakers simply repackage those teachings and create some fancy new name for what is truly the only way to success: hard work.

So, why did TLC think it needed to find "the next great inspirational speaker?"

Richard Greene, a communications coach and one of the show's judges, says in a press release, "Throughout history great speakers have inspired generations. It's almost a form of magic that is about to disappear from the planet."

But some of you might be thinking, "I don't need no stinkin' inspiration! I work hard, do my job, and pay my taxes. There's nothing anyone can tell me about life that I haven't learned already."

You are right.

But there are those who strive for more in life. No, they aren't searching for a way to buy bigger houses and fancy cars. They have a burning desire to leave a mark, make a difference, or change the world in some small way. They aren't necessarily in the news or leading some huge corporation. You won't hear them speak at a motivational rally or find one of their books on the shelves in your local book store.

They may be one of your neighbors or friends. You might see them behind the counter at the grocery store or delivering your next pizza. They are there in the background, quietly searching for and forever longing to be the pebble that makes a lasting ripple in their still, small pond of life.

And I believe that for some of you, one of those 10 people on "The Messengers" may very well hold a piece of your puzzle, a spark that can help you make that ripple.
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