Let me tell you a story.
When I was in 8th grade (middle school), the high school where I was headed hired a new basketball coach. His name was Clayton Brooks. In the late spring of my 8th grade year, near the very end of the year, Coach Brooks came to the middle school to watch the incoming freshmen shoot layups.
A friend of mine and I were the only two 8th graders who were able to shoot layups on the left side with our left hand and the right side on our right hand, a crucial skill in basketball.
Coach Brooks walked up to me and told me something like, “You have a lot of potential. I want you to be part of my basketball program.”
At the time, like most athletic boys who lived in Texas, football was king. I was the starting A-team quarterback on the 8th grade team and figured I’d do that in high school, plus baseball. That’s what everyone else did.
But Coach Brooks’ words made a big influence on me and ended up changing the entire course of my life. I played freshman football and made the varsity baseball team as a freshman, and the junior varsity as a freshman in basketball. But after my freshman year, I quit football and baseball to focus 100% on basketball. Because Coach Brooks saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.
My high school basketball experience was as awesome as it could possibly get, including 3 straight playoff appearances and a run to the state championship that resulted in a 2 point loss in state finals.
After high school, I played basketball at Texas A&M and ended up meeting some of my best friends in the world through sports and Texas A&M.
Choosing to focus 100% on basketball changed the direction of my life massively.
And it was all because a coach inspired me and encouraged me.
I can’t imagine how many young men Coach Brooks led in a similar direction, young men he encouraged to reach for the stars. And those young men are now middle-aged men like me, hopefully finding other young men to encourage and mentor as they grow up.
Here’s the thing, though: Coach Brooks was just a coach, a human being, a normal person. We all have just as much influence in our circle of family and friends as Coach Brooks had in his circle of basketball players, or the high school principal has in her circle of students, or the Air Force drill sergeant has in his circle of enlisted men, etc., etc.
Every time you encourage a young man or woman to reach above and beyond what they think they can accomplish, you are influencing them in positive ways that will stretch for decades. And your positive influence will reach countless more people as the young people you encourage and inspire will encourage and inspire young people too, and on and on and on.
Positive words of encouragement are free. They are easy to give. And they have massive payoffs. A one-sentence compliment to an 8th grade student may change his or her life in ways you cannot even imagine.
So here’s your “homework” assignment this week:
- Think about the people who have influenced or inspired or encouraged you in your life and why their words had such an impact on your life.
- Ask yourself what you can do to inspire or influence or encourage a young person in your life?
I can’t think of very many things we can do in our lives that are more important than trying to inspire and encourage young people to go beyond what they think is possible. And everyone one of us—every single one of us—has way more influence than we think we do.
Have a great week!