Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Thomas A. Edison.
Inspiration: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Oxford Dictionaries.
Inspiration, in its religious sense, is something that happens to us like a thunderclap. It’s often sudden, unexpected, and divine. Should we be waiting around for inspiration to happen to us?
In this article I argue that we all need to take the time, and do the work required, to seek out inspiration.
How can we do this? It’s helpful to start by thinking of the reasons why we would want to be inspired and the benefits of taking the time in our busy lives to find it.
The value of being mentally stimulated is an important starting point. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut at work and at home. This is normal. It’s the steady-state of affairs because, as human beings, we create patterns of behavior to reduce the effort required to process the world around us.
Think about your commute. The first time you went to work you likely noticed all the details, paid attention to the signs and people. By the third or fourth time, you’re on autopilot. When you get home or to the office, you’ll have forgotten almost everything from your journey. During that period of time you became an automaton – only paying attention when something is different.
This is not a bad thing – it’s a human thing. It’s our brains saving energy and effort.
The same is true in our work lives. It’s easier to do the same thing again and again, rather than stop and do something different. Re-wiring the mental circuits we create takes work.
The stimulation that comes from being inspired can help us break out of this cycle, and move us from reverie to being “present”.
The benefit is we are more engaged with the world around us and we are more likely to come up with creative ideas. By disconnecting from our programmed behaviors, we see the world more vividly and experience it more viscerally. There’s no doubt that with inspiration comes a feeling of well-being and greater happiness.
Is seeking out inspiration simply about looking for stimulation to break through patterns of behavior? No. Stepping out in front of a taxi when not paying attention, or hitting the rumble strips when driving, are jolts of adrenalin to the system that provide powerful transport to the present.
Finding inspiration is more than this. It is about creating new ideas or ways of thinking that change behaviors or lead us down new paths.
It should be no surprise that we find the most powerful source of inspiration in the stories of others.
When we hear of the extraordinary heroics of 9/11 first responders, civil rights leaders, exceptional individuals who have overcome adversity, and successful entrepreneurs, we are touched in powerful ways and experience emotional responses.
But, the exceptionality of some stories may well lead us to put them in a category of “super-humans” – those who inspire us but not people whose stories we can hope to emulate.
Stories that change behavior are more likely to come from friends, families, and peers. People like us, who are not so far removed to believe we cannot follow them or learn from them. These stories aren’t on the front page of The New York Times.
Recently, I spoke with Deirdre Breakenridge, an author and communications leader, about her “Women Worldwide” podcasts. These interviews provide examples of relatable, inspirational stories from women, and some men, and deliver powerful takeaways for the audience. Want to better understand social media, the keys to entrepreneurial success, the importance of vision and relationships? Invest the time and listen. For entrepreneurs and those in the communications industry looking to manage through the rapidly changing landscape, Breakenridge’s interview with Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm and lead blogger at Spin Sucks, offers inspiration.
These podcasts are just one example of a growing trend toward telling personal stories and narratives. Think C-Suite Radio Network, TEDTalks, and many thousands of content producers, including the CommunicationsMatch™ Communicators-to-Communicators Video Series, that share the perspective of interviewees with relatable experiences.
Although these stories are out there, in the rush of our daily lives, taking the time to seek them out is a challenge. With wall-to-wall digital content clamoring for our attention and click-bait distractions, making an investment in reading about, listening to, watching or attending events with people and ideas that may inspire us may not be at the top the to-do list. That’s a mistake.
Seeking out inspiration takes work. It’s about making an investment in our personal development. It’s also about recognizing it may not be the one thing you took the time to read or one story you listened to that changes perspective, but a broad range of interactions and experiences that are the foundation for decisions to change jobs, develop new marketing initiatives, or find a path to creativity or love.
Making a conscious decision to identify, learn from and be inspired by others is a path to success and fulfillment, as well as creativity. It is the road less traveled and may well change your life.
Find more articles and videos on the Insights Blog, including: "Slow PR: Communications Strategies for a Fast World", "The Failure of Imagination: Black Panther & Knowing the Limits of What You Can Imagine to Move Beyond Them", and "Learn Forward: Give Yourself (and Your Employees) Permission to Fail...to Succeed."
Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM
CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications, digital marketing and branding agencies, consultants, and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size. The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.