Why Inspiration Isn’t Found Free

We have all struggled for inspiration at some point or another and we hold it critical to our success. You would hear folks at the creative end of the professional spectrum saying, “I am waiting for inspiration” or “I simply didn’t find anything to inspire me.” It is important, I agree. But how long are you supposed to wait for inspiration and motivation?

Motivation vs Inspiration

There is a huge industry based on pseudo-successful individuals selling courses that teach you to be motivated and achieve success. The truth is motivation cannot be found outside and anyone claiming to do is simply fooling themselves and others. So, how does inspiration differ from motivation? In a lot of cases, it does not – at least people don’t see it that way. Let’s understand this with an example.

Imagine yourself at your workplace and your colleague, who is otherwise a classic introvert, walking up to you and expressing his gratitude to you. He states that you inspired him to work harder and pursue his goals. Now, this a novel achievement and you should pat your back for it but instead you are left puzzled. What the heck did I do? Who is even this guy?

What happened here was not that you acted like a source of inspiration but the guy who claims to have been “inspired” by you was in fact threatened by you. Most people have a fear of missing out but they are not aware of it. They see you doing good in your professional life (completely ignorant of your emotional turmoils) and they feel that they will never be able to achieve that if they do not act fast enough. This motivation via FOMO.

There was no inspiration but an intrinsic fear-driven motivation that would not last long. This a temporary phenomenon that occurs in every human being because such social factors were evolutionarily planted in us. If inspiration was so easily found then success would come handy to everyone and the economic classification based on competence would seize to exist.

What is Inspiration, Anyway?

To most inspiration is a life-long evolutionary process of leading a certain lifestyle. It is a philosophy you live by. A certain way to do a particular thing. It may not be one single ideology defining everything you do but a set of ideologies put together to create a combined efficient output.

To put things into perspective, my company Shrex Design draws its inspiration from various art forms. We do not copy them, we do not do them because they look good. Instead, we do it because we identify with the ideologies of those art forms. If we were to do an advertising campaign for McDonald’s, we would simply not write text on Li Lihong’s Sculpture of the infamous logo.

Li Lihong Sculpture

Had we blatantly recreated this, it would not only have been a serious violation of intellectual property but also what I call a thoughtless inspiration. Most people believe a strong (often rather poor) adaptation of some work or ideology is called drawing inspiration. Inspiration is the result of deliberation, research and a lot more.

When you really draw inspiration from someone or something, you delve into the very fiber of their beings. You understand and know everything there is to know about that work. You study the causal relationships between inputs and outputs. You soak in that work. And after doing all that, you pick one tiny aspect of the work and use it in what you want to do.

The process of really drawing inspiration is a lengthy and tedious one and cannot be repeated several times a week. So, how should you really draw inspiration? How can you inspire others?

The Inspiration-Motivation Synergy

It all starts with deciding what really appeals to you. Every kid in India swung his hand and shadow-batted when Sachin came to bat but that was not motivation. It was merely a short-lived temptation to imitate the greatest batsman in the world. To draw inspiration from someone’s life or their work, you have to adopt the philosopher’s method.

Most philosophers based their works on their predecessors. Most thinkers drew inspiration from their peers or other philosophers. This inspiration is nothing but a small fragment of their original thinking. They consume countless bits and pieces of information from people they want to draw inspiration from. What you really have to do to get inspired is to LEARN!

The more you learn about a certain person, his works, his ideologies, his intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, the more you can get inspired by it. It is critically significant to have substantially well-informed insights into a person or work before you call it your inspiration. Not having so would expose you to the risk of misinterpreted and biased opinions on a matter. Who needs more of that, eh?

When we commit to learning everything possible about a certain inspirational source, we expose our mind to primary and secondary knowledge on a subject which shapes our future thinking. Knowledge-driven thinking is the basis of leading a healthy and informed life. Here motivation plays a vital role in helping you learn. Learning about your source of inspiration can be a daunting process and therefore, you should remember WHY you are doing what you are doing.

Once you have driven yourself from the inside with a strong purpose (the WHY) and have learned at great lengths about a certain entity in space and time then can you be truly inspired. On the contrary, popular opinion dictates that inspiration can be found in daily life from trivial things. I do not disagree. While I would refute it as a dogma manufactured by so-called edupreneurs, it is really a short-lived temptation based on a poorly formed opinion then referred to as inspiration.

If you really want to be inspired by something and want that source of inspiration to shape a particular way of life then it has to be deep, insightful and knowledge-driven. As for inspiring others, I’d say be yourself and just lead a meaningful life or else follow Dr. Peterson’s advice on getting your act together.

THINK! My friend, THINK!

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