The Mystery of Inspiration

You never know who or what will inspire you.

Yep, I was inspired by a Super Bowl commercial. Made by Cadillac no less. 30 seconds of Steve Wozniak.

The search for inspiration makes you look around (or “Look Up” as we talked in this post).  When taking a journey – be it a literal one, or philosophical one; there is the want of inspiration which drives forward momentum. Why are we inspired by certain people, places, things, quotes or cute puppies? Is it really inspiration which drives us or is inspiration a feeling that we lean upon?

The word inspiration  means to “breathe in or to be breathed upon”.  Therefore, is it safe to say we need inspiration to live life or the life we want to have? To do the work we want to do? Do I really have to wait for inspiration to breathe on me before I can take my passions to new levels?

In the commercial Steve Wozniak clearly implies it’s about passion. The passion to create. I would take that idea further to say passion creates inspiration. Our passions dare to take us to the place we cannot yet see or touch or at times imagine  except in our minds eye.

Being a Learning Rebel is about passionately wanting to drive change. Finding inspiration to do so is hard and sometimes the best we can do, is just show up and do the work needed, letting the passion drive us. You never know what will pop up to inspire you, or what will inspire others. This is the hard part – showing up mentally. We have all been there. Regardless if you are a learning practitioner, a writer, a blogger, a presenter, a speaker, a trainer, the CLO or the CEO. We have all shown up and left inspiration and passion in bed, spooning without us.

I admit, there have been times inspiration has alluded me. My brain hopelessly empty for the next post, next newsletter, the next proposal submission. This is life and we have to push through it. The big part of inspiration is not to understand the “Why or how, it happens” but the “Why it doesn’t happen”.

Why inspiration fails us. 

I would posit that inspiration doesn’t fail us, we fail it. We get caught up in not “feeling” inspired, when indeed we are surrounded by inspirational messages – albeit some are like wisps of smoke, there one minute and gone the next, but they are there none-the-less. Waiting for the idea of inspiration to hit us first, then create, is a fools game. I suppose it’s a chicken/egg conversation but the more I work, the more inspired I become, then the more creative (and passionate) I can be. That’s not to say I haven’t looked at my computer and wonder what evil is before me – I have, but I find the more actively I engage in my environment the more likely I am to have inspiration knock me on the head.

Then, what really is our problem? 

  1. We are afraid.  Afraid of failure, afraid we aren’t perfect. We are afraid our idea isn’t perfect or afraid what people will think when they discover we aren’t perfect. Fear is like the Berlin wall, one night we go to sleep happy in our thoughts and the next morning it’s there, fear – all around us. Fighting through it is the hard part, we all have suffered from impostor syndrome – feeling that at any moment our peers/clients/manager will discover the fraud inside. We can both cower with the fear and allow it to paralyze us, or control it and gather strength from it.
  2. We are waiting for the “right time”. Perhaps you have said this, “The timing wasn’t right…” or “This wasn’t the time for…” fill in the blank. The timing wasn’t right for me to make changes. There wasn’t time to write or create what I wanted. Waiting for the right time to draw inspiration? You will be old and not remembering where you last put your car keys. Don’t wait for your passion to light, don’t wait for inspiration to hit. Now is the right time.
  3. We wait to be perfect. Passion is not perfect. Art is not perfect. Writing is not perfect. We are not perfect. Inspiration rarely finds us at the perfect moment. Inspiration finds us when we are ready to accept it, not a moment sooner. If we wait for the perfect moment, with the perfect content to make the perfect changes that need to happen to improve the world around us. We won’t get there, and the shame in that, is people won’t experience your great thoughts and ideas.
  4. We are resistant. This is tough. Sometimes we feel lazy. Sometimes we physically and mentally do not want to open up. We are making a choice to not let outside influences in. This is the one negative attribute that requires an active fight. Like a 5 year old being petulant in the corner “I don’t wanna”. Well, you have to, you are a grown up. Get up and do something. “The Woz” just wanted to create something – was willing to give it away for free, for people to have and share. He was inspired by his passion not resistant to it.

What’s the magic tip to passion and inspiration?

I don’t have one. I don’t have a “5 Easy Ways to Find Inspiration Around You” post.  I do, however, have a thought.


Tell yourself can do it!

you can do it potato_BW

Then, just get to work. Put pen to paper, start sketching in your notepad or on your whiteboard. You’re here to “Fight the Good Fight” – and whatever your particular fight may be, you need to be passionate about it. Now, take responsibility for your inspiration and for your personal encouragement. Sure, it’s great to receive high-fives from the outside world, humans need, crave and thrive because of it. But it’s okay to listen to that internal voice telling you to not look back and go for it.

You have a voice and it deserves to be heard.

You have an idea and it deserves to see the light of day.

You have inner strength and it deserves to be applied.

From within, you will find what drives you. From your passions you will find inspiration. From getting out there every day and doing what you do best you will find your voice.

Steve quote

Share your story – What drives your passion?

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Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

7 thoughts on “The Mystery of Inspiration”

  1. I resonate closely with the part about “we are afraid” 🙂 Sort of wrote a whole post about it last week ( and I still don’t think I covered the intricacies of fear anywhere near enough.

    I think it goes without saying that everybody’s a work in progress and the second you stop trying to progress is the second depression and nothing takes over your life.

    Good post Shannon and I’m glad you get inspired, everybody needs somebody to see inspired even if we might not be at a given moment. I love that rush when something does sink it and you get the rush of inspiration and you have to do something, anything. Of course it has to interest you though 😉

    • Nick – I agree with you. I always get stuck with the “Timing”. If I had caught your post about fear, I may have hesitated to publish this post at this time. I’m overly concerned about topic overlapping or saturation. So we all have a lesson to take away. Just do it. When the urge strikes, move, write, draw, create. Don’t wait for perfection or perfect timing. It’s actually people like you and the others that take the time to comment, visit or share my posts that inspire me to keep moving. Lastly, you are so right about that moment of serendipity when all the planets align, inspiration hits at the right time, and the creativity flows from the brain.

      I suppose that’s how Starbucks stays in business, comfy chairs, free wifi and and endless supply of caffeine to keep the brain cells plugging along! Expresso driven inspiration. 🙂

      • I’m glad you did post! I don’t think somebody posting on a topic that touches vaguely upon one of your small points is grounds to not post. In fact only thing that’s grounds for not posting is if it’s a mirror image, but what are the chances of that?

        I feel commenting on people’s blogs is extremely important for both parties, so much so I made a post about it earlier this month lol.

        You mention Starbucks but a bit closer to home for many, including how we met is Twitter! It’s the perfect place for inspiration, ideas, taking you outside your comfort zone and just an all around great place for serendipity 🙂

  2. I read once where a famous writer, maybe Shakespeare, was afraid of the blank page. He always had a sentence or two at the top to alleviate his fear.

    Routines, repetitiveness, and just plain old burn-out are my kryptonite.

    I find my inspiration everywhere…especially old-time radio shows. They are engrossing, and only use the medium of sound. How do they do that? How can I incorporate some of it?

    TV commercials are another source of inspiration. Think of it…if you’re churning out the same old course and forcing people to take it, isn’t that rather like happily watching the Big Bang Theory, and then being forced to watch the SAME COMMERCIAL every 15 minutes? How can I incorporate that?

    Talking to people inspires me too. For example, we had a new hire here at work. I was supposed to be giving her a rather detailed overview of our products and how they work. But I talked to her first, and found out she was distracted because her 1 yr old daughter was sick. Ok. No detailed overview, just a quick skim, and links to resources if she needs more information in the future.

    • This is why I love evernote, at my finger tips I have someplace to log things that speak to me. You never know what will pop up – for example with the commercial within the post. I took a picture of the TV and sent it to evernote, I knew the picture spoke to me but not sure in what context. So I think Shakespeare was on to something, I have many notes started that only have only one sentence waiting to see the light of day. This is the point isn’t it? Find something and take some action, write the thought down, take a picture, record your conversations. Capture the idea before it flies away. Find something that speaks to you.

      I’m with you – repetitiveness is creativity killer. I like your example of the TV commericals, I find it interesting that we get frustrated watching the same TV commercial over and over again, all while we are binge watching repeats of the Big Bang Theory. I think it goes to what you want to experience, what you are open to or not (resistance). I want to experience more of Sheldon’s Mom, not another commercial for JC Penney. BTW – Love the creativity you show in your “cube creations” now those are inspiring! Lets see more of those on twitter!

  3. Oh my gosh, his quote that you put into the image at the end really spoke to me! I was just having a chat with friends the other day about still not knowing what we wanted to be when we grew up.

    “When you want something, that’s when you do it best.”

    When you hear that from other people, it sounds like a “chase your dreams” quote at best, where we think about writing books or travelling the world. Not that those aren’t great passions to strive for, they’re just ones that get looked down upon as unpractical and pushed aside.

    But hearing it from Steve Wozniak I feel like puts a whole new context to it. It makes me think critically about what I want – beyond “dreams” like writing a book or something.

    Of course – awesome rest of the post as always! That quote just really stuck with me!

    • Rachel – You are so on target and I glad the quote spoke to you the way it did with me. Usually I just smile and nod at platitudes like “chase your dreams”, not that they aren’t inspirational in their own way, but they have run their course with me. Then I saw this. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to this 30 second video. It moved me to take a huge swing at my current business model and make some big changes (unannounced).

      More people need to head in the direction of their passions, do what they want to do, and then be the best at it. Hearing the words in his voice, hearing his passion – you can just feel the passion emanating from him. It makes you want to just get up and do something!

      I’m glad the quote inspired you too and thank you for sharing your thoughts!


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