Incidental Inspiration

One of the most essential activities that humans like to engage in is learning. To learn we must be motivated by something, and for the most part, that means being inspired by someone. Now as humans we are not so impressed or inspired by people who are doing things for the express purpose of inspiring others. That cannot be their main reason. We like to see people and are inspired by people who are doing an activity for its own sake or for a personal purpose. 

For example, this is why we like to view things such as blogs. People often create blogs not because they want to create a blog but because they want some sort of outlet to record and preserve their journey. These blogs may be about the travel that someone is doing, or family life, or even just deeper thoughts around political or social issues. The point is, the most effective blogs are those where the person is doing it regardless of whether anyone is actually watching. 

Or take the example of a comedian. A comedian should find their own jokes funny regardless of whether or not anyone else laughs or not. 

Similarly, an inventor should find their own invention personally useful before attempting to sell it. The point is that we are inspired by people whose focus is not us, but rather themselves and their own pleasure. We, in turn, like to look over someone’s shoulder, as it were, and say, “I like what you are doing. I want that product/do that activity too!”

Thinking about this, I realise that this is a large problem with the school system. Teachers are continuously focused on the students and so the motivation that they end up employing all too often is one of manipulation which mostly comes in the form of bribes and threats. For the vast majority of school-time, teachers are not there to inspire. What I mean by this is that teachers are not at school doing activities for some personal purpose. We do not see children walking over to a teacher who is working on something and asking “What are you doing?”, “Why are you doing it?”, and “Can you show me how to do it?”. As a former school teacher, I didn’t hear these questions very often. The times I did were indeed the best learning times. They were times where a student might catch me in class loudly playing my guitar or ukulele.

Not surprisingly, I would hear these questions mentioned above far more often from my nieces and nephews when they would simply wander round to my house while I was in the middle of doing something such as cooking a meal. Children, like all humans, love to be inspired but that inspiration needs to happen incidentally. As soon as we force it, we break it.

I’ve seen this incidental inspiration being played out in many successful businesses. I also came to the realisation that although I have talked about these types of concepts before, I was blind to it and being somewhat hypocritical when it came to my own business. I created a product that flopped. Naturally, I was disappointed even though I should have seen it coming. I enjoyed creating the product for its own sake for a time but the thing was, nobody could see me creating my product. There was no opportunity for someone to look over my shoulder as it were. Then, when I presented it to people I put the focus on them and their reactions. Not surprisingly, their interest wained very quickly. I wasn’t engaged in incidental inspiration but rather I was deliberately trying to force people to be inspired by what I was doing.

And so this brings me to my next point. In order to inspire people to the point where we can be a valuable asset to them, we must be open with our lives. Yes, do whatever you want to do regardless of whether anyone is watching but also make your life open enough so that people can actually see what you are doing and be inspired to learn from you or gain a copy of whatever product it is that you have invented for yourself.

So if you are a snowboarder, post videos of you following your passion. If you love to sing, sing and let others hear you. If you’ve created a handy kitchen gizmo let other people see you using it. I’m publishing this article on Medium and I have also come to realise that the best articles tend to be those where I feel the author had to get whatever they have to say off their chest, so to speak, regardless of whether or not someone else ends up reading it or not.

Whatever it is, do it for your own sake but make it visible to the world around you. Also remember, if you are being an incidental inspiration to people they will want to provide value back to you for inspiring them in this way. This can obviously be in the form of money through asking you to make a copy of your product and paying for it, or they may find some non-monetary way of repaying the value you have brought to their lives.

So in following my own advice and what I have learnt, this is why I wrote this article today. I realised I was having these thoughts and I wanted to make a note of what I had come to realise for myself anyway. But why not be open and perhaps be incidentally inspirational to someone else?