What inspires me?

[Note #1: At note #2 below, I realized I couldn’t answer this question. The bold text is probably my best attempt… in a concise, general sense. :>) ]

A couple days ago, Lorna asked me on facebook what inspires me to write what I write. Her question alone encouraged me. I told her I’d (try to) reply here.

At the root of all my inspiration is encouragement. I constantly seek out people who will put courage in me, whether they’re doing it directly or indirectly, on purpose or without even knowing it.

And I’ve only learned to seek out encouragement because I was fortunate enough to have people encourage me before I knew I needed it.

Encouragement for me is different than many define it. My definition is similar but expanded. And it specifically includes anything that puts courage in.

If something inspires me to try something new, think differently, or confront what I’ve previously been too timid to confront, that counts as encouragement.

The big ones lately:

  • The Bible: I compare virtually everything I consider to what the Bible says. That right there is enough to keep me going for a long, long time… and certainly keep me thinking (and acting) unconventionally.
  • Friends and family: facebook is amazing for this. So is church. So was college. So is any environment where I get to interact with others.
  • Blogs: I read a ton of blogs and specifically follow a handful of them. I don’t read many “Christian” blogs. I (often) prefer to read insight from people who are remarkable in their particular fields and challenge what I already believe. Some that come to mind: Steve Pavlina, Seth Godin, Chris Guillebeau, Timothy Ferriss, and most recently Gary Vaynerchuk – watch the language!
  • Books: I haven’t been reading as much over the past month or so. In general, I read a lot though… like 50 books this year.
  • Observing… people, events, trends, anything in my life. This often follows from one of the others. Like I wouldn’t think to notice my reaction to the color yellow (I get hungry and excited) if someone else hadn’t encouraged me to notice my reaction to sales pitches.

That’s where I get the raw information. From there (or during that), I look for relationships.

  • How is ____ related to ____? (I think everything relates to everything else in some way. It’s just a matter of finding the relationship. And there are many.)
  • Why is ____ like _____? (I can’t always find an answer to this one, but it’s certainly worth a try.)
  • What am I going to do about ____? (This question moves what I know into what I do, which eventually turns into who I am. For that reason, it’s probably the most important question of the three I’ve given. But it’s the most difficult to answer honestly.)

I feel at this point in my life I could turn off all contact with the outside world (no more data) and continue to create new ideas for a long time… simply by combining, separating, comparing, generalizing, and applying what I’ve already learned.

[Note #2: I wrote this post stream of consciousness (as in “write whatever comes to your mind”). At this point, my thoughts started to branch out into a million different ideas. I can’t answer this question in one blog post. Even generalizing it is difficult for me. So for now, I’ll have to leave it and come back to it later.]

As far as practical steps to finding inspiration, I could go on and on. I’ll write tomorrow about one trick that seems to go far in spawning new ideas for me. But at the bare minimum, my inspiration comes from others, particularly others who encourage me. All I do is combine in unusual (or perhaps personal) ways what others have already known.

That’s the best I can do at answering this question for now. I’m overwhelmed. Perhaps someone else can sum it up better:

“Dwarfs on the shoulders of giants see further than the giants themselves.” – Stella Didacus

I feel at this point in my life that I could turn off all contact with the outside world and continue to create new ideas for a long time… simply by combining, separating, generalizing, and applying what I’ve already learned.