Guest Entry: Inspiration is Everywhere

This is a guest entry by fel­low 9rules mem­ber, Dave Seah. We start­ed this entry swap­ping ven­ture as an exer­cise in writ­ing out­side of our nor­mal styles. It also let us see how dif­fer­ent­ly we would explore a top­ic that was defined by a sin­gle sen­tence, which was “Inspiration is every­where”.

I approached Dave because he writes with a deep insight in his words while pre­sent­ing it with a light can­dor that draws the read­er in. Not only do I admire his writ­ing style and con­tent, I’m envi­ous of his abil­i­ty to come up with cre­ative, phe­nom­e­nal ideas. I’m glad that he agreed to par­tic­i­pate in this exer­cise, and leave his words and ideas as part of my per­son­al jour­ney.

You can read my take on the sub­ject at Dave’s site here.

If I were in your shoes and got hit with an hap­py-sound­ing phrase like INSPIRATION IS EVERYWHERE, I’d men­tal­ly spring into one of three mind­sets: 1. Skepticism 2. “Amen, Brother!” or 3. Apathy. I’d also make a few assump­tions: that the inten­tion behind such a procla­ma­tion was to be inspi­ra­tional in itself. Furthermore, the meta-assump­tion is that we’re all look­ing for it, or need it real bad.

Let’s con­sid­er the mind­sets I was just talk­ing about:

For skep­tics: A phrase like “inspi­ra­tion is every­where” does­n’t work on you because you haven’t felt inspired late­ly, or you know you’re inspired only by very spe­cif­ic things. You may feel, intu­itive­ly, that if every­thing is inspir­ing, that’s equiv­a­lent to say­ing noth­ing is. Which isn’t very inspiring…a HA! On the oth­er hand, if you’re not feel­ing it, there may be some root caus­es. For exam­ple: (1) you’re too tired, (2) you’re too stuck in a rut, or pos­si­ble (3) you are already sure of the way your life is going. In any case, you can’t allow your­self to be both­ered by crazy new-age art­sy-fart­sy hug­gy-kissy “make love, not war” sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty. There’s work to be done! Inspiration is a lux­u­ry for the lazy and the lost. That’s a per­fect­ly fine phi­los­o­phy of life. People who are so sure can be high­ly pro­duc­tive, and so I applaud you. Still, it does­n’t exact­ly help me: I’m still lost!

For the mem­bers of the choir: “Inspiration is every­where” is the phrase by which you live your life, so you’re already singing its prais­es with me. As my gen­er­a­tion’s spir­i­tu­al leader said best: Life cre­ates it, makes it grow. Its ener­gy sur­rounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude mat­ter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere! Yes, even between this land and that ship! You’ve arrived, some­how, in a spe­cial place where you’ve dis­cov­ered what makes you hap­py. Or…you’re delud­ed and crazy, and are livin’ it up. Either way, you’re hav­ing a good time, and I’m envi­ous.

For the apa­thet­ic: I’m guess­ing you arrived here through sheer acci­dent, per­haps while googling for Yoda quotes. It was irre­spon­si­ble for me to quote him so broad­ly (sor­ry), but I may have done you a big favor by pulling you here. Browse around, why don’t you? And thank you for read­ing this far.

I tend to think that when it comes to inspi­ra­tion, you either feel it, or you don’t. And, we can’t have a good con­ver­sa­tion about inspi­ra­tion being E V E R Y W H E R E unless we have an under­stand­ing of the mean­ing of the phrase. For me, that means trans­mut­ing “the sim­ple why” — that we’re all look­ing for inspi­ra­tion — into the lan­guage of desire: we want to be in motion, doing the things that we like doing, even if we have no idea what the heck they are. Inspiration is about the hope that joy may fol­low if we act on our instincts.

For me, true inspi­ra­tion is com­prised of two parts: a feel­ing and a trig­ger to action. This lat­ter point is crit­i­cal: it’s one thing to feel inspired, but quite anoth­er thing to actu­al­ly do some­thing about it. As a self-pro­claimed “pro­duc­tiv­i­ty enthu­si­ast”, it’s impor­tant for me to see some kind of result from my inspi­ra­tion, hope­ful­ly lead­ing to a state of last­ing good­ness. Otherwise, inspi­ra­tion is just anoth­er form of escape. Taken in mod­er­a­tion, escapist inspi­ra­tion feels good, but if you have found your true inspi­ra­tion and don’t act, it can turn to poi­son and rot you from the inside out. That emp­ty, hol­low feel­ing will stay with you till the end of your days, until you can fill it with some­thing good.

The sec­ond part of inspi­ra­tion — the trig­ger — is the impulse that caus­es you to act. When you’re tru­ly inspired by some­thing awe­some, it’s hard to know where to start because it’s so far from where you are right now. In the begin­ning, you can real­ly just start any­where. Here’s an exer­cise that helps you see con­nec­tions is a way to help you map out your pos­si­ble start­ing points:

  1. Grab the first thing that you see on your desk, the weird­er the bet­ter.
  2. Ask your­self where it’s from and why it exists.
  3. Repeat ad nau­se­um until you find some­thing that per­son­al­ly relates to you in an impor­tant way.

The idea is to get your­self think­ing about how things and peo­ple con­nect in ways you’re not used to. A lot of us (me includ­ed) wan­der around not see­ing where we are or what we’re doing , because we’re pre-occu­pied with work and things we are rush­ing to do. You know, “not stop­ping to smell the ros­es”. If you’re not a rose-smeller by nature, the ratio­nal approach of ask­ing why until you get back to first prin­ci­ples that can be reduced no fur­ther works pret­ty well. In my expe­ri­ence, a lot of the “first prin­ci­ples” can be explained using some­thing like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; we have fun­da­men­tal human needs — sus­te­nance, safe­ty, social con­nec­tion, and self-esteem — that need sat­is­fy­ing. This is what ulti­mate­ly dri­ves desire, which cre­ates mar­kets to ful­fill those desires, by peo­ple all act­ing in their own inter­ests — even char­i­ta­ble ones. The path to find­ing inspi­ra­tion is often oblique; by com­ing at some­thing side­ways, or pur­pose­ful­ly not look­ing for some­thing, you can often find some­thing nov­el and unex­pect­ed. The only caveat is that you must be aware as you’re doing this; the exer­cise I sug­gest­ed will help you devel­op some of that aware­ness.

It just occurred to me that there’s anoth­er anoth­er group of peo­ple oth­er than skep­tics and enthu­si­asts: lapsed inspi­ra­tionistas who’ve lost the faith. They are the peo­ple who love being inspired, but haven’t felt it in a while. There’s some­thing miss­ing, and I think it’s the feel­ing of con­nec­tion with some­thing or any­thing. Again, we come back to ful­fill­ment: you need to con­nect with your­self, and with oth­er peo­ple.

There are also a cou­ple of spe­cial sit­u­a­tions that pre­vent you from find­ing inspi­ra­tion:

  • You either are not in a place where you can feel inspired, or you are blocked in your efforts to bring the inspi­ra­tion to some kind of fruition. The key is to first have faith that you can change your sit­u­a­tion, and then do what you need to do to make it hap­pen. If you’ve tried this sev­er­al times already, or have seen peo­ple try and fail dis­mal­ly, this may be why you’re a skep­tic. If you are utter­ly hap­py with being skep­ti­cal about such things, I’m not going to tell you to change. However, if you aren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py about things, your skep­ti­cism is just a way of cop­ing with your own inac­tion. It is poten­tial­ly tox­ic.

  • It is pos­si­ble that you are mis­tak­ing “inspi­ra­tion” with “not being bored”. If you’re bored all the time, the best thing I’ve found to do is to get out of the old rou­tine and try some­thing — any­thing! — new. You will be exposed to oth­er peo­ple are doing dif­fer­ent things, and that’s a short­cut to find­ing new expe­ri­ences. It’s amaz­ing just how ripe with infor­ma­tion peo­ple are, if you can find some way of ask­ing about them. One thing I’ve tak­en to doing is ask­ing what some peo­ple have been doing for fun late­ly, by way of look­ing for some­thing new to try. People are often quite will­ing to tell you (hint: ask peo­ple who are in a good mood, not neu­tral or angry, unless you like being scowled at :-)

If you’ve resolved all the caveats I’ve described to this point, I sus­pect you may have found what real­ly mat­ters to you, and you’re ready to see inspi­ra­tion frickin’ every­where. My the­o­ry, which I am still test­ing, is this:

To real­ly be able to see inspi­ra­tion every­where, you will need to learn to see the world through your own per­son­al lens, one that frames every­thing in terms of what’s impor­tant to you.

It sounds self­ish — and it is! In a good way! GOOD FOR YOU! There is no escap­ing your­self, so you might as well embrace it. Even things that don’t fit in your “pic­ture of the world” can be seen as exam­ples of what NOT to be doing…that saves you time! It’s fun, and even poten­tial­ly prof­itable, once you can get in align­ment with a few things that real­ly get you inspired, con­stant­ly and con­tin­u­ous­ly. Always in motion is the future, and that’s how we can be as well. The more we fol­low this, the greater the like­li­hood that we’ll find what we’re all look­ing for: Inspiration, in every­thing we do.

—Dave Seah

David Seah is an inves­tiga­tive design­er, a pro­duc­tiv­i­ty enthu­si­ast, a writer, a devel­op­er, and all round nice guy based in the Boston / Southern New Hampshire area.


  1. Dave & Jeff, Jeff & Dave, good job fel­las. I enjoyed both per­spec­tives. Fine writ­ing and some good thoughts to boot.

  2. I like that I’m a “Special Situation.”

  3. Like the look at meta-assump­tions. True enough, one is most moti­vat­ed and ener­gized when being “in it for #1”. It’s got an ele­ment like base­ball. You have posi­tion your­self with alert men­tal agili­ty, wait­ing expec­ta­tion that you will catch inspi­ra­tion even if it has­n’t hap­pened yet.

    It’s not there all the time but when when it comes into your area of out­field, you’ve got to call it and run for it. It does­n’t always fall in your glove and you don’t have to change sport to get it.

  4. @Davey — Thanks! It was a fun exer­cise to see how we would approach the sub­ject with­out any rules or guide­lines.

    @xibee — Did the arti­cle help then?

    @Pearl — Hahahh…I nev­er would have seen base­ball as an anal­o­gy, but I think you’re right. For some play­ers, it must be 10 min­utes of wait­ing for 30 sec­onds of excite­ment. But in the prop­er cir­cum­stances, the excite­ment, the inspi­ra­tion, is worth it.

  5. well­l­l­l­l­l­l­ll… first­ly I’m an avowed goth grump; but also my sit­u­a­tion is pret­ty unrec­on­cil­able with inspi­ra­tional things cur­rent­ly. I’m hold­ing on till it can change. Confident It will.

  6. oh gawd, does that mean I’m opti­mistic?.

  7. I think the key word is “cur­rent­ly”. As long as you know that it isn’t a per­ma­nent, then every­thing will be okay. And yes, that does make you opti­mistic. :)

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