“How come some people can visit a place like New York and see a thousand amazing things, take hundreds of great photos (like Thomas Hawk) or even write a novel…and other people visit, eat at Applebee’s and send home a John Lennon postcard? It’s not where you go, it’s what you look for” – Seth Godin
We’re led to believe that just by traveling we will be transformed into a brand new person. We think by touring Europe we’ll come back with an expanded world view ready to take action.
Traveling itself won’t transform you and free you of the life you’ve created. You need to develop into the type of person who looks for inspiration and capitalizes. You don’t need to tour Europe or do a cross country road to escape your problems at home. If you’re a pessimistic person who finds something wrong every day and feel sorry for yourself, that’s exactly who you’ll be whether you’re in Times Square or rural Virginia.
This goes back to my post about building habits; it’s what we do every day that defines who we are. You won’t magically find happiness and inspiration just by visiting a new city. We need to invest more time into learning about ourselves and what to look for in our lives. New York, Paris, Hong Kong, it doesn’t matter where you go, if you don’t know what to look for.
The difference in people who visit a new city and leave with inspiration, and those who leave no different than they came is that the successful ones know how they get inspired and put themselves in a position to act on their inspirations.
Know Your Inspirations
I personally get inspired from hearing other people’s stories. Being that it’s the 20th anniversary of the first book; the internet has been flooded with Harry Potter articles this week. The more articles I read the more I got interested in JK Rowling’s backstory. I found out she suffered from depression, contemplated suicide, had 12 publishers turn down the first book, along with many more downfalls before that. I was fascinated by her career arc . This made me realize that the best way to describe me is that I’m more interested in JK Rowling than Harry Potter. I’d rather read an autobiography from her than an 8th entry to the Harry Potter series. I love the books/movies but I’m drawn to hearing how she came from failure and depression to making a billion dollars off of one story.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an artist telling me their story in a song, reading an autobiography, or even watching a movie character, they can all be a source of inspiration for me. A problem most of us have is we see the finished product and think there is no way that can be us. We see Steve Jobs at the height of his career at Apple, not the college dropout. We know Mark Cuban for disrupting industries, owning an NBA team, and being on Shark Tank. Most people don’t even know he was a bartender after graduation. Personally seeing the whole picture of someone’s life inspires me. I’m able to see that at age 22 I’m not any worse off than some of my idols.
The original source of the blog was even through following my friend Jesse Eldredge’s path when he started his blog. His background isn’t terribly different than mine and he took a leap to create a blog. I saw the reaction he got and thought “I can do this too. I think I can help others just like Jess is doing”.
This takes us back to the original quote, how do I know what to look for? For me, I’d be wasting my time looking through New York’s art galleries, they wouldn’t affect me in any way. I’d be interested in hearing the stories of people living in New York, where they want to go, and where they came from.
That’s just my source of inspiration however; yours doesn’t have to look anything like mine. Think about your big breakthroughs over the course of your life. When was a time you truly decided to make a change and take action, not just think about it? It could be launching a blog, choosing your college, career, or any other type of breakthrough. What was the reason you made that change? Where were you? How did you feel? Really try to put yourself back into that situation and realize what your triggers were. Knowing these will help you with future decisions and learning how you receive inspiration.
Put Yourself in a Situation to Succeed
The person who chooses Applebee’s and a hotel room isn’t giving themselves a chance to get inspired. If you’re constantly on Twitter and Snapchat, never alone with your own thoughts, you aren’t putting yourself in a spot to listen.
A good practice is at the end of the day, write out what you’ve done. We usually try to make a schedule for what we’d like to accomplish in a day, but we rarely reflect on what we’ve actually done. In this review see if you gave yourself a chance to make a breakthrough, get inspired, or create something worthy.
Have you made anyone else’s day better? Have you put anything generous out into the world? Did you take the time to go out of your comfort zone? Exercise to keep your mind and body healthy? Eat healthy enough maintain energy throughout the day?
These things all matter. It’s one thing to know our inspirations; it’s another to put ourselves in a position to use them for good.
As an example, I don’t consider my day a success if I didn’t read, write, and study. Reading, writing, and studying don’t have to be boring for me either, it’s not just educational content all day long. The other day I read an article about how Fox Sports is laying off 30 writers and focusing more on video content, following a lot of other media companies. This inspired me to want to learn more about video production and what I can be doing with YouTube content to keep up with the trends. The same concept applies to studying. It’s not cramming my nights with textbooks, quite the opposite. I’ll study the habits of someone I look up to, a new concept I’d like to learn, or the career arc of a famous person (JK Rowling this week). Maybe in New York I’d set up an informational interview with someone who’s position I’d hope to be in.
Tools for Finding Inspiration
I’ve mentioned before the importance of a daily reflection practice. It allows you to put things in perspective, listen to your thoughts, and see your actions. A key for reflection is to tune out any outside noise, including social media, TV, or roommates. A new tool I’ve found helpful for this is ambient music. Music that puts an emphasis on tone and atmosphere over rhythm.
Turning off the lights and reflecting with ambient music will transform your nights. You’ll see a difference in how you view your days and the world when you reflect before bed.
Brian Eno is a great place to start if you’ve never been introduced to this type of music. There’s even an app Reflection by Brian Eno, that gives you an endless supply of his music with visuals to go along with it.
My original intention with Ambient music was to make endless music, music that would be there as long as you wanted it to be
Take a Mental Vacation
There’s a way to take a vacation without even leaving your room. Look up the habits of some of the most inspirational figures in the world right now, you’ll typically find a decompressing practice. Tim Ferriss wrote a great article on “Why You Need a Deloading Phase in Life”
For me, I’ve scheduled “deloading” phases in a few ways: roughly 8am-9am daily for journaling, tea routines, etc.; 9am-1pm every Wednesday for creative output (i.e. writing, interviewing for the podcast); and “screen-free Saturdays,” when I use no laptops and only use my phone for maps and coordinating with friends via text (no apps). Of course, I also use mini-retirements a few time a year.
You’ll drive yourself crazy if you spend too much time worrying about being inspired. It’s a good idea to take your foot off the gas periodically and live with no worries, not forcing yourself to put out content or achieve any goal. You’ll even find that in this mental vacation you might find what you were looking for. Inspiration can come to us when we least expect and when we don’t try too hard to find it.
Take a day off from the world completely, no apps, no laptops, and no commitments. You’ll come back fresh and ready for productive days.
Thanks for reading the post and supporting the blog. I hope I was able to help you think more about how you spend your days and what you should be looking for. Fill out the form below to receive new pieces directly to your inbox.