Why Inspiration Matters

“Genius is one part inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” ~ Thomas Edison

In a culture obsessed with physical talent and ability, we often overlook the critical role of inspiration. Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by transcending our ordinary experiences and limitations. It propels a person from apathy to opportunity and transforms how we perceive our capabilities while acknowledging our human limitations.

Inspiration is elusive; its history as supernatural or divine raises concerns for many in the business world.

Why would our materialistic profit-driven business model want to embrace spiritual matters?

Quite simply, it was delusionary ever to deny it as many companies across the globe are shifting to more of a humanistic form of capitalism. One that acknowledges our interconnectedness to the planet and people. A sustainable model that works within our resource limitations and doesn’t demand more growth than she can give without paying a high price in the present and future.

This is the essence of vision and new ideas. A few of our framers were enlightened and wanted to create a secular humanist government without religious oversight.

However, both the power drivers in religion and business have violated our government and destroyed the free press, the two institutions charged with maintaining and growing our democracy. Instead of increasing social democracy, the oligarchy quickly consumed the delicate infant formed by our Founders. It never had a chance to defend itself.

Inspiration has ethereal qualities

First, inspiration comes spontaneously without intention. Inspiration transcends our animalistic self-serving egoic concerns and limitations. Many view this as a weakness, but it’s paradoxically the source of all power.

Such transcendence often involves a moment of clarity and awareness of new possibilities. This makes many in business uncomfortable because it goes against our mechanistic world where profits over people and the planet come first. It’s all about the competitive world – man against man.

Albert Einstein was the greatest physicist of all time (a scientist), but he was well aware that humans have a social aspect requiring cultivation. It’s why he made the reference to capitalism as “evil.”

Any socio-economic-political model minimizing or excluding that fundamental reality is dooming society to neurosis and confusion. Our artists and musicians can see it quite clearly:

Secular humanism falls short; renunciation of the spirit or nature denies the ethereal world.

Inspired people share certain characteristics

Inspired people are more open to new experiences and are intrinsically more immersed in their work. Many refer to being in a zone. Religious people call it being in a state of grace or peace. Serenity. Stillness. It’s the birthplace of inspiration. It’s why Eastern cultures emphasize meditation and mindfulness. Western cultures overemphasize individuality.

This is not willpower or volition. One doesn’t demand inspiration to happen. It cannot be forced. It’s a paradox. You have to recede control to be inspired. Let go, let the Universe take control.

Inspired individuals work with ease. They resist competition, which makes sense if you think of competition as a non-transcendent desire to outperform competitors. Again, man against man. Combat. Only the strong win.

Think more intrinsically motivated and less extrinsically motivated, variables that also strongly impact work performance. Think of the research done by Daniel Pink in Drive.

Are you an inspiring leader

Inspiration is not about agency or enhancement of resources; what makes an object inspiring is its perceived intrinsic value, not its objective worth, or how attainable it is.

Inspired people report higher levels of confidence, self-esteem, and optimism. Not machoism or pride.

Mastery of work, absorption, creativity, perceived competence, self-esteem, and optimism are all consequences of inspiration, suggesting that inspiration facilitates these important psychological traits. The cause may be the still mind or stillness; the effect inspires.

Interestingly, inspiration is not purely passive but does favor the prepared mind; it does not originate from ego or cannot be forced or coerced. One can be a servant leader and still miss the mark.

Inspiration is not a positive attitude

Compared to the ordinary experiences of everyday life, inspiration involves connectivity to the ethereal world bringing peace and serenity; it’s more than just seeing the world positively. It’s an effect, not a cause.

It is not an enthusiastic and excited state; people who become inspired recall greater levels of spirituality and meaning with lower levels of willpower or control. “I was in a zone!” “It was effortless.” “I felt as though the wind was at my back.”

Whereas positive affect is activated when someone makes progress toward their immediate, conscious goals, inspiration is more related to an awakening of something new. Cultivating and maintaining a deep awareness as Eckhart Tolle discusses in his book, “The Power of Now”.

Inspiration cultivates creativity

Inspired people are more creative. Artists in many forms discuss creativity coming from inspiration.

In some circles, spontaneous writing is used as an almost effortless experience. Whereas those writing through volition alone find the process much more laborious. “I got it done but was exhausted.” “It felt like I was swimming upstream.” “I was working against the wind the whole time.”

The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties – this knowledge, this feeling . . . that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.

Albert Einstein

In summary

Those who practice Eastern cultures, more specifically Taoism, refer to the balance in nature with yin/yang energies or masculine/feminine energies. A book was written by Fritjof Caprain in the 1970s titled the Tao of Physics brings philosophy and science together as both try to explain the cosmos and our physical reality.

“Physicists do not need mysticism,” Dr. Capra says, “and mystics do not need physics, but humanity needs both.” 

Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics

All of it centers on a balance and connection to the source of power. The ultimate question then becomes, “How do we design a community/society to achieve personal and collective well-being that fosters inspiration and creativity?”

Lastly, without that 1% inspiration, do we still have genius or just action – will power?

We will discuss balance, power, and social structures in later articles

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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