Igniting Inspiration

I have a very good friend who frustrates me. He’s the kind of guy who puts his drink on the floor next to him despite having a coffee table (and a coaster) eight inches in front of him. If there are four chairs in a room, he’s likely to sit on the floor – just because.

As a person who follows the rules, does the “normal thing” and mostly conforms to common wisdom and conventions, I have often found his approach to even the simplest tasks odd and annoying. Whenever I think there is a standard way to do something, he finds another “weird way”. Sometimes his methods are inefficient and off putting.

However, lately I’ve come to appreciate and even embrace his different thinking. I’ve been noticing,that in many cases, his way yields unexpected and pleasant results. Every now and then there’s even been an “aha” moment for me when he does something in his own unique fashion.

He’s a super-successful software engineer and his unconventional ways are teaching me to look at problems, and life, in a new way. Now that I’m no longer constrained by the boundaries of working for someone else, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I want to do with my life and work. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I realize that the only one putting limits on me, is me. Who says I can’t work any project that tickles my fancy or that I feel passionate about.

Once I began to open myself up to new ways of thinking and alternative sources of inspiration, I started feeling so much more creative. I was sort of surprised to find inspiration in the simplest things and now I revel in time spent thinking about how I can apply features or ideas from my everyday life to my work.

Whenever I think about starting a task or solving a problem, I ask myself, what if I was a child with no preconceived notions about how to solve the issue. What would I do? How would I tackle the problem? It doesn’t matter that 99 percent of the ideas are just flat out ridiculous. But there is that one percent that turns out to be a gem.

I put aside the ways things have been done before and try to think outside the box. I know, I know. That phrase is so overused. But it’s hard to come up with another phrase that really captures it for me – especially when I have long felt boxed in by something – bosses, financial responsibilities and mostly fear of failure.

Of course, there are tried and true methods that warrant implementation. There’s a reason that best practices work. But I’m working hard not to get bogged down in doing everything by the book.

Here are some great ways to find inspiration:

Read – And not just information related to your job or industry. My smartest and most creative friends are voracious readers. Fiction, non-fiction, magazines. You name it – they gobble up everything. You never know when inspiration will strike. That cycling magazine, or biography of a well-know historical figure may include something that resonates with you and starts the wheels in motion.

Talk to Peers – I know most people in the online marketing space are extremely busy and prefer email or instant messaging to communicate. But I find that every phone or face-to-face conversation I have leads to idea. I feel energized after chatting with people. Even if I don’t come away with an action item or the next big thing – I feel inspired, which in turn, makes me ten times more productive.

Talk to Everyone – Including Your Mom – It’s easy to get caught up in a bubble. The majority of my friends and colleagues are all super smart and techies. However, being cutting edge, early adopters doesn’t always mean we are in touch with the general public. I talk with the guys at the coffee shop, people in line at the grocery store, the mail man, my neighbors and anyone else that I come in contact with. I love knowing more about people and their big concerns. I am genuinely interested and I often get great inspiration from people. It also helps me realize that sometimes I am slightly out of touch.

Give Back – When you help others you often end up helping yourself. Sharing information with peers, offering to help on project, working for a charity, whatever it may be, gives you a sense of the world beyond yourself and your own work. It can help you see the larger picture, which often opens up new ways of thinking about problems. I must also point out that the many people who have helped me with advice, time and support are among the most creative and successful people I know. They are on to something that I want to be part of.

Be a Problem Solver – Ask yourself what frustrates you in everyday life. Chances are other are in the same boat. Why can’t I easily find a support group in my area for a specific health concern? Why is there not a single place online that aggregates information about my favorite hobby? What do I do with the hundreds of used jigsaw puzzles overcrowding my closet? These frustrations may lead to new online business ideas.

Take a Break – When I need to tackle problem, the mere fact that I am sitting down in front of my computer to bang out my thoughts doesn’t make the ideas flow. However, when I take a walk or just sit and relax for 15 to 30 minutes, my mind is free to wander, ponder and there is certainly less pressure than sitting in front of a blank outline on my screen.

Look Around You – Good ideas abound offline and there are often ways to implement them online. I have been struck with good ideas at the park, the grocery store, even while standing in line at the DMV.

Be a Trend Spotter – Going green, financial concerns, saving money, health insurance issues, buying foreclosed homes, recycling clothing, watching TV online, etc. These are all topics that are top of mind for people. You can maximize these opportunities and other emerging ones as well. Spot the next big thing by reading, talking and just absorbing.

The bottom line is that inspiration to get your creative juices flowing is everywhere. You just need to be open to looking at things in a new way.

Do you have unique sources of inspiration? How have they helped you remain motivated?

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Lisa Picarille is a consultant specializing in online marketing, branding, social media and content creation. A journalist for more than 20 years, Lisa was most recently the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Revenue Magazine, The Performance Marketing Standard.

About Lisa Picarille

You can follow Lisa on Twitter: @LisaP.

5 Responses to Igniting Inspiration

  1. Sometimes it happens so and people make you much frustrated from their attitude.

  2. Pat Grady says:

    I like when I have friends, good friends, where I can solicit criticism from them on my websites and they give me honest answers. They are often free thinkers (like your friend described here) or possess a high degree of confidence / self-esteem or just feel comfortable actually sharing their honest opinions because the friendship feels mutually respectful – or all 3 of these things!

    I adore and highly value that input, it's soaking in two wonderful things – new motivation (to improve and reconsider my original construction assumptions) and reward (friendships can be like a farmer's field, where evidence of honest inputted work shows itself later, benefits many, and is a sign of rich soil being well tended that is showing its potential for many bountiful harvests to come).

    Asking somebody a question, when you want to hear the answer regardless of its potential to self-inflict, has powerful mojo in many ways.

    Thankfully, I have many blunt, beloved friends who, good or bad, will tell me exactly like it is. To me, it's a crucial element of being a friend.

    After all, progress comes ONLY from disrupting the status quo!

    So I try my best to push past my ego and instead allow any moments of disruption to ignite my curiousity, creativity and action bones.

  3. lisapicarille says:

    pat,

    having friends that are willing to honestly provide feedback is a often an eye opening experience. as a person soliciting feedback (or not) you must be open to hearing the truth. having preconceived notions only holds you back. i get inspiration and often fine tuning of ideas by being open to those around me and new ways of thinking. once we all decided that we are not the smartest person in the room and put our egos aside, the possibilities are endless.

  4. Brook Schaaf says:

    I think reading is a great one because it helps to focus your mind. In order to have enough to read, it's good to have a small stockpile of books you're interested in and move past the books you lose interest in. I am a big fan of nonfiction.