Inspiration is like a wild stallion, charging about and spontaneously running from one place to the next within the incredible matrix and network of your mind. Inspiration is also as evasive as a cloud. You can see it, sense it, and climb a mountain to touch it. But, hold it—you cannot.
Still, inspiration is like watching a cowboy in a rodeo, attempting to ride a wild raging bull for as long as he can to win the cheer of the crowd and claim the respect and prize of the judges. The thing about riding a wild bull is that you can’t—you can only attempt to do so, for a very short time. You can tame it for the number of seconds for which you ride it.
Better still, you can tame yourself and your grip to handle the powerful rage of the mad bull. As you do, and once you successfully suffer the pains of the bull’s attempt to send you flying off its back, you would have milked out of your quality time with the bull, the element you need to claim the prize.
Helen Keller, an American author, political activist, and lecturer said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart (1).” She was right. It comes and goes as the wind. So, how do we tame the wind, the wild bull, or the stallion, long enough to milk out the juices from the inspired thoughts, ideas, solutions, and products which we need for the development of our dreams and visions?
Like the wind and wind turbines, what human turbine can we use to turn the elusive winds of inspiration into helpful real life tools and products that are real as the electricity that wind turbines produce? Like the wild stallion and the horse whisperer, what kind of whisper do we need to draw and channel the spontaneous inspiration into an obedient long distance transporter of our life long dreams? And in the case of the wild bull, the cowboy, and the rodeo; what rope and grip do we need to hold on to the wild raging inspiration long enough to be able to bring out the element necessary to win success – the reward for perspiration? Let me answer with a story
A Young Visionary’s Story:
There was a young man with several language barriers who enrolled in college. He was a good student and performed slightly above average. This was only after endless hours of study. So, he began looking for ways to do more. We called him the idea box. He was always full of ideas and would often be seen writing on toilet paper and pieces of scrap—the ideas—which often came to him at random times such as during a test or in the middle of asking a professor questions.
Often excited, he would share his idea for acting, a book, a language, software, and more. But, days later, the element behind the idea would do a prison break out his memory and the several sentences he jotted down would be meaningless headings without a story.So, he decided to try something different using another idea which came to him. He drew lines on a piece of paper and in each square of that paper, he placed a time and place to have a meeting and discussion with each of his ideas without interruption from anyone or any other subject.
He made sure that for each time and space, the idea he had decided to work on after each session of study would be done without any external disruption. When it was time to study, he studied. When it was time to sleep, eat, or meet with friends, he did. When it came time to write, he wrote even if it was useless writing. Then he realized he had more time and decided to do what he was often inspired to do. He incorporated acting, creative writing, drawing, inventing, and language learning. He would do a piece of each during its time and in the designated space he had chosen for each piece.
Within the next 2-3 years of his college life, he became an actor in the local theater, a radio host, school representative, a writer with 4 books prepped for publishing, an ace student, joined several campus groups, and graduated with the highest honors, scoring a 4.0 GPA throughout his sophomore to senior years. By then, he knew 2 languages and the basics of 3 others including Chinese and Russian. What was his secret?
Time + Space + Work = Routine:
Whenever he got the inspiration to do or try something new, he tamed it and channeled it into a time and space where he would have a meeting with himself about the idea that had come his way. Here, he kept the train of thought moving along a predetermined brain track until he had time to elaborate on it.
From there, he would assign more time and space to work on the idea further with some help and research if need be. In short, he developed a routine. Routines are great and routines are not mundane. Routines are what the best artists, contributors, entrepreneurs, and visionaries seem to all have in common. Their work does not follow the chase for inspiration or the wait for motivation—the wild bull.
One who is called a creator, a great artist or visionary is one who “rides the wild bull for the time needed to win the prize.” It is the one who takes the time to tame that inspiration and motivation like a wind turbine, turning the wind of that elusive idea into an electrifying product or service.The wind turbine, the rope, or horse whisper we need to tame inspiration are the habits, the routines—the time, space, and the continuous effort to surf the wave of inspiration till the wave dwindles and hits the beach.
Merely having an idea, a dream, or vision, is forever global. What you do with it next, is not. This is the difference between the professional and the amateur. From James Clear’s Mastering Creativity, we read this about how some great artists tamed their inspiration (2):
- Maya Angelou rented a local hotel room and went there to write. She arrived at 6:30 am, wrote until 2:00 pm, and then went home to do some editing. She never slept at the hotel.
- Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon wrote five nights per week from 10:00 pm to 3:00 am.
- Haruki Murakami would wake up at 4:00 am, write for five hours and then would go for a run.
From watching a show and reading articles about Warren Buffet and the Japanese sport—Sumo Wrestling, I learned the following:
- Warren Buffet, the sage of Omaha, the greatest investor of all time, reads for 80% of his day. Upon arrival at work, he would read financial reports, analysis, statements, then move on to papers, research, and books. He follows his routine every time.
- Sumo Wrestlers often wake up at 4:30 am. Then they would embark on training with an empty stomach till 11:30 am when they will cook and eat up to 61 dishes of rice and Chankonabe stew. They proceed to bed, wake up at 6:30 pm, eat an unconventional light dinner, and then go back to bed at 11:30 pm. This routine is strictly followed. And you wonder how they could be so tall, so huge, yet so powerful, and still so fast.
And from Rabbi Sack’s lecture, I learned this about the famous composer, Beethoven:-
- He would wake up each morning and make himself coffee. Each cup made with exactly 60 beans which he himself counted out each time. He would then sit at his desk and compose till 2 or 3 pm in the afternoon. Then, he would proceed to go on a long walk, taking a pen and music papers to record any ideas that came to him on his walk. Then after supper, he would have a beer, smoke a pipe, and then go to bed, 10:00 pm at the least. He did so daily (3).
These men and women all gave their inspiration a Place and a Time to exist. And within that space and time, they rode the bull. They tamed their inspiration, turning elusive thought into a helpful and an electrifying piece, book, movie, investment, service…capable of inspiring and electrifying other human beings into living life to the fullest. Even the divine, blessed be He, set a time and a place for each wind of inspiration to exist and come alive. In the bible’s opening book—Genesis 1—we read about him from day 1 to day 6 riding the winds of inspiration. As it says, “And the Spirit of God was moving over the water…then God Said….(4).”
It’s interesting to note that those of the faith refer to the Spirit of God as the wind. Only when the wind moved did the Creator proceed to say and create. But, he did so immediately after as if riding the wind through. Therefore, it’s safe to say that the divine was himself, by example, showing how to ride the breeze of the wind of inspiration. He was showing us how to proceed in turning the wind to electricity. The electricity being the product or service – that tool by which you live your dreams of contributing to humanity for a reward, just like the electricity a wind turbine creates. That is, the reward being either in kind or cash.
So, yes, find the place and the time, and tame that inspiration. If that is writing for you, then write, always doing so every time, during that time of the week you select and the place you find heart warming. If that is speaking, practice speaking. If that is acting, practice acting. Do what you need to every week, every month, every year. This is equivalent to holding onto the wild bull as I noted in an earlier article.
If your concern is that there is not enough time, then allow me to tell you about Frank Kafka. An influential writer of our time, “He would go to his job from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, eat lunch and then take a long nap until 7:30 pm, exercise and eat dinner with his family in the evening, and then begin writing at 11:00 pm for a few hours each night before going to bed and doing it all over again (5).”
Meanwhile, stop hoping that you will feel motivated, inspired, or wait for the will power to do it. If the cowboy was waiting for the bull to be calm, he would never ride that bull. The problem with waiting is that you always wait, hoping for the best or next best time to do something. And the problem with inspiration still remains—it is a raging bull, a wild stallion, and the elusive wind. If you wait, it’s gone. If you are wise, tame it. Every time is a good time.
I end with this story about Todd Henry, a successful author. He was asked:
“Todd, what do you think about writing only when you feel motivated? I feel like I always do my best work when I get a spark of creativity or inspiration, but that only happens every now and then. I’m pretty much only writing when I feel like it, which means I’m inconsistent. But if I write all the time, then I’m not creating my best work.”
“That’s cool,” Todd replied. “I only write when I’m motivated too. I just happen to be motivated every day at 8:00 am (6).”
I wish you well on your idea, projects, and objectives.