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Why we need inspiration

by Ennis Cehic

Two men in a library
The secret of life, wrote Paulo Coelho in the Alchemist, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times. The eighth time being the breakthrough.

If you read between the lines of this quote, you can actually unload the central contents of your life’s creative, business or personal output.

First of all, the quote recognises the necessity of failure. If you think of failure as experiments, the undertone of this word stops being negative. It’s simply an attempt. Steve Jobs was a prominent supporter of this. He is widely quoted to have said, fail harder. When you look at Apple’s history, you can see why this quote appealed.

But buried between failed attempts, you also find will: the desire to do things. Doesn’t matter what you do, will is the prerequisite of everything. It is the main driving force in humans, and something greats like Nietzsche spent many long nights pondering over. But, when broken down logically, will alone — while being the foundation from which desire stems — isn’t actionable.

It means nothing without persistence.

The act of iteration, the determination that makes a person fail, again and again before they finally succeed, is more important than anything else.

Simply, Paulo’s quote validates that if you want to do something, you can’t have one without the other. If Usain Bolt didn’t train, would he be the fastest man in the world? If Richard Branson didn’t persist daringly would he have the Virgin empire? Will and persistence go hand in hand. It’s what we usually equate to practice makes perfect.

But when you dig a little deeper, you also uncover something else in this notable quote.

Something that is required to maintain both the will and the persistence to keep going. This factor is the most crucial component to the secret of life because it essentially holds everything together: inspiration.

Without inspiration, you lack both the stimuli of desire and momentum of action. It is the notion that makes the person get up again after each fall. It is the spiritual kick a human being needs to keep going. Even in the act of failure, when your mind is fatigued from exhaustion and repeated defeat, you still get back up again because you are inspired by the end goal.

I think we often misinterpret the definition of inspiration. It is mixed up with motivation.

Motivation isn’t inspiration. Motivation is about the immediate result, whereas inspiration is about the longevity — the big picture.

Think about it. You want to meet a deadline before you go home, and what you need is confident music to get you in the mood. So, you press play on ‘Power’ by Kanye West. This hypes you up and energises you, propelling you to finish the task. But to realise the big picture and get what you most desire (like the apex of your career, for example) you need something that lasts beyond a quick push.

This is inspiration. It’s addictive to creatives because it turns will and persistence into conviction; a belief that subconsciously drives your dreams.

It rouses your soul to give you the energy to fail again and again because it’s created the confidence to know that the eighth or the ninth time you will not fall, but get up and reach the breakthrough.

The great thing about inspiration is that can be found anywhere. It intervenes in our daily lives. Some scrape it off other people’s energy. Some find it first thing in the morning from a ray of sunlight. Others from a fleeting smile of a stranger. We all arrive at inspiration from different angles. But regardless where it comes from, it’s important to let it come. It’s too crucial to avoid.

What I love most about Paulo’s quote is the sentiment of the repeated act. Because only when we cross the bridge from the land of thinking to the land of doing, do we realise the impact of inspiration. We change. We believe more because we are capable. We didn’t give up. We didn’t opt in for a future with regrets. We opted for success.

In the act of pursuing inspiration, inevitably we become the ones people find inspiring.

Today, technology has made inspiration — like everything else — readily available. If you require a daily dose of quotes, there’s an app for that. If you get inspiration from current people, there’s people to follow — plenty of great individuals whose successes are there to be admired.

The author and entrepreneur, Derek Sivers writes that nothing is more inspiring than applying inspiration to your work.

And in relation to the secret of life that Paulo professes, I can’t agree more. When you put theory to practise and focus on the output that inspired it, the fulfilment itself is inspirational.

So wherever you get it from, be it from pages of old English poetry, or the tweets of your favourite Twitterers, just keep it up. It’s the influence that drives our life’s purpose.

Thank you for reading.

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