“I am one who, when Love inspires, attend, and according as he speaks within me, so I express myself” (Dante Alighieri).
ALMOST EVERY DAY, MOST OF US ARE SURROUNDED BY INFLUENCES THAT COULD INSPIRE US TO DO OUR WORK AT A HIGHER LEVEL. When we allow these influences to uplift us and energize us, those around us benefit from that as much as we do. When our work rises above the humdrum to a level of high excellence, the world becomes a better place, even if only in some small way.
While the word “inspiration” often has a religious significance, we are using it here simply to mean “stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity” (American Heritage Dictionary). All of us know the experience, at least occasionally. A time comes when, because of the season of the year, a piece of music, a conversation with a friend, or any number of other “inspiring” events, we are moved to accomplish something more excellent than we thought we were capable of. Our emotions are stirred, our thinking is provoked, and our abilities surge to an unexpected strength. To act under the influence of “inspiration” is one of life’s genuine joys, and we ought to be grateful for the people around us who inspire us.
But the more important question is: to what extent are we having an inspirational influence on them? As much as possible, we need to be people whose influence is such that other human beings find it easier to do good work with us than they would without us. Life’s objective is not to be inspired by others but to be inspiring to others.
It would be a mistake to sit down and do nothing until we feel inspired. As Ben Nicholas said, “Most of life is routine — dull and grubby, but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going. If you wait for inspiration you’ll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street.” Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful experience when, now and then, we feel truly inspired to do our best work. There is no shortage of things that can inspire us, and we should open our hearts up and let ourselves be inspired by them. Better yet, we shouldn’t wait for inspiration to find us; we should go out and track it down.
“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration. Light out after it with a club” (Jack London).