How To Be Inspired At Work

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It’s 7 am. I’m sitting in a coffee shop right around the corner from my office.

It’s easy to read between the lines. It’s easy to think that someone is a workaholic. It’s easy to make assumptions (must be single, probably no kids, whatever). All of that is irrelevant (and not true). I remember being desperately out of shape in the early nineties. I remember being very busy at a startup in publishing. I remember saying to myself that if only I could find the time to work out and eat better. It’s almost laughable now, but that same line of thinking is applied in almost everything that we do. We all want to read more. Be more involved in our community. Meditate more. Spend more time travelling. Whatever. The universal truth to all of this is: we all make the time for the things that are important to us. Recognizing that this is, primarily, a first world problem, and that there are many individuals in North America struggling with issues that can’t afford them this type of luxurious thinking, for the vast majority of us, we simply get trapped in our own minds (and find it increasingly difficult to escape that dogma).

Inspiration is the ultimate survival mechanism.

There’s that humorous saying that, "only the paranoid survive." I’d argue that, "only the inspired survive." When you’re paranoid, you’re falsely believing that people are trying to harm you, and it’s making your mind think, act and react in not-so-great ways. When you’re inspired, you’re looking for an idea that creates a feeling or emotion. What you do once you’re inspired, is up to you.

Back to this 7 am thing.

I’m not constantly inspired at work. When I sit here, in this cafe, and I run into people I know. We often get into the conversation of work. Some come here to avoid the work. Some come here to get the work done. You can smell the desperation on both types of people. It seems like everyone is looking for that secret sauce. How does one get inspired at work… and stay that way? For me, the answer is obvious. It’s simple. It’s something that I focus on. A lot. Here it is…

To be inspired at work, you have to always get inspired.

Too many people believe that being at happy at work (or inspired) is a destination. It’s not. To be inspired, you have to get inspired. This is where most people fall down. This is where most people pull the "I don’t have time for that" card (see the first paragraph above). I have been working at Twist Image since 2002. It’s been twelve years. I never thought I would last anywhere that long (whether I was the entrepreneur or the employee… and I have been both on more than a few occasions). In that tenure, I’ve had the pleasure of writing two business books (Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete). Writing a book can be an amazingly painful process (don’t believe me, check this out: 21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors). That being said, I loved every moment of it (even when the words failed to arrive or when I was busy procrastinating to avoid the blank stare of a blank screen). I have been reflecting a lot on both my twelve years at Twist Image and the process of birthing two books. I realized that the main reason I’m still as passionate (if not more passionate) about the work is because my DNA is set-up to constantly be on the hunt for inspiration. I’ve mentioned it more than once, but I am an infovore.

To be inspired, please get inspired.

It’s a tough formula if you’re miserable. It’s a tough thing to read if you feel stuck with no way out. It’s even harder to digest if you have financial woes. Still, I want you to focus on this one question as much as possible during your day-to-day: am I looking to be inspired? Here is a list of ways that I find inspiration:

  • Reading. Ideally, the most inspiring ideas come from books, but I’m not going to push you to do something that you don’t want to do. Get inspired by words. Follow interesting people on Twitter. Click on the links that people share on Facebook. Follow some interesting blogs. Read every article (cover to cover) of a magazine that interests you (and yes, read the ads too). Subscribe to interesting email newsletters. Ask people that you admire what they’re reading.
  • People. As Keith Ferrazzi so wisely says, Never Eat Alone. Get up from your desk as often as you can. Walk around the office. Ask someone to join you for a coffee. Set up an early morning breakfast before your work day starts. Do some volunteer work in an effort to help your community and meet other interesting people. Some of the better ideas I’ve seen out in the world come from hearing others speak. There’s a reason why TED‘s famed talks bear the tagline, "ideas worth spreading."  You will be surprised. Even the most uninspiring people can say things that will inspire you to take action.
  • Create. My preference is to write words about business. Find yours. It can be simple smartphone photos on Instagram or creating a myriad of obscure boards on Pinterest. Create. Create something. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some of the most uninspired people at work literally come to life – and become entirely other people – when they post on Facebook. They’re creative, funny and irreverent. They’re inspired. You can feel it.
  • Laugh. I’m no comedian, but I do believe that following, listening, watching and understanding the art of stand-up comedy has played a pivotal role in my own success (and my definition for personal success is probably vastly different from yours). It’s not about how good laughing is for you, but rather about the wit, speed and art of crafting and telling jokes that inspire me to think in a very different way. Find that source of laughter for you and don’t just consume it… learn it. Start with people like Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer and Anthony Jeselnik (note: most of that content is NSFW).

Consume as much as you can.

As people become less inspired at work, they also begin to retract emotionally. Closing up like that is a sure way to die both on the inside and the outside. The antidote to that very real physical and mental state is to always be consuming. Not drugs and alcohol, but experiences. Consume experiences. They can be minor ones, like reading an article that you never typically read in The New Yorker. They can be major ones, like taking your savings and going off to travel. I measure each day not by my to do list, but rather by my levels of consumption. If you’re going to monitor your food and water intake every day, why not monitor how much information you’re taking in and what your level of inspiration is against that consumption?

Dig deep.

This is not a listicle. Sorry. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s a posture. An attitude. It has to come from deep down within you. You. You have to decide right now, how much of your time you are giving to allow yourself to get inspired. What you will uncover. Slowly. Very slowly. Over time. Inspiration is, ultimately, what will keep you engaged at work and happy at home. It will make you healthier (your mind, your body and your spirit). Think about it. Apply it.

Do everything you can be looking for inspiration with each and every passing moment. It’s there. You will start seeing it. Right?