Looking for Inspiration? Take a Breath

Last week I spoke at an event called the Learning Economy Summit, which highlights the way brands of all sizes are using education to drive results in marketing, sales, and customer experience. Attendees came from healthcare companies, manufacturers, consumer packaged goods companies, and nonprofits. One word came up over and over: inspiration.

We discussed inspiration vs. education (and whether there’s really a difference). We debated whether a brand that hadn’t earned its way into the public conversation could inspire an audience to become educated by that brand. We talked about how to keep students inspired to continue the education across a longer learning curriculum.

Generally, we think of inspiration as a thing that comes and goes. It’s a burst of emotional energy that comes from some supernatural place, propelling us forward in an optimal way. We hope for it to come frequently.

And why wouldn’t we? When we’re inspired, we jump into our life with both feet. Every opportunity seems to awaken another opportunity. We transcend the normal experience of whatever we’re doing: playing the sport, performing our art, designing our business strategy, or even changing that diaper. We’re present. No one is better at that thing in that moment than we are. Inspiration removes our limitations, improves our performance, and leaves us feeling exhilarated.

Inspiration is fleeting. And we can’t will it to happen. (Research shows this, according to the Harvard Business Review.) But we can do things to increase our chances of being inspired or inspiring others. Here are two: Be open to experience, and expose yourself to things that inspire you.

First, let’s talk about “openness to experience.” Here’s how that Harvard Business Review article puts it: “Inspired people were more open to new experiences, and reported more absorption in their tasks. ‘Openness to Experience’ often came before inspiration, suggesting that those who are more open to inspiration are more likely to experience it.”

The second key to increasing inspiration is simply exposure. These researchers found that the more inspiration people are exposed to, the more inspired they became. So if you find yourself lacking inspiration, it may simply be that you’re in need of a good fix of the movie “Rudy,” a Martin Luther King speech, or a rendition of Marvin Gaye singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

As content practitioners, it’s our job to become inspired so that we can inspire others. So next time your boss comes in to tell you to turn down Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” you can say that you’re working.

To find inspiration, hug the chaos. Enter the unknown, and open up to possibility. Since “inspiration” means, literally, “breathing in,” start by slowing down and taking a breath. Whatever happens next might inspire you.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
Robert Rose on LinkedinRobert Rose on Twitter


Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.

Leave a Reply