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You Must Inspire Yourself Before You Can Inspire Others

August 5, 2011

What inspires you?

You know what I’m talking about:  every now and then something snaps you out of the weeds – some kind of internal force propelling you to embrace a bigger future, motivating you to become more engaged, more hopeful, more visionary, better able to mobilize your team to achieve greater results.

But where does it come from?

I was having lunch with a couple of friends the other day – two hard-charging CEO’s – and we got talking about the things we love to do outside of work.

One is into extreme ultra running, having recently completed a 100-mile race. “Did you get a runner’s high?” I asked, thinking about the thin line between delusional hallucinations and the psychotic desire to run for literally 28 hours straight.

“Not really.” He said. “I had a nice quiet dinner afterwards with my dad.”

My other friend talked about the lift he gets from escaping the hustle of business to the serenity of the mountains and lakes of New Hampshire with his family.

As for me, well, they knew all too well about my awesome blogging, how writing is a prime source of Xtreme joy. (Hey, big guy! You think running100 miles is tough? Try writing 250 blog posts!) Also, I crave the solitude of hiking in the Adirondacks, or taking in Picasso and Pollack at the art museum, or traveling adventures with my family.

These activities are necessary for the care and nurture of our souls; requirements for maintaining spiritual sanity.

Oddly, though, for the three of us at lunch that day, we also confessed the many years it took before we felt worthy of indulging in these life-giving pleasures. Guilt, or obligations, or overwhelming responsibilities with work and home deprived us from pursuing these hobbies well into our thirties, and, for me, into my forties.

“Why did we wait so long to do the things we love?” we asked each other, baffled.

Each of us is inspired by unique activities. But we don’t always give ourselves permission to carve out the time to do what we love.

Are you an inspiring leader?

No, this is not a rhetorical question.

Are you able to motivate those around you to do more than they thought they could? Achieve better results? Become better people?

It’s so ironic. Everyone agrees that the best leaders must be inspiring, but it’s so easy to get forever bogged down with the urgent or the routine.

One thing is for certain: You can’t inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. It is only then that your spirit can be moved to thought and action in a new way that positively impacts the world around you.

So back to the original question: what is inspiring you?

If you are in the Princeton/Philadelphia area, join the leaders of A New Equilibrium on Thursday, August 25 for a wonderful dinner, a speaker and greatdiscussion around the topic: Inspire Yourself – Inspire Others. For more info, click here.

Inspiring photo by the inspirational Nancy Marie.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2011 6:16 am

    Oh I love this truth-telling–it so much resonates with what my Father has been telling me: All. Is. For. Purpose., and He is encouraging me to freely live my own story.

    I am discovering what it is inside of me that makes me Me–what inspires me–and I’m beginning to live Me out-loud. I am Seeing that my own living inspires others and leads them to live their own unique story, inspiring themselves and others. It’s amazing how even what inspires us is for purpose. Such simplicity, such “duh!” realizations, and yet so incredibly life transforming to have this perspective! Amen!

    And so, it’s writing…running…cooking and baking…loving my son with the gentleness and encouragement that I do…

    • August 6, 2011 8:32 am

      Amy – Glad you are discovering this – the “You” that inspires. Why is it that this gets squelched out of us as we enter adulthood? Probably all the same reasons my firends and I mentioned: responsibilities, distractions, should-be’s and could-be’s. I think we beat ourselves up so much with our own lives sometimes, that we forget who we are.

  2. August 5, 2011 6:17 am

    without a doubt my photography… : ) you could have guessed that right?

    it is definitely true that when one opens up about one’s passions, it acts as an igniter in others: they either start sharing their own or they realise they have lost sight of theirs.

    have an inspiring weekend brad… will it be writing or art?

    • August 6, 2011 8:34 am

      Actually this weekend we’re at the North Shore of Boston, enjoying the Cape – beach, lobster and fried clams. This we can file under “Family travel adventure.”

      And I forget to mention how food inspires me, too!

  3. August 5, 2011 7:28 am

    What inspires me? Take a look at my blog response to your question here

    Thanks for the inspiring post!

    • August 6, 2011 8:35 am

      Thanks for your post! It’s so great to see how you’ve taken the time to identify so many different things and people and books that inspire you. My list could be a lot longer, like yours. Books, music, certain people, certain bloggers….

  4. Nooruddin Jalal permalink
    August 5, 2011 7:49 am


  5. August 5, 2011 8:33 am

    So true. I think people naturally gravitate towards interesting people because they are attracted to that inspiration. If you live inspired then you naturally become a leader. People will see that, appreciate it, and respect you for it. They will follow you and want to learn how to discover that inspiration in their own lives.

    • August 7, 2011 11:05 am

      My wife and I have this conversation sometimes: “God forbid that we are not interesting people…”

    • Karyn permalink
      August 8, 2011 8:47 am

      It’s true… I remember when I was a TA and a student told me, “After seeing you, I know I never want to be a TA…” I was taken back and asked why. “It’s way too much work.” So, those days of missing meals, staying up to catch my second wind, and forgetting to brush my hair did not inspire my student…

      I especially relate to the line about “some kind of internal force propelling you to embrace a bigger future.” I am literally embracing a bigger future as my belly grows with the internal force of our first baby! Not the wisest career move when you measure it in terms of physical & emotional demands and time lost, but I’ve got to trust that good things will abound. Cheers to all the brave women trying to live a balanced life!

      • August 8, 2011 9:48 am

        Congratulations, Karyn! I can’t imagine anything more inspiring than the hopeful miracle of new life. Cheers, indeed.

  6. August 5, 2011 9:58 am

    I always apply this rule about safety: secure yourself first before you save anybody even your own children, being injured or dead won’t help. Same for inspiration : if you don’t FEEL inspired by your own words but blog because you think you have to say something every single week to keep your audience, then you better go to the gym instead it is better for your brain and your health 🙂

    • August 7, 2011 11:09 am

      Anne – I almost put the analogy in this post about the airplane safety rule: you must put your own oxygen mask on first before you help others. But it got left on the editor’s cutting floor because I am ever-so vigilant about keeping the blog post from getting to long and drawn out (kind of like this comment?). In any case, I’m so glad you brought this up here, because it speaks right to the essence of the issue… We need to get our own oxygen before we can help others get theirs. Oxygen = the source of life, which can then be the source for others.

  7. August 5, 2011 11:37 am

    250 blog posts! That’s a marathon. I’ve had to dig through old files to post maybe 15 or twenty in the past couple of months. But I understand how writing is itself an inspiration. You never know what you’re going to find when you start to write a blog post or tell a story.

    I attended a poetry reading a week or two ago, just because a friend was going, and part of the program was an exercise in which the leader gave us a list of words, seemingly random, that we were to incorporate, one per line, into a poem. I had never written anything that way before, and I was astonished at the result. You can find all kinds of things in the old brain if you poke around there.

    • August 7, 2011 11:18 am

      Mike- You should post that poem! Or at least a story about writing that poem, and the surprise you found when it was completed. I have toyed around with poetry and post them at another blog ( You can see that it they are very much experimental and inspirational for me, and I don’t create new poetry very often. But so enjoy it when I do! I started doing it because many of my blogging friends are gravitating towards poetry, and they encouraged me, saying that the words are already there in the posts, so why not just re-arrange them into a more poetic fashion?

      “Sure, why not?” I said.
      And with that…

  8. August 5, 2011 11:39 am

    Looking back and seeing growth is what inspires me. It’s a lot easier to motivate yourself to keep going when you see where you’ve come from.

  9. August 6, 2011 5:22 pm

    i am beginning to understand to some degree where i receive what i need. at least where it originates from. and i think that it is necessary to go to this source to have anything of worth to contribute.

    i do need to be snapped out of the weeds regularly, so no one gets sucked up by bog monsters. i like blog monsters, but, all that green goo gets to be such a nuisance.

    • August 8, 2011 9:58 am

      Go to the source. It is good to know what/where that source is.
      We’re all prone to getting tangled stuck by those bog monsters.
      And the blog monsters show up sometimes, too… 🙂

  10. August 6, 2011 5:25 pm

    oh…sorry blog monsters….i meant bog monsters.
    I know, i know, blog monsters do not have green goo. yes, i remember, it’s hot pink goo!
    man, one little typo. and look at the problems it causes!

  11. August 6, 2011 10:20 pm

    Great advice! i will check out the event you suggest in my area.

    Now if I could just get my blog writing to go in such great directions as yours do 🙂

  12. August 7, 2011 9:30 am

    so connect the dots for me. Need to spend more time doing the things that inspire me (and I wish it were a short list) in order to be a more inspiring leader? hmmm. Need to think about this some more.

  13. August 7, 2011 10:17 am

    A concept from a book by Jim Collins resonated with me. The book is “Good to Great” and the concept is “level 5 leadership”. This research into companies that dramatically turned failure into success indicates that the leaders were not charismatic high-profile types who are often in the news. Instead the leadership that got results was the kind that shares the daily grind with workers to understand how things work in the details, finding vision in the continuous running of a company instead of in abstract analysis.

    In retrospect, it’s also interesting to contemplate that some of the companies that were highly successful at the time the book was written are now examples of failure. So a later book by Collins is titled “How the Mighty Fall”.

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