The Origins of Inspiration

She was a woman of faith taking care of her mother, while working in a blue-collar job. She was a gentle, kind person who enjoyed reading to children in her neighborhood. But she also had quiet strength and a willingness to defend her rights. Rosa Parks inspired generations who fought against social injustice.

He was the son of German immigrants whose siblings died at an early age. He was raised by his mother because of his father’s inability to hold a job due to alcoholism and epilepsy. In his career, he became known for his character and durability. But it was the speech he made on the last day of work that has inspired a nation to this day. When Lou Gehrig said, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” He gave everyone facing life-threatening illness inspiration for their remaining years.

He was bullied as a child because of his weight. He was shy and his asthma kept him home from school. His only friends were make-believe. Eventually, he overcame his shyness and devoted his life to inspiring children with his TV show: Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers did much to inspire children because of his own painful childhood.

She was born into a family struggling to survive. She struggled with depression and was denied an opportunity to pursue academic interests. She was largely self-educated.  But Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and in the process became an inspiration for generations of women with an interest in science.

She was molested as a child and became pregnant at the age of 14. She made education her priority and found that she had a gift for getting others to open up to her. Oprah Winfrey has become an inspiration to all those who worked to make their lives better.

What do we know about the makeup of those who inspire us? We know more about what isn’t necessary for inspiring others. A privileged life isn’t necessary. An outgoing personality isn’t a requirement. You can’t be trained to inspire. Our ability to inspire isn’t genetic. Those who have a life goal to inspire others rarely do.

What do we know about inspiring others? One thing we know is that those who inspire others evolve into that ability. Often those who inspire others, due so resulting from their own life circumstances. Developing a talent for inspiring others is like the ripples in a pond. We begin by being inspiring children or parents, work colleagues, church members or in other held personal connections. Then as the ripples expand outward, we develop an ability to inspire others. Over time, the ripples of our inspiration become new ripples for others.

One final thing we know about inspiring others is this. Those who use hatred, fear, or doubt to inspire will see a quick end to their influence. Those who inspire through kindness, lifting of spirits and positive mindsets will see their efforts become perpetual.

*   *   *

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.