Ammunition, Inspiration, and Eureka moments

Picture courtesy — Unsplash

At the same time, searching for or waiting for inspiration is futile. You might get lucky once in a while but it’s not sustainable.

This begs the question — how do you create when you’re uninspired?

One of the most famous serendipitous discoveries (or realizations, depending on how you look at it), is Archimedes’s Eureka moment when he supposedly realized that the volume of water displaced was equal to the volume that was submerged inside. This caused him to jump out of his bathtub and run out on to the streets to tell everyone about his discovery.

This incident has been disputed by some but it really isn’t hard to believe as we have experienced variations of the same — good ideas come to us when we aren’t consciously thinking of them and in the most serendipitous ways.

If anything, this is proof that rest, recreation and space for imagination is a necessity for good ideas to flourish. Of course, some solutions and good ideas strike in times of emergencies and panic situations, but if urgency and manufactured hurry are essential to generate great ideas, it's not a sustainable way of working or creating.

When people say they are waiting for or that they need inspiration, what many of them are saying is ‘I just need some quiet time to bring this to life.’.

Inspiration has many faces to it. We seek it from books, podcasts, movies, talks, seminars. Have you ever seen a movie with a message and suddenly felt a rush of inspiration, however momentary? Or had a conversation that suddenly spurred some sort of a change in you?

At the same time, searching for or waiting for inspiration is futile. You might get lucky once in a while but it’s not sustainable.

This begs the question — how do you create when you’re uninspired?

Turn inspiration over its head and look for ammunition.

If you look for ammunition to help you create something of value, odds are you will find plenty of it.

The brand that doesn’t respond to complaints.

The workplace that sucks the life out of you.

The policy that is stifling growth.

The client that never paid you.

The boss who belittled you.

The bad habit you’re unable to break.

The list is endless and all of them serve as ammunition. At some level, they rile you up and tick you off. A few of my pieces have been written when I was at a low point. But when I used what I was feeling as ammunition, I could get it out of my head and put it in words, making things clearer for me.

Replace writing with anything else and the strategy will still work.

A couple of my ex-colleagues quit their full-time jobs after enduring a terrible time and used the experience as ammunition to go into business themselves and make a living without losing their minds. Many discoveries were made after the investors got irritated at the status quo and decided to do something about it. Numerous non-profits have their roots in someone seeing or experiencing something that shook them and spurned them to go on to make things better.

A lot of us, unfortunately, turn this ammunition against ourselves and waste it.

If inspiration is hard to come by, take what pisses you off and so something useful with it.

Simply put, when inspiration runs dry as it sometimes will, turn to ammunition.

This shouldn’t be confused with searching for things to constantly get pissed off at. That will just make you a very angry person and that is not a very nice way to get through life.

In his final piece, world-renowned sportswriter Rick Reilly wrote:

“When I got a regular byline in the town paper before my 21st birthday, I was as wild and unruly as the mop of hair on my head. I had a voice and a license to use it, but not one lesson in how. I hurt people just to make a name for myself. Just because I could.

One day, a retired coach named Sox Walseth came up to me. He put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Son, you’re not going to get very far writing articles like the one you did today. These people shouldn’t have to read the cheap shots you’re taking at them. You can do better than this.”

Reilly was using all his ammunition to tear people down before a timely intervention steered him and put him on a better path.

When inspiration strikes, make the most of it.

When it doesn’t, resort to ammunition.

And like any form of ammunition, use it wisely.