A lot of people assume they know how to inspire others.
But just because you’ve read How to Win Friends and Influence People or been to a Tony Robbins seminar doesn’t mean you know how to inspire people.
Yet, if you want to motivate others to action, inspiration is a skill you must master.
Holding a paycheck over another’s head is a form of motivation. But it’s one of the lowest forms, and we certainly wouldn’t call it inspiration.
What we’re talking about here is the kind of motivation others can take hold of for themselves. A vision for their future that leaves them touched and moved and wanting to be in action. Something they can take ownership of. Anything less is not inspiration.
I have friends who know how to leave me inspired. But the vast majority don’t.
This is not a statement of judgment but rather of observation. At first, truth sounds like hate.
But we must realize for ourselves why we might want to inspire others in the first place. Only then can we take a step forward.
We all know what it feels like to be inspired. And it’s a magnificent feeling. If we could feel inspired all the time, we would achieve so much more, hesitate so much less, and by proximity, we might even uplift others around us. And that’s a start.
But to be effective in this, we can’t just be all about ourselves and our achievements. We’ve got to be committed to others more than we’re committed to ourselves. That’s the essence of effective communication.
For starters, we can’t just go out and achieve a bunch of things for ourselves and assume that this will inspire others.
Remember. People need to be able to see possibilities for themselves. Otherwise, you’re just going to leave them hanging.
Sharing your accomplishments might be a starting point. But it’s of little use unless others can see themselves in what you’ve done. And that’s tough even for the best motivational speakers in the world. Generally, they don’t lean too heavily on their own accomplishments – they rely on interaction with the audience so that everyone can see themselves in someone else’s story.
Which means this:
To inspire others, first, we need to get into their world.
Further, we can’t take everything they say at face value.
The people you’re talking to might mention something about being lonely in passing, as if it were inconsequential, so as the conversation advances, it might be quickly forgotten. And what that person might really be saying is, “I feel like a loser and a reject. I can’t believe I’m not in a relationship. I don’t know how to find someone.”
I’ve felt that way before, so I’m speaking from experience.
If you’re a good listener, and can listen without judgement, you will hear not just what’s being said, but also what matters to the person you’re talking to. And then you will be able to speak to what matters to them most. This means transforming your listening.
The person you’re talking to might be interested in building a big business, enjoying more freedom in their lives, traveling across the world, or something else. The point is, if you don’t listen, you won’t hear. Because people tend to keep their dreams close to their vests.
When you transform your communication, you can hear what matters to the person you’re talking to without having to pry.
You want to be able to get to the point where you can paint a vivid picture with your words. You want to share what you see as being possible for them – what you can see them creating for their own future using their unlimited potential. That will leave them inspired. It might even make them cry.
Authenticity is also key to inspiration. Being truthful about how you feel about a situation, event, or person. Not in a gossipy way. More in a “this is how I look at this situation/person, and I take responsibility for that” kind of way.
Authenticity is irresistible and it has a way of leaving others touched and moved, because they’re not sure whether they could be that vulnerable. They’re not sure they could be that honest with their own thoughts and feelings. But once someone around them is authentic, it gives them the freedom to be authentic as well.
So, if you want to inspire others, ask yourself:
Am I hearing them? Am I listening for what they really want in life? Am I painting a picture of a future they would love to live into? Am I presenting them with an opportunity they simply can’t resist?
Throw a digital pebble, and you’ll hit thousands of writers who say, “money isn’t everything,” “relationships are hard,” and “you get bored of travel and dopamine highs eventually.”
So, is life about spirituality? Well, sort of.
Many will tell you that life is about finding meaning. They even claim this meaning helps you improve your writing.
Here’s why that’s simply not true:
1. You’ll Find Yourself Writing About the Same Things Over and Over
Writers often say to “go and live your life so you can fill up that idea well.” That way, you’ll return to writing with a renewed sense of purpose and new ideas to share with your audience.
That’s true, at least to the extent that new experiences, realizations, and breakthroughs can cause you to look at people, events, and circumstances in new ways.
But if you try to find meaning in your new experiences, you will automatically rely on old experiences, realizations, and breakthroughs to interpret the new ones. That’s what it means to “find meaning.” It’s all about attaching your own meaning to what has already happened, when what happened fundamentally does not mean one thing or the other.
From that space, the only thing you can do is talk about old things in a new way or new things in an old way.
Wouldn’t you love to share about new things in a new way? Don’t your readers deserve it?
If you’re busy “finding meaning,” or adding meaning to every experience, it will always be from a past reference point. Congratulations, you’ve found a way to talk about new things in an old way.
The real trick is to disappear meaning. Then you’ll be able to share about new things in a new way.
Getting too comfortable in our identities leaves us unable to change our opinion, expand our worlds, or transform.
2. Your World Will Only Shrink
What happens when you assume and presume to know all there is to know about your own experience?
To be fair, you are the most qualified person to tell your story.
That said, your story can mean anything you want it to mean. And this is what most writers don’t realize.
My father died when I was 13. That is a true story. The impact of my father’s death was far reaching, and early adulthood was a struggle, in terms of identity, relationships, vocation, finances, and more.
Ah, but is that part true? Or am I just using dramatic language to draw you in? Maybe I have a specific intent in tugging at your emotions. Maybe I want to sell you something, get your attention, or for you to feel sorry for me.
Sounds manipulative, but we must realize we do this in our writing and storytelling all the time! Which is fine if you’re a marketer.
But I could tell that story about my father in an entirely different way, and it wouldn’t be any less true. Let me show you.
My father passed when I was 13. But in that moment, I realized that life could end at any moment and I didn’t want to waste another minute. I went onto start my own music career, build an online business, and write five books, three of which became best-sellers. What my father instilled in me was a sense of discipline and worth ethic. And I will forever treasure that.
This version is also true. I have not told a lie.
And there are many other versions worth exploring…
The point is that if you can’t see both sides of the coin, you’re only ever going to be explaining one side of it. And your view of the world will only continue to narrow, as you keep referring to the same circumstances and events in an increasingly limited way, out of complacency and laziness. How else would you explain it when you’re unwilling to look at old circumstances in a new way?
3. You Won’t Have Breakthroughs
Everybody says you’ve got to persist. Do something every day to work towards your goals. Goals are built on small daily actions. So on and so forth…
It all sounds good in theory.
But if this is our attitude towards writing and life, then is breakthrough even available?
We might see the occasional windfall, but generally, there is no breakthrough in doing the same things the same way expecting different results. This should not be called insanity, but rather, incremental progress.
There is nothing wrong with incremental progress, or for that matter, being disciplined and dedicated to your craft.
But life is the meaning we attach to it. So, if we keep repeating to ourselves that goals are hard, they take time, they require dedication and sacrifice, is it any wonder that’s exactly what we should experience?
Breakthroughs don’t come from what you already know. They don’t come from what you know that you don’t know either (e.g., I know that I don’t know how to speak German). Breakthroughs come from the vast, nearly unlimited space of what you don’t know that you don’t know. Especially since you don’t even have access to it!
To get access to what you don’t know that you don’t know, you must be able to drop all the meaning you have accumulated around a person, event, or circumstance, and begin to look at it away from your default, status quo listening of it. Only then can you see it anew.
Meaning is exactly what’s been getting in the way of you writing breakthrough material.
Once you’ve learned how to drop meaning, you will eventually gain a new skill – the ability to play with meaning.
And a writer who can play with meaning is a masterful writer. They will gain access to a whole world of creative wells never noticed before.
They won’t just be more open minded. They will become better communicators, persuaders, and marketers. They will create the kind of stories people want to read and share with others.
Ah, but why bother with that? Why challenge yourself? Seems like too much work. Just stick to your meaning. It’s working for you.