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Do You Want to Live a More Inspired Life?

Do You Want to Live a More Inspired Life?

    The Writing Process

    Sometimes I sit at my computer to write an article and the experience is a very logical, cerebral and practical one. To be honest, I think it’s more of a conscious process than it is a creative experience. I carefully consider what I want to convey to my readers. I think about the key messages, the communication style, some possible examples and analogies and whether or not I should share from a personal story to add a level of depth and insight to the reading experience.

    It’s fair to say that this style of writing doesn’t really come from a place of inspiration (which is okay). It’s typically educational, instructional and informative but rarely inspirational. If it does manage to inspire or excite anyone, the response is typically more about the reader than it is the article. And while I (nearly) always enjoy writing, it’s fair to say that producing these types of articles – as necessary as they may be – doesn’t really excite me (greatly) or provide me with a huge sense of achievement or satisfaction at this point in my journey.

    It’s kind of like work.

    Perhaps my days of writing “how to create a perfect arse in four weeks” (type) articles are numbered. Oh well, there’s always the archives to sift through.

    Turning on The Inspiration Tap

    Then there are times when I have no (immediate) plan to write anything but something happens and I have to stop what I’m doing and literally run to my computer. Sometimes, I feel like I’m sprinting with a glass full of milk trying desperately not to lose any of my milk (inspiration) as I run. Have you ever had an amazing idea or revelation and then lost it two minutes later? How frustrating is that?

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    Sometimes I’m inspired and stimulated in the most inconvenient and impractical places and situations. I often find myself recording ideas and thoughts into the voice recorder on my phone while I’m driving because something or someone has pushed a button or opened a door (metaphorically speaking).

    Many times in cafes and restaurants, I have downloaded ideas, feelings and thoughts onto a serviette or piece of scrap paper because the situation, conversation or experience turned on some kind of uncontrollable creative tap inside me. And that’s exactly what it’s like when I’m inspired: uncontrollable. It’s like the words flow despite me not because of me. I find that when I’m in that place, writing (or speaking, for that matter) is effortless and joyful.

    And who wouldn’t want that?

    Flow

    When my cerebral self (some might say egoic self) makes way for my creative and inspired self, anything can happen. And it does. It’s when I’m in flow. Doing what I’m built for. Happy.

    While I need and value the logical, rational, strategic, grown-up (version of) me – to make sure I don’t do anything too stupid or reckless – the ‘me’ I really like is the free-style, who-gives-a-shit-what-people-think, ten year-old that lurks within. I like him because he doesn’t write for approval, permission, respect or status. He simply opens the floodgates and stands back. There’s no filter. No censor. No strategy and no agenda. When it comes to creativity, inspiration and connection, sometimes the best plan is no plan. Sometimes, logical ‘me’ simply needs to get out of the way.

    “Brilliance is rarely found in logic.”

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    A Story

    A few years back, I had to open a convention with a ninety-minute presentation to about a thousand people. Just before this particular gig, my manager, had been contacted by a well-known speaking agent who told us that she was interested in using me as a speaker at some upcoming conferences. She also informed him that she would be in the audience (of my upcoming gig) to evaluate me as a potential speaker for her stable.

    On hearing this news, I decided to ‘razzle-dazzle’ my presentation a little. To make it a tad more polished, structured and, I hate to say it; electronic. Good grief. What was I thinking? I guess my thinking was that if I could wrap my speaking and entertaining skills around some slides, photos and maybe even a video clip, I’d blow Mrs Speaking Agent out of her chair.

    What a stupid idea.

    My Clever Plan

    So, with my clever new plan to impress, I discarded my much-loved white-board and markers (the only tools I use when I present) and took to the stage with an electronic (slide-changing) clicker in hand; the clicker that was about to take the audience and I on an electronic journey of personal growth and wonder (via my snappy new audio-visual presentation).

    Again, stupid idea.

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    Fifteen minutes into my presentation, I realised that I had totally forgotten about the clicker in my hand. What slides? What power-point presentation? What plan? What… an idiot. I panicked. I went from being ‘in flow’ and speaking from the heart, to clumsily trying to figure out what number slide I was up to. Like a deer in the headlights, I awkwardly clicked my way back and forward through random slides and felt my anxiety level rising. In the space of a few minutes, I had managed to move from connection (with my audience) to total disconnection.

    Quite the achievement.

    By switching from my instinctive, creative and freestyle mode (whiteboard boy) to cerebral, logical, let’s-impress-the-speaking-agent (ego) mode, the overall experience (for the audience and me) had gone from inspired to uninspired. The message from my heart was now coming from my over-thinking brain and I was totally losing the group. I was distracted and fighting for survival.

    Back to Free-style

    In a rare moment of clarity, I stopped all the electronic mayhem and clumsiness and walked to the edge of the stage. I put my presentation on hold for a moment and spoke to the group. “Is it okay with you guys, if I ditch the slide show? I don’t really know what I’m doing with this gizmo and to be honest, I find the slides kind of distracting and annoying.”

    Fortunately for me, they laughed and graciously gave me permission to revert to my free-styling ways. Between us, we managed to save the sinking ship, nobody died and we all learned something. Not long after I finished the presentation, I spied ‘Mrs Speaking Agent’ making her way towards me. I had totally forgotten about her. “Oh well, I blew it” I thought to myself.

    Surprisingly, her feedback was that she loved my story-telling and my humour but (not surprisingly) suggested that I never, ever use a PowerPoint presentation again.

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    Yes Ma’am.

    And yes, she gave me some work.

    Where I’m Happiest

    While my life requires a level of practicality, planning, accountability and structure (like any life), it’s usually when I escape my mind, connect with my inner intelligence and operate from a place of inspiration, instinct and child-like enthusiasm that I feel most connected, authentic, empowered and happy.

    Today, I’m encouraging you to find your inspiration.

    So, when are you most inspired? What turns on your ‘tap’? Do you want to live a more inspired life? As always, love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and ideas this topic. Even you long-time Lurkers.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

    Do You Make These 10 Common Mistakes Before Weighing Yourself? If your Childhood Sucked – It’s Time to Stop Blaming Your Parents! Exploring Relationships with the Single Weirdo Education Should be More than Academic Basics How to Stop Being an Over-Thinker

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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