Sunday, December 10, 2023

I dream of genius

| October 22, 2023 1:00 AM

Joe was an ambitious young man who never missed a chance to submit a new idea to his boss, and his boss never missed a chance to reject Joe's idea. But one day, Joe submitted a suggestion, and his boss said, "That's sheer inspiration!"

"No," said Joe, "it's 99% aspiration and 1% inspiration."

Inspiration often starts with aspiration.

Thomas Edison had a similar take when he said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

The definition of inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

That might be why Dolly Parton said, "When I'm inspired, I get excited because I can't wait to see what I'll come up with next."

Face it: Sometimes it is hard to get inspired, for a variety of reasons. What is the best way to get back to being inspired?

Some of the most inspirational people I know are curious. The old saying "You learn something new every day" should be taken very seriously. There's certainly no lack of opportunity. Be curious about everything around you. Do something that you've never done before, just for the experience.

The future belongs to the curious — the ones who are not afraid to try something, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out. Let curiosity turn "I don't know" into "I want to find out." Curiosity makes us interested in a broad range of information. We learn for the joy of learning.

Curiosity is a hunger to explore and a delight in discovery. When we are curious, we approach the world with a childlike habit of poking and prodding and asking questions. We are attracted to new experiences.

Another way to spark inspiration is through imagination. It's never too late to develop your imagination, although I would caution that the longer you suppress it, the more challenging it will be. Even if you don't think of yourself as the creative type, you can always amp your imagination up with a little effort.

Creativity, thinking outside the box, is another way to get inspired. What has always baffled me, however, is how we got in that box in the first place, and why it is so hard to get out. It can get downright claustrophobic.

Connection is yet another path to inspiration. Harvard University tracked the physical and emotional health of 700 people. They followed these people and tested them (e.g., blood samples, brain scans) for 75 years. Here's the primary conclusion: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Good relationships help you deal with life's minor annoyances and your most challenging problems. They can snap you out of a listless state and keep you inspired.

Why do most people seem to get their inspirations overnight? Because inspiration often comes from dreams. So don't just follow your dreams, chase them. Maybe that's why entertainer Carol Burnett said, "When you have a dream, you've got to grab it and never let go."

The creation of Google can be traced back to a dream Larry Page had in 1996. Page had a nightmare in which he was admitted into college because of a clerical error and thought he would be kicked out at any moment. That anxiety fueled a dream of downloading and storing the internet on individual PCs. When he woke up, he was curious to see if it was possible, so he did the math. It wasn't, given the amount of data, but he could save everything as individual links. That gave him the idea of creating a searchable database of links to web pages that led to the creation of Google.

The melody for one of the Beatles' greatest songs "Yesterday" came to Paul McCartney in a dream. In "The Beatles Anthology," McCartney recalls: "I woke up one morning with a tune in my head and I thought, 'Hey, I don't know this tune — or do I?' It was like a jazz melody … I went to the piano and found the chords to it, made sure I remembered it and then hawked it 'round to all my friends, asking what it was: 'Do you know this? It's a good little tune, but I couldn't have written it because I dreamt it.'"

Speaking of the Beatles, John Lennon, a self-declared dreamer, said his inspiration for one of his bestselling songs came from a dream, and it was appropriately titled "#9 Dream."

Mackay's Moral: Aspire to inspire before you expire.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

Recent Headlines