The pivotal moments are easy to spot: the shot on goal or diving catch with a just few seconds left in the game; the final interview for the position you’ve always wanted; your first day in command. We prepare ourselves for these moments. We practice and rehearse and refine, hoping that when the pressure is on, we’ll emerge victorious.
Finding inspiration to perform during these key milestones is typically easy. What’s not easy is finding inspiration on your 112th day in command. Or on a Wednesday afternoon about to start your second workout of the day. Or when you’re still 37 pounds away from your goal weight and your body physically craves a cheeseburger.
Discovering inspiration in these moments is not easy, but nothing worthwhile will ever happen unless we can find the daily motivation to take small step after small step in the direction of our goals. This motivation is everywhere, but are we plugged into it?
The Default is Average
There is nothing complicated about this post. The message is this:
- The inertia of life will pressure you towards stasis, equilibrium, inactivity.
- You’ve got to figure out how to maintain a steady flow of inspiration into your life that will motivate you to do the next right thing, whatever that is.
- Inspiration does not simply appear. You have to seek and invite it.
- Once you start looking, you’ll find that inspiration abounds.
Whether your goal requires you to study more, practice more, or restrain from some inhibiting behavior, you must create moments of inspiration that fire your soul, kickstart your attitude, and drive you towards doing the next right thing.
Whatever your goal, start by discovering the greats, the ones who have done what you want to do. Study their example, put their picture up on your mirror, read their books, write down their advice. Surround yourself with reminders of accomplishment, of what it looks like to hustle and win.
Wide receivers look to Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, and Hines Ward. Guitar players analyze Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and Chuck Berry. Meb Keflezighi, Deanna Kastor, and Scott Jurek top the list of inspirational distance runners. Writers? Stephen King, Steven Pressfield, and Bill Bryson are suitable giants.
Military leaders are no different, except that we have the responsibility to seek expert performance in many disciplines, not just one. Fitness, tactics, leadership, communication. It all matters to the military leader because combat requires proficiency in each.
The inspired military leader keeps a book of quotes about leadership and war, owns the biography of Ulysses S. Grant and This Kind of War, and listens to leaders talk about how they did it right (here, here, and here.) This inspired military leader drawn to excellence spends time studying warfare, reads The Strategy Bridge and Small Wars Journal, and engages mentor groups to draw on insight beyond his own.
I’m not talking about a once-in-a-while thing. I’m talking about a daily, hourly infusion of “this is how to win.” And when presented with a story of success or analysis that challenges one’s position, the military leader then ups his game, applying that inspiration to his own sphere of influence.
A Thousand Ways to Inspire
Because we bear the responsibility to train lethal teams and put them in harm’s way, military leaders must never succumb to the lull of the in-between, that season of mediocrity, the uninspired intervals that creep in when not immediately challenged by the evils of the world. We know that war is on the horizon somewhere, so we must maintain a constant flow of motivation to prepare for it.
When you start looking, you’ll discover that inspiration is quite easy to find. Read the citations of valor from those who have gone before us. Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty is a good place to start. Read one citation everyday and see what it does for your commitment. For physical courage behind enemy lines, watch Return With Honor. For an example of how to exceed physical limits, watch Diana Nyad’s account of her swim from Cuba to Florida.
You need to create a way for inspiration to insert its way into your life. Twitter is a good way to let that happen. Follow Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, John Maxwell, TED Talks, and many others. Coach Quotes is a recent addition to my list, offering awesome insight like:
My responsibility is leadership, and the minute I get negative,
that is going to have an influence on my team. – Don Shula
When your past becomes more significant
than your future, you’re done. – Clint Hurdle
If I stop pushing you, if I stop demanding of you, if I stop getting on you,
then I probably don’t think you have much to offer. – Jon Gruden
To be a good leader, you have to want the other guys to have success.
You have to want to win more than you want to shine yourself. – John Stockton
Plug into outlets of inspiration that will motivate you to do what you have committed to do, what you should do, what you must do.
TED Talks are a must for anyone on a journey somewhere important. Jill Bolt Taylor’s talk is a humbling reminder of life’s fragility. GoalCast is another good one, with videos like this humorously insightful commencement speech by Tim Minchin and this powerful talk by Denzel Washington.
And when you make inspiration part of your daily life, you become more aware of it. Your radar for insight becomes tuned for lessons to learn and share. You’ll hear people say incredibly important things and make connections you never before realized.
Are You Inspired?
Take a quick scan of your life. Are you sufficiently inspired? Have you shaped your life to trigger behavior that keeps you on the path to something meaningful? If inspiration found its way into your day, would you recognize it? Take a moment to tap into resources that can give you a boost when you really need it, and also when you don’t.
And if all else fails, simply do. Move, act, go! Start performing the thing you be should doing and your mind will soon get in line. As the saying goes,
If you can’t motivate yourself to action, act yourself to motivation.
Questions for Leaders
- Do you have a responsibility to inspire those you lead?
- How might you recognize if your team was in a lull and in need of inspiration?
- How could you be more creative in motivating them to achieve the team’s goals?