Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

Inspiration, Motivation

Published: 23 May 2013

Inspired by Seth Godin, questioning just what is school I have to wonder something about a subject very interesting to me. What is inspiration?

There is a growing clamor for mindfulness, peace and happiness in society. Over the last 150 years we have excelled in an industrious capacity, producing and consuming in fantastic quantities. However, this doesn’t provide the type of meaning nor happiness. Inspiration and motivation are common words attached to this low-happiness life.

Without definitions, how can I be effective in chasing the dream of a meaningful, happy life? What follows is my subjective view on what inspiration and motivation means to me. Feel free to tell me what they mean to you, more (genuine) information is always better.

Inspiration, the beauty of inaction.

Inspiration is a passive experience. As we read, listen or watch we feel a tingling within ourselves. Inspiration then is a metric, the intensity of that tingling, that aids us in figuring out direction. Inspiration itself cannot be acted upon.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

That’s a great quote. It inspires a direction, to be more daring. There is no prescription, no distinct action. To be daring doing what? Inspiration helps answer that. Inspiration generates momentum, so that we have motivation to succeed.

Motivation, harnessing momentum.

If inspiration is a metric of internal energy, motivation is the metric of external energy. Inspiration creates momentum, and with momentum we can be pushed into action. That first step takes the most momentum, but motivation allows us to continue.

Motivation is how we translate this momentum in efficient ways. The energy into motion, the movement in our life and our progress. Without motivation, all the inspiration in the world can be used to merely tread water; there is no distinct end. Without inspiration, motivation fizzles and we get stuck.

This is a good distinction that allows me to seek out what I need. Am I feeling like I’m trudging through mud? Seek inspiration. Am I simply not moving, even though I have the energy to do so? Motivation.

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration is easier. Read a good book. Search for TED on YouTube. If you aren’t inspired after that, you may not have a pulse.

Finding Motivation

Motivation is about the end, and it’s unique to each person. This makes it harder to find but more compelling when it is found. Visualizing the result and having clear actions to get you there.

When I need motivation, I look to existing products that are finished. I think about what I would do different, what I really love. This gives more direction and helps focus energy so I can be productive. Without productivity, motivation fades away quickly. Without inspiration, motivation never surfaces.


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I've written a lot more articles and essays that you may find interesting.

Feel free to contact me at or on twitter, @jshirley.