There are many inspirational coaches, inspirational books, inspirational materials and inspirational quotes abound. There is an entire “inspiration industry” out there. There are people who spend years attending inspirational seminars, buying books and materials, and yet nothing changes for them. Why might this be so?
Inspiration without action is nothing more than a daydream. If there is no action the dream will be broken. If one is to do something one needs a goal and some motivation to move towards that goal. Inspiration most certainly has a role to play by way of motivation. That goal may well be a better life, perhaps a vision of living in a mansion by the seaside.
However a vision without action is useless. Life will continue as usual. The inspirational materials have created a daydream that can not be realised. These inspirational materials and seminars usually cost money. One can not move towards a goal without a plan, a plan made up of specific actionable steps.
If one wants a better life one must do something constructive, actions must change if one desires a different outcome. Figuring out what to do is hard. Buying inspirational materials is easy and does allow ones self to feel good for a little while.
An inspirational speaker
I attended a seminar put on by a highly regarded inspirational speaker many years ago. He gave a rousing speech. He spoke with a certain charisma and eloquence and confidence that painted a vision splendid. He looked the part of a successful man in dress, manner and deportment. His speech painted a picture of a glorious future that each of us could create for ourselves. Afterwards the crowd flocked to buy his books and inspirational materials.
There was something missing from his fine speech. There was not a single actionable recommendation in that entire speech. The speech was utterly appealing to my own selfish desires and to my wishful thinking. It was but a dream of prosperity supported by meaningless platitudes that did not explain how I might achieve this grand vision of prosperity. There were no actionable recommendations of the steps I could take to build this prosperity.
It was, in essence, the usual motivational platitudes of believing in yourself and striving to be your best together with the assurances that you deserve boundless prosperity. I was not willing to shell out my hard earned coin to obtain these materials. My friend did purchase materials and read them without the slightest apparent benefit.
The advertising promoting this speaker cast no light on anything he had ever done other than his inspirational speaking and his books. I had no clue whether he could do anything more than give rousing speeches and write rousing books. I felt I was listening to an empty suit with a talent for public speaking and self promotion. Those talents for speaking and self promotion had propelled him to success.
I had little doubt that he could give useful advice on how to prosper by giving others useless advice. He did not tell us how to prosper by giving useless advice. His seminar was thus of no use to me.
An inspirational book
Some years ago an employer desired to inspire staff to strive to be their very best. We were all given an inspirational book to read. This book was about a seagull that made every effort to fly ever faster. It was a well written book and really quite engaging in style. This seagull by constant training became able to fly faster and higher and further than any other seagull. This really was a seagull who strived to be the very best at flying.
This book simply took it for granted that readers would accept the desirability of constantly striving to be the very best. Nowhere in the entire book was any clue given as to how this seagull might gain any benefit from a superior flying ability. Much was made of the pride the seagull might feel at being his best. The striving seemed pointless.
There needs to some purpose to such an expenditure of effort. Striving to be ones best ought to be a means to an end rather than an end in itself. It seems better to devote ones energies to those things that are important. It is undoubtedly a good thing to master ones tasks at work however mediocrity will suffice for idle diversions such as playing computer games.
I read this book straight after I had been reading of the Aristotlean concept of eudamonism. Aristotle held that one should learn as much as possible so that one may have the satisfaction of reviewing ones’ own knowledge. Eudamonism makes learning and erudition seem rather pointless and nothing more than useless ends in themselves. Eudamonism was, perhaps aptly, dismissed as mere intellectual masturbation by a twentieth century scholar.
Aristotle made striving for erudition seem pointless even though erudition really does have benefits. The seagull made striving to fly better seem pointless. Sometimes these works intended to inspire merely arouse emotions without reference to the guidance of reason.
It seems that the purchase of an inspirational work creates nothing more than a pleasant daydream. A daydream that evaporates with the growing realization that one does have the specific actionable steps to attain that daydream. The purchase of another inspiration book will enable the creation of yet another pleasant daydream.
I have purchased several inspirational books in my life. They had the effect of an opiate by creating these pleasant dreams. I soon concluded they were, at best, a waste of money. They are, at worst, a source of disappointment by raising grand aspirations without the means of attaining those aspirations. It seemed I was buying dreams that would soon be broken.
Many of these quotes seem meaningless. They are usually useless platitudes. They make the reader feel good for a moment or two. They lack specific actionable recommendations. Such inspiration is usually the creation of a vision with no clues of the actions to be taken to move towards that vision.
For me, buying inspirational materials is a waste of money. Is it worth it for you?