Seeking Authentic Inspiration | Whiteboard

Insights is a collection of resources created and curated by Whiteboard.

Insight 18 | October 12, 2016

Seeking Authentic Inspiration

by Russ Pate
How can we consistently solve problems in new and innovative ways? How can we avoid becoming too repetitive in the solutions that we propose? What are acceptable methods and aspects of repurpose? Your mind and your memory are your greatest asset.

How can we consistently solve problems in new and innovative ways? How can we avoid becoming too repetitive in the solutions that we propose? What are acceptable methods and aspects of repurpose? Your mind and your memory are your greatest asset.

We as an agency and as individuals face the daily struggle of producing work that is unique both in how we solve the visual and organizational problems as well as the tools we use for building and how they are implemented. Authentic inspiration can be a natural discipline for consistent and logical growth of individuals and a team.

That forces me to ask the question in what ways are we seeking inspiration? And how can we do it authentically?

Key Messages


Get to Work

In my time here at whiteboard I have found that our collective sentiment on this subject matter can be best summed up by the artist Chuck Close:

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

I love this quote because it takes a little bit of the mystery out of the creative process. We don’t always have time to wait on lightning strikes and light bulb moments to solve our problems. Twiddling our thumbs and waiting for that new way of approaching a problem will never be how we do it. Close isn’t actually condemning inspiration. He is condemning the labor of inspiration where it interferes with doing actual work. He goes on to use a great analogy of painters who spend all of their time building “the perfect studio” but never paint. If our focus becomes so much on finding inspiration or creating the “perfect environment” that we stop making, then the delivery stops and there will longer be a problem to solve.
Inspiration should be an involuntary response to our environment. It is our job to say yes, expose ourselves to new environments, have conversations with strangers, read books, draw, code, and let our brains be constantly collecting data that we can recall later. BUT we need to construct a passageway in the mind that can be accessed at any moment. This is why it is as important to record life as it is to experience it. This is the balance we have to strike in order to exercise creativity as a tool we can leverage.


What is Creativity?


What is Inspiration?


Don't Fear the Black Dog

This saying comes from Winston Churchill (by way of writer Samuel Johnson) who suffered from great periods of depression. He called it his “black dog” which can also be interpreted as the darkness in one’s own life. But the depths of this relationship are one that I would like to reserve for another day.

While most of us might not suffer from mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder it is relevant to all of us because we all have a battle with confidence that we have to fight. And it’s with the encouragement of our team mates and peers that we are able to move forward.

Carson Tate at 99u recently published an article asking the question, Are Confident People More Productive? 

“…If you are not confident in your ability to take action to achieve a desired outcome you cannot be productive. It is our thoughts that drive the actions we take that produces results. If we take out confidence, or the stuff that turns thoughts into actions, we are missing the essential catalyst of the productivity equation.

Confident people are productive and, it’s a self-catalyzing cycle. Confidence leads to productivity which leads to confidence which leads to productivity in an ongoing cycle….”

This statement drives home the link between encouragement and inspiration. We have an opportunity to equip our peers with efficiency.

Self confidence can be a constant battle it is an important ingredient in solving problems. It has been proven that confident people tend to work more efficiently. So finding ways to boost your own confidence on days when you are feeling down is very helpful. For example, how you dress effects your psychological impression of yourself and that in turn can help you articulate information with precision and clarity.

The heart of encouragement is empathy.

My last thought on confidence is its relationship with empathy. Empathy is every person’s capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. The heart of encouragement is empathy.


Your Intake Effects Your Output

Have you ever sat down and made a list of people who inspire you? Try it.

First write down 5 or 10 categories (music, film, architecture, photography, math, technology, glass blowing, etc.), then name the first few names you associate with that category.


Sometimes more arbitrary the better. This forces us to look at and understand disciplines you would otherwise never begin to delve into. Find a favorite, and then search for the reason why. Read about their lives what lead them to where they are (or where they ended up), and try to understand what makes (made) them great.

Final Thoughts

I want to close out with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Jack London:
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club”

I want to let this be a challenge for everyone to let themselves be pushed and moved into living a life of authentic inspiration.

Interactive Designer

One of my favorite TED Talks of all time. The juxtaposition between children's willingness to share their work versus adults is astounding.

Creative Confidence
David and Tom Kelley

Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the “creative types.” But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every one of us is creative.

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