Inspiration can come from many different things. As I think about the things that I’ve done throughout my career, I find that my inspirations come from a variety of sources. Often, my inspirations are related to experiences I’ve had with my family, though other areas of inspiration can also occur and sometimes can be quite unexpected. I want to share with you a few of my experiences about what inspires me.
As I’ve written in several previous blogs, I’ve been working on a book series entitled “Exploring Effective Leadership Practices through Popular Culture.” The first two books that I wrote for the series explore leadership in “Star Wars” and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Often when I see a movie or read a novel, I immediately connect these experiences to my knowledge of leadership (admittedly, I’m not all that much fun to see a movie with because I’m always talking about organizational behavior throughout the film!).
I first experienced “Star Wars” as a young child. “Return of the Jedi,” the last film of the original trilogy, was one of the first movies I remember seeing as a kid. But my imagination soared even higher when I experienced the “Star Wars” ride “Star Tours” while vacationing with my family at Disney World several years later. Throughout the next 32 years, I saw the “Star Wars” films countless times. As I also grew to develop my knowledge of organizational behavior over time, I came to appreciate the stories from “a galaxy far far away” even more as I discovered that there are a lot of theories illustrated therein. So, it’s not a stretch to say that my initial inspiration for my book “A Manager’s Guide to Using the Force: Leadership Lessons from a Galaxy Far Far Away” in many ways came first from seeing a movie and going on a vacation with my parents as a kid!
Similarly, when I was 11, my parents gave me their copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy because they thought I would enjoy them. Little did I know at the time how impactful these books would be to me! I still remember the drab muted covers of these 1970s editions, the pages that were already turning yellow and falling out due to use, that wonderful scent that smelled like well-loved books and the awestruck feeling that I had when I read about hobbits having adventures with wizards in Middle-earth. Like with “Star Wars,” as I read each of these books about once a year, I came to realize the sheer number of leadership theories illustrated in Tolkien’s work. Thus, the initial inspiration for my book “Leadership in Middle-earth: Theories and Applications for Organizations” again came from my family – this time from cherished books handed down from my parents.
Other things that I’ve worked on are also inspired by my family. Since the birth of my child, I often write and do research with a few questions in mind. What would my daughter think of this if she were to read it when she grows up? Would it make her proud? How can my work have an impact to help make her world a better place? So, I am inspired by my daughter to do the best work that I can.
Of course, family is not the only inspiration that people can experience. There are also other sources of inspiration. Some sources may even seem like “divine inspiration.” And, of course, inspiration is not just related to work behaviors. Indeed, we are inspired to engage in many daily non-work activities! I can think of one example of a divinely inspired non-work decision that I made ten years ago. When I was living alone in a new town without knowing anyone, out of nowhere I was inspired to enroll in a fencing class at a nearby recreation center. I truly don’t know how or why this thought came into my mind, but it did! In my first class, I felt quite out of place as I was a 30-something year-old squaring off against teenagers – I almost quit. But I was inspired to go back for a second class where I met an amazing person who happened to be my same age. We started dating and several years later we were married in the Saint Vincent Basilica.
If I were to summarize my thoughts that I am trying to relay in this blog, I would say this: inspiration can come from anywhere and you may not know how, when or where it will manifest. We don’t know how the experiences that we have will eventually impact us in the future. So, be open to new things. You never know what may inspire you.
I’m interested to hear what inspires you. Tell me about your inspirations! Please type a comment below, send me an email at email@example.com or connect with me on social media on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Dr. Mike Urick