Your Inspiration Stinks

The Ego in Inspiration
 
There's this growing online trend among my generation. They say that their biggest goal in life is to inspire, and they post memes and messages like the one you see here:
 
 
Their mantra? "Aspire to inspire!" 
 
It's become such a popular idea that most instagram users posting half-naked selfies make sure to hashtag their pictures with #AspireToInspire.
 
It sounds commendable at first. Their goal is essentially to become a person who other people will look up to and say, "I succeeded because of you!"
 
But then you realize, wait a minute, shouldn't I want you to succeed, even if it's not because of me? Shouldn't I want you to pursue things without giving up because of your own grit, because of your own self worth, and because of what doing so would mean to your loved ones? 
 
The desire to be someone else's inspiration translates to this: "I want you to tell me that you succeeded because of how great I am."
 
Vomit. No really, we need to puke all over this idea because it's gross. Why? Three reasons:
 
Reason to Vomit #1: First, It's Asking For Validation
 
 
Making this statement means that we're asking other people to remind us of how much of an impact we have in their lives. Why not just have a damn impact, help other people, and then not require the credit?
 
Needing others to say that we're the reason they succeeded is a sign of both narcissism and insecurity -- wrapped up in one weird little ball. 
 
Reason to Vomit #2: It's Disempowering
 
 
If we need someone to give us credit for their success then we are not empowering them to succeed on their own. And chances are, they would've succeeded without our inspiration.
 
Inspiration is the spark that starts the fire. But it's the work that keeps the fire burning. The person doing the work can get that spark anywhere. And if we're not assholes, it's up to us to make others realize that they had what it took to make those changes all along.
 
But, if it's more important to hear about how big a role we played in someone's success, then we've got issues.
 
Reason to Vomit #3. Inspiring People Don't Try to Inspire
 
 
The truly inspiring people are busy doing awesome shit, and people feel inspired because of it. Not the other way around. 
 
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, and Oprah didn't try to become inspiring before they became visionaries and hard workers. Yet they've been hugely inspirational to more people than you'll ever meet in a lifetime. 
 
Did they inspire people by trying to inspire people? No. They were creating, innovating, helping, doing, and investing their time in things that would make other people's lives cooler. 
 
They didn't need to be reassured that what they were doing was valuable. They saw a need for their work and just did the work.
 
Reason to Vomit #4. We've Got to Aim Higher
 
 
The goal to inspire people is sad. Why? Because inspiration comes from a multitude of places, it's fleeting, and it's often shallow. The average person can get inspired by the dumbest things on a daily, hourly, and minute to minute basis. 
 
Here's what I'm talking about: I watched The Biggest Loser this week, and the female trainer had nice quads. Her quads inspired me to do an extra set of squats the next day. Then, a Foo Fighter's song came on during my drive home from the gym and it inspired me to think about writing this post. Then, I saw a Rachel Ray magazine and it inspired me to roast some tomatoes. 
 
Did these sparks of inspiration change my life? Not really. I could've pulled inspiration from anywhere if I was in the mood to roast some tomatoes.
 
Inspiration comes and goes. So when we say we want to be someone's inspiration to never give up maybe what we're really saying is, "I want you to idolize me."
 
Influence Over Inspiration
 
 
Want to change the way people think and behave? Be influential. How? There are many ways...
 
Do awesome shit. Be so busy investing your effort into stuff you love that you don't have time to wonder who it's inspiring. 
 
Inform, entertain, or do both. Be a leader, or find a good leader to follow. Be helpful. Work on things that will improve people's lives. Create. Put thoughts in people's minds that weren't there before. Give people material that will make them more productive, happier, or at least well-informed. 
 
Notice common problems and think of solutions. Then share those solutions.
 
Sure, if you inspire people, that's a cool thing. It just sucks as a goal. Add value to people's lives and as a result you'll become inspiring. But you won't even really care about being an inspiration because you'll be too busy doing your awesome shit.
 
Spread Ideas, Not Just Selfies
 
 
There are already a bazillion professionally good looking people in the world who get paid to be good looking. And even they don't really change lives -- unless they're doing things that matter.
 
Let's do more of what matters. 
 
Because in the end, the people looking for inspiration will find it, with or without our half-naked selfies.