Ten Pieces of Inspiration #10

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

1. A brother learning, a brother teaching
My two sons have been amazing this past week.


Our ten month old (the baby) has been trying very hard to learn how to crawl and to pull himself up on things for the past few weeks. His older brother has pretty much been his coach, constantly demonstrating how to do it. He’ll lay on the floor with his baby brother and slowly show him how to get into a crawling position, then take off. Or, he’ll slowly pull himself up to standing using the coffee table or the couch edge.

His younger brother is learning from him. Over the last week, he’s started pulling himself up onto things and just barely started to crawl.

The looks they give each other are just amazing. It’s the look of two people who love each other and who want to learn and to teach.

Last night, the younger one was crying. It was nearly his bedtime and it was just the type of crying that a tired baby does. Our oldest went over to him and gave the baby a Spider-Man toy, one that’s solid and without any moving parts that the baby couldn’t choke on or break any pieces off of. The baby stopped crying and had a death grip on the Spider-Man toy. He held it as he went to sleep and for the entire time he slept.

2. Lady Gaga acoustic
I’ve largely written off most pop performers for the last decade or so as being pretty faces paired with gifted songwriters and a healthy dose of Autotune. When a friend of mine sent me a video of Lady Gaga performing a song acoustically, I expected a train wreck.

Instead, I was quite impressed.

She puts piano play and vocals together incredibly well here, something I wish I could do. I’d far rather listen to this than to the over-electronicized version of this song that was actually released.

3. Robert Allen on maturity
“Maturity begins on the day we accepts responsibility for our own actions.” – Robert Allen

It is so easy to blame someone else or something else for the mistakes we make in life. It’s the boss’s fault we got fired. It’s the government’s fault that I can’t find a job. It’s my mother’s fault for instilling me with a poor work ethic. And so on.

Guess what? Each and every second, you’re the one deciding what to do with your time. When you fluff off at work and eventually get fired, it’s not the boss’s fault. It’s your fault, for consistently choosing to fluff off.

Your own actions are largely responsible for the outcome of your situation, good or bad. Take responsibility for that.

4. Mondrian cake
Most of us are familiar with the artwork of Piet Mondrian. His famous paintings are gridlike and very orderly, with only a smattering of color breaking up the black and white.

I loved this reinterpretation of his artwork in the form of a cake.

Mondrian Cake

Many thanks to mc barnicle for the picture.

5. Dante on teaching
“If you give people light, they will find their own way.” – Dante

Over the last week, I have become increasingly frustrated at the ongoing war on teachers. I’m married to a teacher, and I see every day the amount of dedication and hard work it takes to be an effective teacher. You don’t just go in and punch the clock. Any teacher worth a pinch of salt is staying after almost every day to help students or to coach an activity. They take piles of papers home to grade on the weekends. They’re stopping at stores to pick up supplies to help with education, often buying them out of pocket.

“Yeah, but they get the summers off.” In most states, they don’t. Many states have summer school teaching programs. Other states require teachers to spend their summers getting further education just to maintain their teaching license. If you want to advance in the profession (to teach AP classes and the like), you have to obtain additional degrees, again during the summer. These expenses are almost always out of pocket.

I was inspired by a great many teachers in my life. Some of the biggest inspirations were my second grade teacher, Mrs. Ferguson; my high school English teacher, Mr. Byrn; and my college biology professor and advisor, Dr. Dolphin. Those three are at the head of the line, but I could name many teachers that had a profound positive impact on my life. They stayed after school to help with extracurricular activities or to be there for students who needed more help. They sponsored clubs and coached teams outside the school day, often for no compensation. Their office doors were always open if I needed help – or if anyone else needed help.

Teachers are underpaid, not overpaid, and there’s not nearly enough of them. If we as a society continue to put a crunch on teachers, making it so that they can’t afford to be in the classroom any more, the ones with ability will leave. So much for training the next generation.

I am extremely happy with every tax dollar of mine that goes into the public school system, and I wish a larger percentage of my tax dollars went there. Cutting back on and insulting teachers is an incredibly unhealthy precedent for the future of America.

6. David Foster Wallace on learning how to think
Choose what you think about and you’ll think more effectively.

“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.” – David Foster Wallace

In other words, if you find your mind wandering to thoughts of Charlie Sheen’s “tiger blood,” catch yourself and put some effort into thinking about something else more worthwhile and valuable for your time.

(Yes, I’m pretty sure the word choice of “totally hosed” was intentional and not convenient slang.)

7. Stevie Ray Vaughan playing “Pride and Joy” acoustic
I love acoustic performances. They really show the musicianship of the player. Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of the best guitarists of all time, and this performance shows it.

To me, it sounds like there are several guitarists playing at once. I’m also impressed how he can get the crowd back into it at various points without dropping the melody. The amount of hard work and dedication that this level of skill requires is mind-blowing and a real testament to the power of practice.

8. Videos of soldiers returning home to see children
These five videos got me.

Regardless of how I feel about military conflicts, I have immense respect for the sacrifice that members of the military make, particularly ones with children. The people in these videos obviously are deeply loved by their children. They’re good people, doing a tremendously difficult job, and they’ve earned my respect.

9. I Have A Dream, broken down
One of the most valuable lessons anyone ever gave me was when one of my mentors told me to watch the famous Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech. Here it is again:

He told me not to watch it for what was being said (though that is powerful). He told me to watch how King delivers the speech. How he takes pauses in between the key points. How he constrains his emotions and only lets them fly at very key moments in the speech. How he speaks slower than people often do in conversation.

Everything you really need to know about speaking in public and having an impact is right here.

10. Bill Moyers on reading and television
To me, this sums up why I often turn off the screen and turn on the printed page.

“Television can stir emotions, but it doesn’t invite reflection as much as the printed page.” – Bill Moyers

Television programs are great for making me laugh or cry, but it rarely makes me think or reconsider the world around me. Mostly, it just reinforces what I already think.

If I want to grow and succeed in the world, I need to reflect on new ideas and expand my mind. A book does that far more effectively.

Turn off the television sometime soon and open up a book.

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