Ten Pieces of Inspiration #3

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. My daughter’s enthusiasm for ballet
My three year old daughter started with a community ballet program a few weeks ago. Her passion for music and dancing already seems to run quite deep, but I was stunned at her focus, as young as she is.

At her first practice, all of the children were asked to do somersaults. She couldn’t do one. She tried over and over and over again and just couldn’t get the tumble right.

Over the next week, she voluntarily kept at it in our living room. I noticed her practicing and would compliment her, not on the relative success she was having, but on the fact that she was practicing.

On Thursday, she excitedly wanted to show me something, and she proceeded to execute two perfect somersaults right in a row in our living room.

Bravo. She certainly inspires me to keep focus on the things I want to achieve, both big and small.

2. John D. Rockefeller on perseverence
Sometimes, the things we have to do in life are simply a slog. They’re not fun. They’re repetitive. We’d rather be doing anything else. Rockefeller’s words from 1901 put me in my place this week.

“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

Stick with it. You’ll eventually wear it down, and you’ll find success when you do.

3. Charlie Munger on happiness
At the 2010 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Charlie Munger had this to say:

“The secret to happiness is to lower your expectations.”

If you only allow yourself to be happy when things are exquisite, you’ll never be happy. There will always be some flaw. Look lower and you’ll find much in the world to love and cherish and enjoy.

4. The Gettysburg Address
In a lot of ways, this inspired me this week.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That was the entirety of Abraham Lincoln’s speech after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Brief, powerful, and eloquent. No speech has ever had more impact on me, both from the perspective of how well-crafted the speech is and from the perspective of the message being conveyed on that grave day.

5. The incredible shrinking mortgage balance
Recently, I did a simple comparison of my mortgage balance from January of last year to January of this year. It’s down about 8%, mostly thanks to consistent extra payments. At this pace – and it’s a pace I hope to accelerate – our home mortage will vanish by about 2018.

Watching the debt numbers slide downward always makes me want to jump up and push forward with even more strength.

6. Cezanne, “Arbres et maisons”
I want to live here.

This was painted by Paul Cezanne roughly in 1885.

Many thanks to for sharing their photo of this wonderful painting, taken at Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris.

7. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” piano solo
This is what I’ve been working on at the piano as of late.

Seeing good players play these songs inspires me to work harder and better at it.

8. Gordon Pirie’s Running Fast and Injury Free
The link above is to a book I discovered recently, written by Gordon Pirie, which is perhaps the most helpful document I’ve ever read about running. Pirie was a long distance runner from England who won a silver medal in the 5,000 meters at the 1956 Olympics.

This book focused more sensibly and comprehensibly on the mechanics of jogging and running than anything I have ever read. It’s helped me to figure out several mechanical problems with my pace and, as a result, I’ve actually been doing some barefoot jogging in order to adopt a more natural pace.

Pirie had written a first draft of the book and was involved in editing it just before he died, and for now it appears to be in the public domain (or in at least in some state where a late draft of it can be read for free). You can also snag a of the book here.

9. Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine
I have been unable to get this bouncy song out of my head all week. May it keep your head and spirit bouncing, too.

10. Maya Angelou
She puts it very simply.

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

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