I Want To Know Who Has Inspired You (And Who Can Then Inspire Me)
August 20, 2009 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Most-Inspiring Writers, Thinkers, Poems, Websites, People?

I'm feeling like crap about my prolonged job search and my hardships in turning from a corporate white-collar cube hound into a non-profit crisis interventionist.

I'm hoping the hive mind can pour it on with your absolute favorite mentors, inspiring people, books, websites, what-have-you to keep me fighting the good fight.

Be as enthusiastic as possible and tell me why your choice changed your life or continues to inspire you to "be the change."

Hoping for at least 50 comments in this thread.
posted by Lipstick Thespian to Human Relations (23 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Lipstick Thespian inspires me to post more often to MetaChat and someday have a radio show and care about everyone, even the people with unglamorous problems that are often neglected in our society, and generally be awesome.

This is incredibly shallow, but I love Gala Darling; a lot of people have dismissed her as "yeah sparkles and cupcakes and sequins and whatever, she must be a trust fund baby," but I think she's done a pretty bitching job of deciding "Yes, I'm going to be a self-sufficent writer and completely fabulous," pulling it off, and convincing the rest of us we can be similarly fabulous with nothing but self-confidence.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2009

Merlin Mann's shift from productivity tips to helping people accomplish real work was very inspirational to me. Starting with this essay, his writing had the perfect ratio of "get off your ass!" to "you can do it!", and it really made me want to create something great.
posted by martens at 9:22 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dorothy Day's autobiography The Long Loneliness talks about how she kept going when she was really feeling that she wasn't getting anything done. I'm not Catholic, or even religious, but I think the idea of being moved to work for social justice is something that can transcend religion, so if you feel that you can also take that approach [if you can't this book is NOT for you] you will enjoy her explanations of how they set up the Catholic Worker Houses because it was the right thing to do and how they made people's lives better even as her own life was quite isolated and confusing I think to her and those around her.
posted by jessamyn at 9:35 AM on August 20, 2009

Steve Pavlina writes some pretty inspiring stuff. I especially like this piece: The Courage to Live Consciously. And, based on where you're currently at, you might like 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job.
posted by yawper at 9:54 AM on August 20, 2009

Many of the talks given at TED are inspirational; Tony Robbin's talk certainly is.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 10:10 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here’s what inspires me:

-I’m an MMA fan, and I love Gina Carano and Georges St-Pierre. No matter how hard things get for me, they probably will never be any harder than even one five-minute round of fighting, or all the training leading up to the fight. Plus, they’re likeable people (and, okay, cute), and if I ever were fighting for some reason, I'd want them in my corner.

-The following quote from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet has helped me for over fifteen years:
So you must not be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.
-The Scissor Sisters song Take Your Mama. I’ll get to the line “so she’ll have no doubt that we’re doing oh the best we can” and I’ll be all like “Yeah! I am doing the best I can!” And then I dance.

-Okay, this one is utterly dorky and eponysterical, but I find the Metroid games really inspiring. I mean, you’re on this strange planet, running and jumping around for miles and miles, and there’s absolutely no one to talk to and nowhere to get a cup of coffee, just space pirates and assorted creepy bug monsters and things that want to eat you. If I’m feeling alone or lost or scared, I think about Samus making it through Tourian, and I figure maybe I can make it too. I am not even going to begin talking about the many ways in which I am inspired by the Pokemon franchise.

Pretty cheezo, right? But if some people get inspired by pictures of kittens hanging from trees, I figure I can get inspired by video games and dancing.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:31 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lance Armstrong.

He's not a perfect human being, but he beat cancer, decided to try to make a difference by starting the Lance Armstrong Foundation and, on top of that, he seems to be enjoying everything he does -- the guy's just living his life full-tilt -- he's made the most of what life's given him in a really positive way, he doesn't apologize or look back, he just LIVES.

plus he's a bike rider and a pretty good one and I like riding my bike.
posted by nnk at 10:33 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whenever I'm feeling down about my professional life / choices / situation, reading about people who have done awesome things - whether as careers or adventures or causes - with their lives makes me feel better and inspired.

Here are some that I've enjoyed. Note, I'm into traveling so I tend to be drawn to books describing it.

Swahili for the Broken-hearted - the author's girlfriend broke up with him, then he drove from Cape Town to Cairo. I read this while I was in Africa, it's awesome.

What is the What - this one is both disturbing and inspirational. An amazing book

On The Road - I read this when I was 13, and it affected me so much I ran off to San Francisco (and had a delightful time) when I was 19.

Tales of a Female Nomad - the author is so cool! Her and her husband separated and to get over feeling down she went to live in Mexico for few months by herself. This turned into a completely new life for her...
posted by jacquilinala at 10:38 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm partway through Tales of a Female Nomad and am enjoying it.

The books Maiden Voyage and The Water in Between, both about people who end up making long sailing trips, were inspirational for me. I don't know that I'll ever end up making a long sailing voyage around the world or from North America to Hawaii and back, but if I do, these books will be part of the reason.

Harpo Speaks!, Harpo Marx's autobiography, is a positive and optimistic read.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:01 AM on August 20, 2009

This is Water by David Foster Wallace.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:09 AM on August 20, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals are a source of inspiration for me. The way she lived her life (creatively, with faith that is able to coexist doubt) is the way I want to live mine. Julia Child's My Life in France gave me the same feeling.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:22 AM on August 20, 2009

Check out *The Consolations of Philosophy* by Alain de Botton. It is a practical guide to the great philosophers and how their knowledge can be practically applied to your everyday life to make you happier and less anxious. I read it and reread it all the time, depending on what I am struggling with.
posted by Goodgrief at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Last night I had a long discussion with a person who also had his future hopes and world view strengthened by reading Dostoyevsky at right age. We kind of agreed to try to return to those themes in our current professional / artistic work. I think it would fit to non-profit crisis mindset. People aren't evil, just very, very complex. They have high aspirations, they fail almost always in these aspirations, but they still may help greater good to come forth.
posted by Free word order! at 12:16 PM on August 20, 2009

Paul Arden inspired the hell out of me, he was my tutor mentor and in a way, my God (his art direction blew me away - and I am an Art Director only thanks to him). He has created a few small books with typical Paul Arden thoughts and scribbles and ideas that never fail to make me do that half-smile and pick up my pen tp push myself just a little bit further. He's an ad-man, so it might not be your cup of tea, then again it might be. Try browsing it's not how good you are it's how good you want to be and whatever you think think the opposite.
posted by dabitch at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2009

Jean Giono--Harvest
posted by OmieWise at 4:28 PM on August 20, 2009

Mickey Mantle. For kids of my generation, there was no one like the Mick, and there still isn't. In his prime, he was "the natural," and 18 seasons later, crippled and spent, it was still exciting to see him walk towards a batter's box from the on deck circle. In his alcoholic middle years, he was often a boorish asshole, and all that booze no doubt cost him his own liver, which required him to get a transplant. But he reclaimed his fame, and the faith many of us always had in him as the hero he was, but never wanted to be, as he faced his death. Those last 18 months, he saw himself, finally, as clearly as any man ever does, I think, particularly one who lived his life so publicly, from such a young age.

Whenever I'm down, I think of his enormous swing, and the times he crushed the ball, not only out of the park, but out of the next park, too, and I feel like taking another swing at my problems, myself.

I've been a Red Sox fan since I was a young man, and I was fortunate to see Ted Williams hit, and Roger Clemens pitch, in Fenway Park, along with some great moments from Fisk, and others. But before that, listening to radio, and seeing the occasionally black-and-white televised Game of the Week on TV, I held my breath with a million other kids, whenever #7 in a Yankee uniform stepped to the plate.
posted by paulsc at 5:01 PM on August 20, 2009

- I also recommend TED (but not so much Tony Robbins...different strokes for different folks!). There are so many amazing people involved in this conference, and watching these videos often leaves one optimistic about the future ahead, even when content has been heavy.

- Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, which you can get a podcast of through iTunes, has always had this special way of making me feel wonderfully small. His storytelling technique manages to get me to calmly laugh at things that would usually make me angry (e.g., small town politics, religiosity, narrow-mindedness). It's a good representation of a very specific and somewhat regional culture in the U.S. (something that mainstream media tends to downplay the existence of), and it often turns out somewhat predictable but nevertheless delightful life lessons and moral tales about compassion and understanding.

- Perhaps it's the media theorist in me, but I really love the work that Michael Wesch does as a professor at Kansas State University. He has some great, thought-provoking videos about what new media is doing to society. These can be found on his website. He works from an anthropological perspective, so he does not always produce the most objective research, but his work is definitely inspiring.

- The Moth Podcast is a "live storytelling experience." Each podcast has a different story and different speaker, and so many are inspiring. I think my favorite story from this, thus far, has been Ted Conover's story one, titled Sing Sing Tattoo.

- The science podcast Skepticality, which is part of Skeptic magazine, is a nice look into all the amazing things that are happening in the natural world and sometimes how people (humorously) apply magical reasoning to things that have logical explanations.

- I'm agnostic, but I find harmless religious tradition fascinating. A lot of prayers are very poetic, and I enjoy reading them, and a few have inspired lines in my own poetry. A good website for prayers from every religion is the World Prayers Archive.

- Not a Hemingway fan, but I think his six-word short story is one of the most haunting and bittersweet things ever written: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." It's so simple, crisp and to the point, and yet the impact of it is huge. If you like that, there are some other great, six-word "stories" in this old Wired article from 2006.

- I've already mentioned it a couple of times on AskMeFi, in various contexts, but the game Braid is truly inspirational as work of interactive fiction. It's only shortcoming is that those who wish to fly through a game, only caring about the game play, will miss the story entirely, which is actually very deep. The artwork in this game is breathtaking, too.

- My Kid Took These is a tumblog of photos that children have taken. In the same vein, I really like a project that was posted by mikepop, Angry Octopus Comics. I find these sites inspirational, because it truly feels like you're looking at the world from an entirely different perspective, because, well, you are. Children just see things differently, and I find that fascinating.

- Lenore Skenazy wrote a book called "Free-Range Kids." I haven't read the book yet, but I regularly read her blog, which is all about the same sort of thing. FRK comes from the perspective, and Skenazy's research, that children aren't free enough today, that parents have given in to irrational fears, much to the detriment of children's natural developmental processes. Her blog's content frequently features articles about sensationalized dangers to children, as well as examples of where parents have allowed their children a little bit of freedom and gotten in trouble with the authorities. I think Skenazy is highlighting a really important issue.

There are so many other inspiring things that I can't think of right now, but this question should keep you busy for ages, so I'm sure you don't need any more suggestions!
posted by metalheart at 9:23 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

this poem and this poem are two of my favourites for inspiration. the first one reminds me that we all have different reasons for doing things, and we all think of our purpose differently. the second one is helpful when i feel like the world is against me.

another thing i find really helpful is keeping a shoebox (or multiple shoeboxes) of silly notes from friends, letters from my brother, kind words in birthday cards, positive and uplifting articles or stories, and other such priceless stuff. i have about 7 boxes of keepsakes like this, and when i'm in a particularly bad mood or going through a tough time, i grab a box and go through it. reading a letter i received from an old family friend when i was in grade 6 can make me feel awesome. remembering an old inside joke will make me laugh. seeing various bits of my past and remembering how good things can be/were/are - that helps a lot.

also, i e-mailed you (the address in your profile) some things i keep in a folder on my computer for this very purpose.
posted by gursky at 10:07 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

not to derail, but that "10 reasons you should never get a job" came across to me as insulting and berating rather than inspirational. this might not be good reading for someone already feeling down about things.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:05 AM on August 21, 2009

rmd1023 - I was initially surprised to read your comment, but upon re-reading the article, I can totally see how it might come across as harsh. Steve IS harsh. He's definitely not a fluffy, feel-good type writer. So, it might be better to read the article after perusing his site a bit and getting a feel for his tone. For me, that article was very inspiring, and I didn't feel insulted at all when I read it...it felt more like a good kick in the pants. But that's probably because I'd already been toying with the idea of becoming self-employed, and that article was just what I needed to make the jump. So I guess it depends on the context, and your frame of find at the time of reading. I'm glad you pointed out your take on it, though.

LT - please keep the above in mind when/if you read that article (10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job by Steve Pavlina).
posted by yawper at 7:16 AM on August 21, 2009

Further derail. Please everyone keep in mind when reading articles from Steve Pavlina that he believes in atral projection and has a wife who's a psychic. I'm sorry, but anything valuable from that man is probably pure coincidence. He has a very mystical take on the world and prosperity, but he makes a killing off affiliate links to desperate folks, I would imagine.

So as to not get too off topic, here are some inspiring artists: Justin Taylor, Cheeming Boey and Matt Abraxas.
posted by metalheart at 5:39 PM on August 21, 2009

Reading the writings and philosophy of Richard Stallman has completely changed my take on technology, the future of books and media, book editing and reading (which is what I do for a living), use of energy, freedom vs. slavery, and, as a result, on life itself.

If two months ago someone would've told me, after having read thousands of fiction and non fiction books, that a book written by someone who essentially is a programmer would completely turn my life around, I would've said 'no f***ing way'.
posted by omegar at 9:14 AM on August 22, 2009

Anna Deavere Smith
posted by nnk at 1:22 PM on October 30, 2009

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