What Inspires Me

I was asked to answer the question, “What Inspires You?” Here’s the Result:


If you ask my parents to describe me as a child, their response would be a combination of praise, heavy sighs, and nervous laughter.

Let me preface all of this by saying that I have two wonderful parents, high-school sweethearts who believed that hard-work, dedication, humility, and accountability were the responses to any question. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, so they overcompensated: No matter the question, they stuck to those four answers.

Essentially, I was raised by a Magic 8-Ball.

That approach worked well with my sister. She got good grades and took life at face value, never inquisitive enough to ask a question that the Magic 8-Ball couldn’t handle. Me on the other hand, I constantly fired up questions—not just hypotheticals, real predicaments that needed solving—only to find that no matter how violently I shook it, I got the same answer: Reply Hazy, Try Again Later.

Don’t jump to any conclusions here, I wasn’t a bad kid. I was simply an artist among accountants, a non-conformist that didn’t see boundaries (or understand social constructs like why people have to wear shoes in a restaurant which, admittedly, as an adult, seems obvious now), a precocious kid that was often labeled as untenable just because I wanted to read books, paint, sing, screech, fall out of trees, and push the limits of patience. It was not a scoff at pedantry; living was just more fun when I had cookie dough for dinner and finger painted on the dog.

I contend to this day that I was misunderstood. My mother wonders if she failed me. I know this, because she still asks.
When the time came, no one was surprised when I said I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to be a painter. I wanted to take pictures; I wanted to write. In negotiations, I tried to reach the middle ground: I’d go to culinary school and open a bakery which seemed responsible enough, even though from the moment the words left my mouth I knew that I would never open La Cee Boulangerie because there’s no way I’d go to work at 4am every day.

Structure didn’t own me; creativity did.

Paths change and people mature. I finished college, even went back for graduate school (and got degrees in business, not abstract puppetry). I grew in new mediums: spreadsheets instead of pastels, high-rises instead of jazz taps. Some see that sort of shift as a dismissal of a dream outright, but that’s shortsighted.

Once you accept who you are—how your mind works, what excites it, and how to challenge it–you can be successful at virtually anything.

Life is hard for the intellectually stagnant, for those who sit idly without curiosities. Inspiration comes from improvising—after all, a Magic 8-Ball may not have an answer.