Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

What is inspiration? Steve Jobs and Picasso provide some insights

So, what is inspiration and how can you tap into it when you need to become inspired?

what is inspiration, steve jobs

In today’s post, I’m going to share one of the ideas used by Pablo Picasso and Steve Jobs, when they were looking for creative inspiration. I’m also going to share a couple of tips of my own, but first, let’s take a brief look at the definition of inspiration.

Inspiration defined

The Oxford Dictionary defines inspiration as: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

Commonly we think of people being randomly struck by a flash of inspiration, so we see inspiration as a feeling that occurs almost by accident. However, as the start of that dictionary definition states, inspiration is a process. We become mentally stimulated (inspired) to do something. The key here, is to learn how to create that inspired state when we need to.

How to feel inspired

There is no single, set way to make every person feel inspired. That’s because we are all different and are inspired by different things. You need to learn what works for you and one of the best ways to do this, is to think about what you were doing the last few times you felt inspired. Consider where you were and what you were doing, etc. Look for any common factors and incorporate these the next time you need some inspirational ideas or answers.

Here are just a tiny number of situations, which trigger creative inspiration:

  • Some people find inspiration in books.
  • Some find inspiration in music.
  • Some people are inspired when surrounded by nature.
  • Some people grab a pad and some colouring pencils and start doodling.
  • Some people become inspired to create, when an internal or external deadline approaches. This one is really interesting, because it shows how creative inspiration can indeed be self driven.
  • Some find inspiration through affirmations or positive self-talk.
  • Some find inspiration comes when they are doing some type of physical activity. For me, it’s walking that works best.
  • Some find inspiration in the design of an everyday item. (More on that in a moment.)
  • And others find all of the above work to a lesser or greater degree.

Inspired on purpose

As well as all being potential sources of inspiration, each of the scenarios above has another thing in common. Can you guess what it is?

They are all under our control!

That is to say, we can decide to take any of the actions above when we want to feel inspired. We don’t need to wait to be struck by inspiration. We can find the things that work best for us, then build a strategy that uses them.

I found that I often got my best ideas when I was walking. So, I incorporated a daily walk into my routine. I always carry an audio recorder with me, then when an idea comes I can record it. I write thousands of words every day, most of which are inspired by ideas captured during my walks. I also find that I get lots of creative ideas when I am in the company of other creative people, (problem solvers.)

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9:00 every morning.” Peter De Vries.

That quote from Peter De Vries makes a great point. We can choose to help ourselves become inspired or we can be a servant to inspiration. We can wait for the fictitious muse to arrive or we can take control and direct our own mind.

Inspired by other works: Great artists steal

Many people believe that in order to create, their inspiration needs to come from a wholly unique idea; something no one has ever thought of before. However, when we look at the creators of the most amazing art, inventions and ideas, we find the opposite.

Pablo Picasso famously said: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ This phrase became popular again in 1996, when the late Steve Jobs repeated it in a PBS documentary called Triumph of the Nerds. In that interview, Jobs went on to say: ‘We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.’

What Jobs was talking about, was not ripping off a piece of work and claiming you created it. Far from it. He went on to explain that he and his team would ‘expose ourselves to the best things that humans have done‘, and then try to incorporate them into something unique, of their own.

A well known example of the kind of inspiration that Steve Jobs was talking about, comes from the creator of the underarm, ball deodorant. He was inspired by the way ink flowed from a ballpoint pen and saw how the process could be applied to any liquid with similar properties. As you know, the underarm deodorant went on to become one of the most popular hygiene products in history.

An even better example is the invention of the tablet computer. The idea behind the tablet devices we see today, was inspired by at least 2 existing ideas: The clay tablets used 3,000 years ago and the modern notebook / laptop.

Little, if anything, is truly new. We should understand and embrace this idea, if we want to remove one of the biggest barriers to creative inspiration. We just need to remember that there’s a big difference between stealing ideas to create something new – and copying or ripping off an existing idea. Remember that Picasso quote from earlier: ‘… great artists steal’. They don’t copy!

Creating your inspiration strategy

It starts by deliberately monitoring the things that inspire you the most. Write them down. Then, incorporate them into your work flow, so that you can get into an inspired state when you need to, rather than just when it randomly occurs.

What works for me? I incorporated a walk into my work flow when I discovered that it was how most of my best ideas came to me. I also learned that if I read my email first thing in the morning, it took my focus away from creating. So, my workday starts with a walk, followed by the commitment to write 500 words or solve a problem, before I start on my email.

Just as Peter De Vries made sure to be inspired at 9am each workday, we too need to stop waiting for everything to be perfect and proactively seek inspiration – doing what works for us.

Build a recipe that works for you, then use it every time you need to do some creative work or find a creative answer. Don’t wait for inspiration. Deliberately encourage it.

Then do the work

As well as inspiring ourselves to create, we also need to motivate ourselves to put what we have created into action. It’s one thing to have a great idea sketched out on paper – it’s something else to actually use that idea.

We need to learn to give our ideas the chance to fly. We need to give our answers the chance to make a difference. This means we need to back them up with intelligent activity.

Photo Copyright: Albert Watson

7 Powerful reasons to get things done

When I hear someone say, “We have always done things this way!”, I cringe. That’s a terrible reason to do anything.

Here are 7 better alternatives:

  1. Do it because it’s right.
  2. Do it because you care.
  3. Do it because it works… beautifully.
  4. Do it because it matters.
  5. Do it because you said you would.
  6. Do it because you may never get another chance.
  7. Do it because that’s how you become a leader.

And do it as well as you possibly can.

Tip: If you’d like to learn how to motivate yourself to take action, I can help. My Motivation Master Class audio program will show you how to get things done, even things you hate, dread or fear. Download your copy here. It runs for over 110 minutes and is narrated by me, Jim Connolly.

You don’t launch a successful blog. You build it.

Katie found this out 9 months ago, when she invested almost $8000 on the design and launch of her new business blog. The blog is still floundering and Katie emailed me, to ask if I thought she should relaunch it.

Here’s my answer. I also share how to build an extremely successful blog or newsletter, based on what is proven to work.

The razzmatazz is just the starting pistol

I attended a wedding some years ago, which cost a fortune. Just to give you an idea of the scale I’m talking about, they hired Earth Wind and Fire to play for the guests!

Sadly, the marriage lasted less than a year.

Here’s the thing: You don’t launch a successful marriage. You build it. It’s only what happens after the razzmatazz of the big day, which matters. The same is true of a business launch, blog launch or newsletter launch. The launch is irrelevant — it’s what you do, day in and day out, which matters.

[Note: Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google were built, not launched. Think about that for a moment.]

It’s all about commitment

I started Jim’s Marketing Blog just over 6 years ago. There was no launch. No press release. No razzmatazz. Today, it’s one of the most popular marketing sites in the world.

I’ve learned that the key to developing a commercially successful blog or newsletter, is commitment.

It works like this:

  • You need to commit the time required to regularly write useful posts or articles. I invest an hour or more every day, writing for you and responding to emails. For the first year, I often invested 3 hours a day on the blog. I’d wake up extra early or go to bed extra late, because I was committed to it. Every top blogger I know has done the same.
  • You need to commit to leave the masses and stand out. One reason my blog grew so quickly, is that I marketed it extremely effectively. Most bloggers and newsletter providers use the same strategies as one another. They follow the same general advice that’s regurgitated on popular content marketing blogs and copywriting blogs. This is a BIG mistake! It is impossible to succeed in any meaningful way, using the same approach as millions of others. It makes you invisible.
  • You need to commit to do the work. Period. I have written for you when I’ve been tired and when I’ve been sick. I’ve written for you when I had deadlines to meet and when I was on holiday. When you commit to do the work, you find a way to make it happen. When you’re not committed, you find an excuse.
  • You need to commit to learning. Maybe one of the greatest rewards of writing regularly, is that it forces you to learn. You can’t write every day unless you’re feeding your mind every day.

In short: Instead of investing your time, money and energy on the launch, focus on building something you’re proud of. Make the commitment to do what’s required and see it through. No, it’s not easy — but that’s why so few people do it AND why the rewards are so amazing.

What happened next?

Business is full of contradictions.

Why do accountants, smart people who really understand business, tend to use the least efficient business model, selling their time for money?

Why do designers, supposedly highly creative thinkers, tend to work from similar looking offices, with white paint on the walls and Mac’s on every desk?

Why do marketing consultants, who understand the importance of standing out, offer an almost identical range of services?

What do you think would happen, if…

What do you think would happen, if an accountant developed an innovative business model that clients found attractive? Could it help them stand out in their overcrowded marketplace?

What do you think would happen, if a prospective client visited a designer’s office and found that it looked a lot more original, than the other designers they’d visited? Could it make the designer look a lot more creative than their competitors?

What do you think would happen, if a marketing professional developed a uniquely valuable marketing service, which got people talking? Could it help them build a successful marketing business, which gets referenced in the world’s leading newspapers and media outlets. [Yes, look.]

Most importantly

What do you think would happen, if you found a way to differentiate your business from your competitors?

Are you building a tribe or writing drive-by content?

Many people who write blogs, newsletters, email marketing, etc, think they are growing a tribe or community, when in fact, they are doing the opposite.

Allow me to explain.

Content marketing… and buckets

The problem with trying to fill a bucket, which has a big hole in the bottom, is that the water flows out just as fast as it flows in. It’s a never ending task, unless you get a new bucket or fix the hole.

Most Content Marketing, including that written by many so-called experts, is based around the idea of treating your content marketing, like a bucket with a hole.

  • It’s about attracting drive-by readers with ‘killer’ headlines.
  • It’s about SEOing your thoughts, rather than expressing your thoughts.

Marketing thought leader Seth Godin put it extremely well:

The copywriter/editor who trades in meaning for lists, using calculated SEO keyword loading and sensationalism designed to attract the drive-by audience, earns the privilege of doing it again and again, forever.

It’s like trying to fill that broken bucket. It’s also the total opposite of growing a tribe.

They drive by

The thing about drive-by readers, is that they drive by. They are attracted to hyped up headlines and quickly go from one “25 ways to write like a rock star” piece to the next. If your content marketing is based around chasing them, you’re making life way too hard for yourself.

Grow a great community

To grow a great community or tribe around your work, you need to attract the right people and retain their attention.

It means showing up regularly with useful information, rather than sensationalist, predictable content for the drive-by crowd.

It means expressing your ideas, rather than a keyword loaded version of what you think.

It means being brave enough to stop chasing easy, but low value, drive-by ‘traffic’.

It means building deeper connections with people who will value your work, share your work, call you, email you, hire you or buy from you.

A remarkable lesson from Steve Jobs and Malcolm Gladwell

Today, let’s look at one of the key factors in building a remarkable, profitable business.

Your business and doing it your way

Malcolm Gladwell was once asked how to write a best selling book. His answer was as follows:

“The moment you write a book hoping it will be a best seller, your chances of it becoming a best seller go downhill. [...] You write the book you would want to read.”

Gladwell went on to explain that Steve Jobs never brought a product to market, because he thought the marketplace wanted it.

Think about that for a moment:

  • Gladwell writes books that he would want to read. They are unlike any other books in his niche. His books are also amongst the best selling non fiction books of the last 30 years.
  • Jobs created products because he thought they were beautiful. Jobs’ success with Apple led to his company being the most highly valued in the world.

The lesson here?

If we want to create remarkable products, remarkable services and deliver remarkable experiences, we should deliver what we believe is right.

Think about it: The only way we can hope to build a meaningfully different business is to tap into our uniqueness. To give the marketplace what we would value, if we were the customer or client. If we simply look at what our competitors do, then find a way to do it a little faster or a little cheaper, we become unremarkable.

When Roger Banister broke the 4 minute mile barrier, he was remarkable. The next guy, who ran a little faster than Bannister, wasn’t.

In short: Set your own bar. Create what you believe is valuable. Deliver an experience, product or service that would get you talking, if you were lucky enough to be one of your clients.

Oh, and in case you are wondering… yes, you absolutely can do it!

What everybody ought to know about business success

There are 2 ways to build a business. One route works and one doesn’t. I’m going to show you both and suggest how to make sure your business succeeds!

This works

The business owners who achieve meaningful success are the ones who keep on keeping on. They feel the fear and do it anyway. They strive to be remarkable, knowing the alternative is to be ignored. They give it their best shot and when life knocks them down, they get back up… every time.

They know that you only grow by stretching and you can’t stretch without leaving your comfort zone.

This doesn’t

The alternative way to run a business is to try hard, but fail to give it your all. To work hard, but work hard doing the things you are comfortable with. To be predictable rather than embrace the edges. To seek certainty like an employee rather then seek opportunity, like an entrepreneur.

Thankfully, we get to decide the route we take. We can embrace the opportunity of what works or choose the fake comfort of what isn’t working; what I call the Failing Familiar.

How do we change route?

Change comes from the daily choices we make and the actions we take. It’s down to us. Our decision. No one else can push us up the ladder. The day we start giving it our best shot, leaving nothing on the table, is the day we shift from the Failing Familiar to the edge of our potential.

Want to know more? If you do, this will help inspire you and guide you: The 21 Habits Behind Highly Successful Business Owners.

7 Honest truths about marketing

Here are 7 important things to consider, when marketing your business.

In no particular order:

  1. Embrace brevity. Your marketing content is almost certainly 50% to 75% too long. Fix that.
  2. Most marketing advice online is either inaccurate or toxic to your business. Be especially cautious of anyone offering tricks or short-cuts to marketing success. Short-cuts to success are seldom short-cuts and they never lead to success.
  3. In business, everything you do is marketing. Yes, everything… read this.
  4. Great marketing alone is not enough to mask an average product or service. You are not ready to market anything, until you have pumped a massive amount of value into it, first.
  5. Don’t expect professional marketing results from amateur marketing. If you’re serious about growing a successful business, stop treating your marketing like a DIY project.
  6. If you need to attend networking events, to try and get people talking about your business, ask yourself “why”? Why aren’t people automatically talking about your business? Why are you not already getting more leads than you need from your clients? Why isn’t your marketing message spreading via word of mouth? Spend more time fixing the problem and less time pushing what’s broken.
  7. You will never be one webinar away from marketing success. Ever.

Hopefully, you will find at least 1 thing on that list that will stop you wasting your time or money. Most people will find several.

The question now is, what are you going to do about it?

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