Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What Inspires You?

Everyone is inspired by someone or something over the course of their lifetimes. Some may classify people that inspire them as being heroes and they can be presidents, sports figures, Hollywood stars, politicians, or simply mom and dad. But I probably have a much different view than most on inspirational people. I do not view politicians, TV or movie stars, singers, or sports figures as inspirational people. Yes, many may have a compelling life story of beating poverty to make it big. However, each of these individuals has a God given talent that they were able to mold into success. For instance, President Obama has a compelling life story, but he never inspired me. He is a gifted and talented orator, and although I wish I had his public speaking skills, this is not inspirational to me. Everyone has a talent, but it is a mystery as to why so few talents are viewed as inspirational. I am not fast enough to excel in sports. I cannot sing, act, or speak publically. But I have other talents that people who play sports or act in movies do not have.

Business leaders also fail to inspire me because I have seen how employees climb the corporate ladder. They do what is best for them and not what is best for the company. My experience has found that most companies are profitable despite their leadership. Even those innovative people that invented many of the items we use in our daily lives fail to inspire me. Many, like the sports superstars and Hollywood stars, are egomaniacs. Is Bono great because he donates millions to charity? Some think so, but he has lots of money and anyone else in his shoes would do the same thing. So that is not inspirational.

Like everyone I have favorite actors, actresses, singers, football players, politicians, corporate leaders, and so forth. However, many of my favorite performers are not the superstars; they are the more obscure performers who generally do not have as many character flaws as the superstars. My favorite New York Giant is not the superstar that is grossly overpaid, but the guy that has less ability and plays his heart out and does anything (including playing special teams) to help the team win. Chase Blackburn and Dave Tollefson are two examples of guys who make the NY Giants’ roster each year, even when the team drafts guys to supplant them. My favorite politician is currently Paul Ryan and as a kid my favorite politician was NYC Mayor Ed Koch. Both Ryan and Koch have never held high profile positions such as governor or senator.

In many aspects, those who inspired me did so in a negative way. My stepfather was abusive, my parents were alcoholics, and teachers told me my IQ was too low to go to college. They inspired me to go to college, quit drinking, and be a good husband. I never liked people telling me what I could not do and if someone did, I was inspired to prove them wrong.

So who inspired me in a positive way? I had good teachers and bosses, but their impact on my life was never overwhelmingly inspirational. Even religious encounters impacted me negatively. No, I find inspiration in thousands of ordinary people I meet. The young fellow who installed our pellet stove who works three jobs inspires me. He has no healthcare, but he will not accept any government handouts, such as food stamps, even though he qualifies for the program. This inspires me to be a better person. Every person that has a disability and does not let that stop them from achieving their goals inspires me immensely. Every person that serves in our military that has put their life on the line inspires me. I am inspired by millions of people that achieve success even though they may not have a special talent that others deem as inspirational. These are the people that inspire me to want to inspire others.

America has it all wrong – we put the wrong people on pedestals. Instead of honoring superstar actors, actresses, sports figures, politicians, and corporate millionaires; we should honor the common man that overcomes disabilities to make a positive impact on society. These are the people that are inspirational.

So who inspires you?


  1. Good post again, Patrick.

    This society spends a lot of time honoring the “accomplishments” of celebrities, as if those folks didn’t receive enough attention already. And most of them willingly lap up the adulation, instead of suggesting that perhaps it would be nice if the spotlight could be shown on some of the “ordinary” people who manage to do extraordinary things without the advantage of fame or money.

    My deceased brother-in-law, Paul, who I once wrote about on my TH blog, was a truly inspiring person. The fact that he never saw himself that way or intentionally set out to be an inspiration made him that much more of one. All he ever sought to do was to be as self-reliant as possible despite enormous physical obstacles, and to live up to the principles that his parents and his church had instilled in him. In doing that he sacrificed his own physical and emotional comfort in order to do what he thought were the right things. There was no one great thing that he did, just a continual series of small things and the silent acceptance of his own suffering. When he passed away, so many people came to his funeral, and the respect and sense of loss was amazing.

    My in-laws too, both deceased now, were great inspirations to me. They were just great, salt-of-the earth people who always tried to do the right things. They did a wonderful job raising six kids on a small income, making whatever sacrifices were necessary without complaint. They always worked hard, put family and friends above everything else and quietly lived by their religious beliefs without unduly passing judgment on others. I shudder to think what my life would have been without them in it.

  2. Thanks CW, I remember your post about your brother in law and you commenting about him a couple of times. It is nice to remember and honor our role models instead of the folks the media likes to parade around.