Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What does it take to inspire you?

For me, I am generally a pretty self-motivated type of person, sometimes even to the point of this being a fault. I have been known to get up such a head of steam that it can be like a runaway train. Get on or get out of the way. There is a place for this, but not always.

Even with this type of general attitude, I find it very helpful to have something or someone inspire me. What I mean by inspire is, to put it in simple terms, to be motivated to do better. This can apply to work, my karate, a project I am working on at home and so many other things I do everyday.

To give you an example from work, I was asked to have a look at a process in a machine centre to see how material was being handled, from loading to unloading. I was asked to see if I could come up with a way to improve it. One of the areas of specialty I have at my job is overhead lifting equipment. After being given the time to watch and learn the process and design an improved method of handling the material, I went to work on the design.

I was inspired by the opportunity to improve the working method that my fellow employees had to use that was overly complicated and time consuming. I had an opportunity to make their job easier and less stressful. I had the chance to research lifting equipment, and to work with a contractor that I have a lot of respect for because of their experience and honesty. The other thing I found inspiring was just the fact that it was something a bit different from the normal. I love the inventing side of my work.

On top of having the chance to do something I love doing, I had a chance to work with a co-worker I have a lot of respect for. This is someone who knows how to cut through the political nonsense to get the job moving and who is not afraid to make a decision. On top of that, this co-worker is a cancer survivor.

At our dojo the other day, I watched Sensei Laurie go through one of the basic katas to demonstrate it. I watched her every move very, very closely (as I always do). I was struck (as I aways am) by how fluid and yet powerful her every move is, right down to the way she positions her fingers. This is a person who not long ago was seriously injured in a car accident. She was sitting in the back seat of a car when when it was involved in a crash. When I asked Sensei about the accident, this is what she shared with me:

The accident occurred in Feb '07. We were travelling with a friend when our car was struck head on by a drunk driver. I was in hospital for 3 weeks followed by several months of physio and rehab. My left elbow was badly broken, there were some more minor internal injuries but my back was also severely injured resulting in a lengthy major surgery, and fusion of a couple of vertebrae.

I credit my karate training with my recovery - both in duration and depth. My physical conditioning most likely resulted in me having less serious injury, but my mental/spiritual conditioning allowed me to cope with the aftermath in a very positive way. I was very fortunate to have had quick and expert medical attention and such great support from family and friends who rallied to help our family in so many ways for an extended period of time.

In hospital, Sensei Mike Swywk introduced me to a book called "Beyond the Known". The title alone helps to indicate some of the content, but it was a book that I read several times. I was able to find inspiration not only during my recovery but also as I continued to cope with dojo challenges not long after that. 

It is fascinating to read of a student's observations of my kata. I don't give much thought to my injuries any more. They are what they are. My current and future training have restrictions, as the aging process also begins to figure in to the scheme of things - but everybody has challenges in their life. I like to look beyond what happened - feel grateful that it turned out as well as it did - and move on. If my positive outlook and ability to continue to do what I love, can be an inspiration to someone facing life challenges, then I am happy to share my experience.

She has pins and screws in one of her arms and still has some limitation to the movement of this arm. Even with this, she got back to karate, worked hard at it and despite the injuries she suffered, she is now a Third Dan Black Belt and my Sensei

Inspiration can sometimes come from a source some people might consider shallow, like a good movie. The one that most immediately comes to mind for me is the movie,  "Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World." In this movie, Russell Crowe plays the part of a captain of a tall ship in the British navy. He is a brilliant tactician, yet prone to human frailties and mistakes. Here is a person that takes control and against all odds, outwits his opponent, and at the same time,

Inspiration can come from the simplest things, such as a picture or painting, watching an eagle soar overhead or a kite dancing in the breeze over the ocean. For me it can come from music, watching someone playing an instrument, creating this beautiful sound from an inanimate object. What a gift to be able to do this thing and share it with other people. I guess thinking about it, the ability and willingness to share one's gift combined with the ability to receive and appreciate this gift can be so inspiring and fulfilling at the same time.

Inspiration can also come from your surroundings. I am working on this post while sitting at the Fall River Restaurant. The food, whenever possible, is local and organic. The selection of beer and wine is a fine complement to the style of this restaurant, and owners Paul and Michele and their staff have always been friendly and accommodating. This is a small out-of-the-way location that was at one time an old gas station. Yet they have still made it work, and always make you feel welcome.  
As I sit here in the pub enjoying pleasant music, a good beer, a very nice quiche and a view of the setting sun, I come to realize that inspiration can only be there if you have an open mind and a willing heart. It is key not to block yourself off to your surroundings. Be open to something new and inspirational.
can be compassionate and understanding to his friend and his crew.

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