Written by Geoff Fisher

Inspiration is a funny thing – it comes in all shapes and sizes, sometimes expected and sometimes completely out of the blue, but we all know the feeling when it hits us. In today’s day and age with sources of inspiration literally at our fingertips and seemingly being offered to us everywhere we turn (scroll), the question of whether it’s even possible to be OVER-inspired is probably more of a rhetorical question, but valid nonetheless.

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to experience so much genuine inspiration in a short span of time and from different, real sources (i.e. not the ones that we read about, but the ones we actually get to witness and feel in-person), that we’re almost overwhelmed, which is great! Definitely nothing to complain about, but we couldn’t help but ponder the question recently…

(Important to note that the type of inspiration we’re focusing on here is more inspiration as a source of growth – the kind of inspiration that you get from an experience or an encounter and feels permanent, rather than short-term inspiration that we use to spurn creativity.)

It was a cold day in December and, along with six ISP colleagues, we attended a half-day conference arranged by the British Chamber of Commerce Czech Republic’s Equilibrium programme, which “matches rising women business leaders with experienced mentors in an effort to support an increase in the number of women for top management roles.” The theme of the conference was “DREAM – DARE – SHARE” and it’s safe to say that everyone in attendance was doing (or at least attempting to do) just that, and the experience was quite invigorating.

One particular person stood out – the keynote speaker, Ms. Manal al-Sharif. Rated amongst the world’s top 100 most influential women, Manal is a women’s rights activist originally from Saudi Arabia who advocates for women’s right to drive, male guardianship annulment, and family protection in Saudi Arabia. She “dared to drive” in a country where deeply held religious beliefs prohibit women from doing so, with Saudi clerics arguing that “female drivers undermine social values.” Not only did she drive through the crowded capital city of Saudi Arabia in broad daylight, she also posted pictures and videos on social media of herself driving and sparked a movement of awareness and attempts to encourage Saudi women to follow in her footsteps and challenge the oppressive social norms of Saudi society.

Following her speech at the conference, much of the audience was in tears and erupted to give her a standing ovation, and the overall feeling among the crowd was awe and inspiration. It was an experience that those in attendance won’t soon forget and we encourage you to familiarize yourself with Manal and her story, and to check out the TED talk she gave in 2013:

Manal al-Sharif: A Saudi woman who dared to drive

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Fast-forward to later that evening and an event arranged by and at ISP – a presentation by Captain Jon Armstrong of the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles based in Folkestone, England. Along with a fellow Gurkha, Jon completed a 100-day/1,500-mile endurance challenge in the Arctic Circle where they trekked around Ellesmere Island off the northern Canadian coast on foot and by sea, all for the purpose of contributing to rebuilding schools in Nepal via ISP’s 2016 charity of choice, the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

With about 50 ISP employees and guests in attendance, Jon took the audience through the preparation for the journey, which consisted of months of physical and mental training for increment situations and weather, and he shared stories and pictures of the whole exploration and the agony and seclusion that he and his partner endured for 3+ months.

“We faced some brutal conditions and there were a few points at which we thought we were going to be in serious trouble and maybe even need rescue. Snow blindness, debilitating illness and exhaustion all had an impact, but we trained hard for what we faced and pushed through some pretty harsh moments. We are incredibly glad to be back home now, reflecting on the lessons learnt from this life-changing mission and looking forward to catching up with our friends, family, and colleagues over the coming weeks.” – Capt. Jon Armstrong

Capt. Jon Armstrong 2

Capt. Jon Armstrong 1

After hearing Jon’s presentation and chatting with him for a bit afterwards, the feeling among the attendees can best be summed up as: it was amazing to hear what people are capable of if we put our minds to something; it was inspiring to hear how Jon and his partner overcame surmounting odds and still managed to complete their mission; it was intriguing to think about how we could apply Jon’s story and words of wisdom to our own lives, whether it be in terms of leadership, conquering fear, or partnerships and relationship management; it was rewarding to know that ISP has been teaming with people like Jon and contributing to the worthy cause of re-building schools in Nepal.

Needless to say that as the events of the day were winding down many of us felt like we’d reached our capacity for inspiration, and some of us started to openly wonder: “Is there a capacity for inspiration? How does long-term inspiration work psychologically and how do people deal with feelings of needing to do more and have more impact in their lives?”

A quick Google search of “the science behind inspiration” will reveal countless sources and articles about the creative process – the best time to be creative, using inspiration to spurn creativity, etc., all of which seem to be focusing on short-term inspiration and creativity and lead us to believe that the question “is it even possible to be over-inspired?” may be more relevant than we think!

Along with providing inspiration, Jon challenged us to consider our roles as teammates and leaders in our personal and professional lives by asking four questions at the bookends of his presentation, questions that have stuck with us since that cold day in December:

Do I build trust and respect my team and do I strive for team goals?

Which is more important: Integrity or Loyalty?

Will I allow myself and others to take risk?

How will I react when the team fails?

That’s a lot to ponder!

Grateful for the opportunity to have had the day that we’d just had and fortunate enough to have met and heard from Manal and Jon, we agreed that while we were oozing with inspiration and a desire to assess our own lives and our impact on the world, we were mentally exhausted and needed to decompress.

Many thanks to Manal and Jon, their stories will leave a lasting effect on us and many others who are fortunate enough to cross paths with them. Consider us over-inspired!

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