November 13, 2014 by Dymphna 10 Comments

The inspiration-less cake of success

Italian Frittata with slices of fresh greens

I was around at Jenny’s for dinner. Her hubby had taken the kids out to a movie and it was a good chance for us to catch up.

I love going to dinner at Jenny’s place. She’s great company, there’s always a quality bottle of white on ice, and she’s a fantastic cook.

I was trying to relax with my white into the bar stool. (Seriously, why hasn’t anyone made a comfortable version of those things. How hard is it? Just cross a sofa and bar-stool – the soffool?) Anyway, I was watching Jenny beaver about in her kitchen.

To me it looks like a random process. She flits between the fridge and the bench, the pantry, back to the fridge, over to the spice rack… I can’t make sense of it.

“What are we having tonight, Jen?”

She stops. Looks down at a large pile of veggies she’s already cut up, and bites her lip.

“I don’t know…. Pasta? Should we do pasta?”

This is Jenny’s method. Julienne first, ask questions later. She just launches into her kitchen and figures the rest out later.

There’s a quote I’ve seen attributed to popular horror writer Stephen King:

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just have to go to work.”

While this might be a little rich for someone who farms out the actual writing of his novels to a stable of underpaid writers – someone’s who’s become a brand as much as a writer – the principle is sound.

If you’re always waiting around for inspiration to come and bite you on the arse, you might not ever get anything done.

(Do you think people will start quoting me on that one? Dymphna Boholt, 2014.)

Inspiration is a powerful engine of action. And it’s an important ingredient of any journey of growth and development.

But it’s not the only ingredient. And it’s not always the first ingredient.

We tend to think about it this way, in a causal link that goes:


We get excited about some kind of experience, whether it’s a journey or a destination, and that inspiration becomes the fuel we need to launch into action.

This isn’t untrue. It just isn’t always that simple.

To start with, it isn’t always easy to convert inspiration into action. This is particularly true if the inspiration is tied to blockages.

You see this a lot in journeys of healing.

Say for example you’re not getting on with your mother. It creates stress, hurt avoidance patterns etc. This is exactly the inspiration you need to want to change this situation.

But these are exactly the things that can block you from taking action – it’s too painful to bring up, you’ve become well-skilled at avoiding the real issues etc.

Or think about losing weight. Being conscious about how you look can be a motivating drive, but that consciousness can be exactly the thing that stops you dressing up in lycra and sweating it out at the gym.

And its especially true of the wealth journey. I’ve had students come to me so far over their heads in debt you’d need an excavator license just to try and find them.

That much debt is a powerful motivation for getting started in real estate. But the first steps – even just sitting down and doing your taxes – can be so overwhelming that people freak out and can’t go on.

Inspiration doesn’t always become action. In the cases above, it wasn’t a shortage of inspiration that was holding people back, and adding more inspiration to the mix just wouldn’t have helped.

Julie comes back from the pantry. “I know. What about a stir-fry? I think I’ve got some rice noodles somewhere…”

The other point to remember is that’s not a one-way street. It’s more of a cycle:


We can get in on any point in the cycle. And that means that sometimes, like Stephen King said, we’ve just got to jump straight into action.

We’ve just got take those first painful steps, whatever they are. Just make a start. Anywhere. Find somewhere where you can make progress and just start chipping away – no matter how slowly.

Because the truth is that once we get things moving – once we get a bit of momentum – action itself inspires us to push on further.

If I find that I’ve got a particularly difficult project on my plate – like a complex reno or something – and I find myself continually putting it off and trying to avoid thinking about it, then I just force myself to jump into it.

I pick something small. Something that will give me the satisfaction of ticking a box.

Maybe I think about what colour I’m going to paint the fence. It’s a straight-forward problem. I can get a box ticked. But then that might get me thinking about maybe putting in an electronic gate… do I want a double garage? Would it be better to repurpose the garage as a granny flat… and suddenly I’m away.

I’m engaged in the process again. A sense of momentum inspires me to go further and further, until it’s all I can think about and I’m boring hubby with design ideas again.

It gets me past the block of not knowing what to do.

Just do something.

Jen pops up from the cupboards. “I know! Frittata! Let’s do a Frittata.”

“Sure Jen.”

Sometimes your job is as simple as taking the first, clumsy step.

The rest will follow from there.