Game of Thrones and Seizing Inspiration

PC: Artem Sapegin

Game of Thrones and Seizing Inspiration

There’s a certain kind of content that makes me want to leap out of a moving train, build a bonfire, buy the first international ticket I can find, go to the gym. I’m talking about the articles, the videos, the podcasts that are top-notch, Grade A, TNT-in-your-aorta inspiring.

Case in point, the most recent Game of Thrones trailer.

I finished it and was like, A BOY IS FUCKING HYPED.

And then I watched another video from the sidebar. And another. They were interesting enough but not nearly on the same level. Halfway though the second, I noticed the tiger blood was gone from my veins. I was just a guy, sitting on the floor, browsing YouTube.

What a waste.

Sometimes the world is a pretty dark and dreary place. It can push you down and keep you trapped in monochromatic complacency. You can tilt the odds in your favor by surrounding yourself with great people and being intentional about what content you consume but even then, it can be hard to actually motivate yourself to action.

Fuck Yes John, Fuck Yes.

We Aren’t Wired to Keep Hold of Positive Emotions

Emotions, especially positive emotions, can be fleeting. Evolutionarily, happiness played little role in survival. It’s fear that kept our ancestors alive. If a fellow became inspired to go off and build his own fire somewhere in the distance, there was a good chance he’d get eaten. So that man stayed put.

Greater attention to bad things increased a person’s ability survive threats. The more cautious you were, the more likely to pass along your genes. A report published in the Association for Psychological Science in 2007 suggests that negative impressions and stereotypes are not only quicker to form but also more resistant to disconfirmation than positive ones.

Similarly, good memories fade more quickly than bad ones. Clifford Nass, a Professor of Communication at Stanford University, says this is because, “Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly.”

This inclination toward negativity shapes our reactions to events. According to Stanford Professor Teresa Amabile, co-author of “The Progress Principle,” the negative effect of a setback at work on happiness is more than twice as strong as the positive effect of an event that signaled progress.

These studies provide important insights into how we weight different events throughout the day. When was the last time you tossed and turned over something bad that happened? That you dwelled on messing up an assignment or being disappointed by a friend? Compare that against the last time you spent minutes or hours dwelling on a success or an act of kindness.

The same goes for inspiration. It amazes me how many small moments of insight I’m willing to let pass by. What if I took just a few minutes to jot down that idea or whip out my phone for a quick video? The good news is that like anything else, attention to inspiration can be trained.

But We Aren’t Wired to be A Lot of Things, You Get to Choose

Luckily, we live in safer times where we don’t all have to be worried about running into moose during mating season. Our behavior has room to progress accordingly. That lean toward negativity is still there but there are things we can do counter it. One of them is listening to the fire that ignites in your soul when you watch Game of Thrones trailers.

It’s choosing to notice the brief moments of inspiration at least as much as you notice the moments of anxiety and fear. The same goes for happiness and all those other positive emotional states, by the way.

Inspiration awakens new possibilities, it says, “You can do that thing, you are awesome.” It decreases the limitations constructed by the mind and pushes a person from apathy to action.

In that moment of clarity, you see something you could do. Something crazy, maybe, but something worthwhile. The are two levels of that insight, the immediate desire to replicate and the deeper meaning. I cannot personally fly off to the Seven Kingdoms and battle the White Walkers. Yet. What I can do in the meantime is advance my ability to tell a story as powerful as GoT. The latter is the larger vision that really elevates my pulse.

Going All The Way

Experiencing insight is only half of inspiration. The other half is the creation the follows. Otherwise, it’s just mental masturbation. Or, as Thomas Edison said,

Inspiration without action is hallucination

Action is the key. It doesn’t matter if you had the idea for Uber first or were going to write a book exactly like Red Rising. Thoughts on their own are worthless. And so is inspiration unless it leads to something.

Its fleeting nature is the second reason execution is so crucial. If you only work when your daemon slips in, the going will be very slow indeed. The Gods didn’t impart the entirety of Harry Potter into J.K Rowling’s head for her to transpose onto paper in one manic burst of brilliance. She had a thought and she wrote it on a napkin. Then she acted on it. She spent the next five years thinking and writing and rewriting.

Inspiration comes at erratic times under varying conditions and can’t be trusted to stick around. Seize it when the thing slips in. Rowling wrote the names for the Hogwarts houses on the back of a barf bag because she was on an airplane when the idea came to her. Imagine what could have happened if she had waited until she got home only to discover they’d slipped away.

At the same time, listen to the larger message behind whatever got you going. Somewhere behind that fleeting image or video is a vision for yourself. Tapping into that vision is where the real power exists.

Inspiration can energize your ambition but it’s the vision that keeps the engine running.

Making Inspiration Work For You

So when something elevates your pulse, listen to it and respond. Even if it’s just dropping down into a few pushups or grabbing a blank piece of paper and scribbling a thought or two.

I don’t know about you, but I generally consume content that features things I’m interested in: writing, business, travel, etc. If it’s worth anything, that content has an educational or inspirational component that can be internalized and the expressed.

Drooling over an incredible globetrotting video? Grab your phone, go outside and collect a story or two from complete strangers.

Jealous of that dope blog article with a few thousand hearts? Find a piece of paper and a pen and do not stop scribbling until you have some kind of cohesive thought. Take that thought and put it on Medium.

Find a way to make a contribution to whatever vision appeared in the moment of inspiration and then do it again and again and again.

Professor Amabile also found that of all the events that could make for a good day at work, the most important was making progress on a meaningful project. It didn’t really matter how small the progress was, as long as the person noticed an advancement. Use the moments of inspiration throughout your day to take those little steps — put many together and you’ll have traveled a great distance.

When I caught myself slipping back into lethargy during that second video, I got angry. So I sat down, watched the trailer again and wrote this thing. Mostly as a reminder to myself but also as one to you.

If the idea of reading my honest accounts of starting a business and a blog appeals to you, this could be the newsletter for you. If not, I’m sure I’ll pop back up on your radar soon enough. *Tips hat*