Inspiration is perishable - act on it immediately

Published on Oct 5, 2020

In the spirit of Opportune October, I wanted to think-by-writing about this tweet from @naval:

Inspiration is perishable– act on it immediately.

This tweet really caught my eye, and resonated deeply since I'd been musing about following my curiosity and going with the flow of my energy. But the first caveat and warning bells that came to mind is: how do I differentiate between an impulse and an inspiration? It's hard to tell, to be honest, and it really depends on context. Very often we can make up reasons to label something as inspiration even though it might just be an impulse. But I think the body indicator is the body. I'd always felt that the body is my harshest, most frank and direct teacher and friend. You know that friend who would half-insult you by being so innocently upfront? Yes that's the body. And how I can tell real inspiration is when it flutters in my heart, goosebumps on my skin, brightens and widens my eyes, and I can feel like I'm walking on clouds, high from optimism and excitement. It's an elevated sensation, a widening and opening up, almost spiritual. It's a message from our intuitive systems, not the rational. Definitely a glimmer, not a trigger. Mere impulses and desires on the other hand (like, I'm really inspired right now by the cake), are more base and don't have those peak bodily sensations. Usually a tummy growl, a craving or just triggered by fight/flight responses.

But the tweet when read in isolation, can be misleading. Inspiration alone is not responsible for making everything happen. Perspiration is a close buddy to inspiration. They are the twin wings of making dreams and aspirations come true. Inspiration kick starts the process, while perspiration carries it through. Oftentimes, in the absence of inspiration, perspiration can be a helpful catalyst to bringing inspiration back. That's why many highly productive creatives talk about just showing up and doing the work. When you immerse in one long enough, the other invariably will follow. That's also another way you can tell between an impulse and an inspiration – there's more staying power to what you do. But yet, sometimes perspiration doesn't mean just hunkering down and just working non-stop. It's not about 10,000 hours of practice, but the hours of intentional and deliberate practice that will cultivate inspiration and result in great performance and outcomes. Inspiration will also never come when you're burned out. That's the irony, you need to be doing ("perspiration"), yet cultivating non-doing will also allow for inspiration to arise. Rest, digital detox, sabbaticals, creative diversions – these are all great hacks for non-doing. Notice that non-doing doesn't literally mean not doing anything and sitting on your hands. 

So, tl;dr - "Inspiration is perishable – act on it immediately" and let balanced approach to perspiration and non-doing carry you through the hard bits.