Art by the inspirational Hugh MacLeod

Art by the inspirational Hugh MacLeod

“Dude, you’re inspireful.” – Brian T. Witkowski

Regardless of outcomes, there is one priceless benefit to taking chances and following through that is absolutely guaranteed—you will inspire others.

Years ago, a coworker of mine who designed clothing on the side produced her own fashion show. She talked a local pub into hosting it, then enlisted her family, friends, and acquaintances to serve as models, DJs/cameramen, and production staff for the night. The club charged a nominal fee at the door to offset costs and she drew a decent-sized crowd.

The designs themselves didn’t do much for me, but there are many good reasons why nobody comes to me for fashion advice. I don’t know if she ended up actually selling anything but I considered it a huge success anyway. While everyone else sat around talking about their dreams, she had the guts to package hers and put them out there for the world to see. I can’t be the only one who left there inspired.

When we step up, buck the system, and make things happen we inspire everyone around us. Most of them will never say it, but your friends, kids, coworkers and bosses will all be inspired by your actions. They’ll see you taking action and some will follow suit because of your example. But this doesn’t only apply to those who know you personally. You will also inspire people you’ve never met.

I got an email about a year ago from a woman who read one of the books I wrote about my alma mater—a very small niche market. The friendly note was just to let me know that my book had played a part in her decision to write a book of her own, and to share some exciting news on her success. She and her agent had just returned from shopping the book to some of New York City’s biggest publishing houses where she landed a two-book deal. There was a time in my life when news like this would have sent me in search of the nearest rooftop to jump off, but all I could do was smile. One person’s gain is not always someone else’s loss and I believe in karma. I hope she becomes the next J.K. Rowling and makes millions of dollars. Even if she never mentions the role my little book played, she knows. I know. And she knows that I know. That’s all that matters.

“I am a very old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened.”

– Mark Twain

When we look back over our lives, it’s sometimes easier to remember the people who attempted to crush our dreams rather than inspire us. Do not hold grudges against those people. The overwhelming majority of those snubs were likely unintentional or exist solely in our heads. At some point we’ve all said and done thoughtless things that meant nothing to us (a snide remark, a smirk, or an eye roll), but may have had a tremendous impact on others. I try to keep this in mind and let it guide my interactions because I don’t want to be the guy who discourages the next Picasso or delays the arrival of the next da Vinci.

Toss out the mental list of everyone who has snubbed or discouraged you, and replace it with a list of the people who inspired you. Examine the list closely and you’ll notice that most of the people on it probably have no idea they inspired you. They likely inspired you with their actions, a passing comment or simple nod that meant nothing to them but the world to you. We don’t need to go back and tell those people how much they’ve inspired us, but we do need to keep that good karma alive by staying positive and offering encouragement when we see others step up to the plate and take chances. We can do this by throwing a buck or two into the empty guitar case of an inspiring subway musician, or supporting a small business over a huge chain whenever we can. We can also do it by sharing inspiration with others whenever we find it. When a person’s work touches you, share it with others. My father shared one very simple blog post with me a few years ago and it ended up changing my worldview and putting my professional life on a better path.

Life is incredibly short, and the countdown clock is always ticking. Our time and the focus of our efforts are the crown jewels of our individual kingdoms. We owe it to ourselves not to squander them on passionless pursuits or unworthy bosses. Launch your project. Write your book. Start your side business. Create the work of art you’ve always dreamed of creating. Ignore the haters, break the rules, and buck the system. You’ll be glad you did and the world will be a better place.

(This post is an excerpt from my book Buck The System: Stop Marking Time and Start Making Noise. If you liked the post – you’d probably like the book.)