What motivates anyone on a day-to-day basis is relative. From an entertaining perspective, I might say mine stems from an old-school Saturday Night Live skit – Stuart Smalley:
His comic bits poked fun at the trite advice many motivational speakers spew, but as annoying as they can be, I think there’s something to be said in finding inspiration in unexpected places.
For good ole Stuart, his daily affirmation arose from within:
“Because I’m good enough, smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me.”
For me, it came from an unplanned detour through Georgia and a classic sign that I stumbled across on my way to Atlanta.
I had been living out of hotels as an auditor (yuck!) and interstate travel tired me. On this trip, I decided to take my time and meander down some back roads along the way from Tallahassee, Fla.
Long stretches of fields-of-nothingness broken up by clusters of small-town stores lined the way. But they certainly beat the walls of trees and cheesy billboards I’d become accustomed to on the major highways.
Suddenly, I encountered fields of cotton balls – literally. Swathes of green speckled with lovely white powder puffs. I’d never seen anything quite like it.
If it hadn’t been in Georgia in summer, I’d have sworn snow had fallen.
The magnificent site of it snapped me out of my road-hum hypnotism; I was paying attention.
That’s probably the only reason I noticed the aforementioned legend of Jimmy Bryant – fastest-guitarist-in-the-country sign.
I laughed once my 55-per-hour mind processed its words. I threw my car in reverse and stopped to take a picture. That was in 1998, hence my pseudo-artistic black-and-white style, which I thought was profound.
Beyond smiling at its message, I remember having grandiose thoughts: “I want a sign like that about my accomplishments one day.”
At the time I wanted to poke my eyes out daily as I stared at audit-induced numbers from my job, but I didn’t recognize my misery until I clicked that frame. It’s fair to say that Jimmy’s sign awakened me beyond my traveling daze that day.
That picture has decked the front of five of my refrigerators in 15 years. It’s inspired my path to becoming an ex-auditor, ex-Y2K-computer-consultant, a journalist, a PR professional and a part-time writer… so far.
Notice how I don’t say ex on the last three? I’ve loved all of those careers and refuse to give any of them up.
But I have since given up my 22-year-old delusions of a road-side sign with my name on it.
After all, I share my hometown with the music guru Tom Petty, who, to my knowledge, absurdly doesn’t have a single representation of his accomplishments emblazoned along Gainesville’s stretch of US 441. Seriously? How does that happen with “American Girl” – one of the best songs of all time?!?
Meanwhile, good ol’ Jimmy Bryant and his fast fingers stirred me to pursue what I love for more than a decade – writing.
Even if years ago, as a journalist, only a small segment of the world heard my words. Even if only a smaller, different segment reads my words now. There’s something to be said about random inspiration to motivate, create and share.
How about you? What’s inspired you to perform? Has it been a person, an experience, or a literal-turned-allegorical sign along the way?
(This series appears every other Wednesday. In these posts, I pose a random “What’s Your _______?” question, reveal my answers, and revel in your responses.)