Think successful billionaires and business moguls wake up feeling inspired? Think again. When it comes to finding motivation and inspiration, there is surprisingly no big difference between you and these seemingly superhuman people. They also go through ups and downs and sometimes find themselves feeling stuck and uninspired. But they have figured out how to fuel their ability to stay inspired and keep going. And you can too.
From odd habits that create space for creative thinking to having the drive to positively impact the world, here’s how seven of the most successful people stay inspired. Take cues from their practices, find comfort and motivation in the fact that they need to work on finding inspiration as well, and try different things to discover what drives you when inspiration seems nowhere to be found.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is notorious for sleeping very little (and sometimes sleeping under his desk) and working very hard to drive his ambitious projects forward. Wondering how he finds the motivation to do that when the very thought of facing the pressures of running not one, but two multi-billion-dollar companies makes you sweat? “The thing that drives me is that I want to be able to think about the future and feel good about that,” said Musk in a 2017 speech he delivered to the National Governors Association.
Takeaway: Find purpose in something bigger than yourself and think of the impact you want to have.
Amazon is no stranger to controversy when it comes to its focus on productivity. But Jeff Bezos actually values the idea of letting your mind aimlessly wander. For him, it’s all about balancing moments of passive, creative thinking with times of relentless execution once an idea is in implementation mode.
“Sometimes (often actually) in business, you do know where you’re going, and when you do, you can be efficient. Put in place a plan and execute. In contrast, wandering in business is not efficient … but it’s also not random. It’s guided– by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and powered by a deep conviction that the prize for customers is big enough that it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find our way there. Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries — the “non-linear” ones — are highly likely to require wandering,” he wrote in his 2018 letter to Amazon shareholders.
Takeaway: Balance moments of productivity with moments when you just let your thoughts wander without a goal — and don’t feel guilty about it.
Media mogul Oprah actually doesn’t consider herself to be highly creative. So, how has she built such a massive empire and undertook multiple new ventures over the years? By surrounding herself with innovative people and letting herself build on their ideas. “I’m not usually the one on my team to come up with the great idea; my strength is making a good idea better,” she wrote in the February 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
The takeaway: Be aware of your creative strengths and surround yourself with people who complement them to stay inspired and motivated.
Billionaire entrepreneur Sara Blakely has a fake commute. It was in her car that she got the idea to name her revolutionary product Spanx, the shapewear that propelled her from being a woman with an idea to become one of the most successful businesswomen in the world. Since then, she’s realized that driving tends to fuel her most inspired thinking.
“I live really close to Spanx, so I’ve created what my friends call my ‘fake commute,’ and I get up an hour early before I’m supposed to go to Spanx and I drive around aimlessly in Atlanta with my commute so that I can have my thoughts come to me,” she told Reid Hoffman on the podcast Masters of Scale.
The takeaway: Pay attention to the conditions surrounding your best thinking, and be intentional in terms of recreating them.
Move fast, break things is one of Facebook’s most famous cultural mottos. And it’s a philosophy that comes straight from Mark Zuckerberg’s individual approach to life. In a 2017 Harvard commencement speech, the tech mogul told students that the idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie. “If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook.”
Zuckerberg had no idea how big Facebook would become while he was developing the app in his Harvard dorm. To this day, he encourages Facebook employees to continuously try things, as he believes that the benefit of discovering opportunities outweighs the consequences of potential mistakes and failures.
The takeaway: Don’t wait for inspiration to strike before taking action. Take action in order to discover what inspires you to keep moving.
Media powerhouse Arianna Huffington says multitasking is the enemy of inspiration. “Seventy percent of people sleep with their phones by their beds; we are constantly engaging in notifications, social media, texts, emails. And yet the most creative moments come when we put all that aside. That’s why sometimes people’s best ideas come in the shower. So as an entrepreneur, make time for that reflection, ability to connect with your best ideas, and not to be constantly distracted,” she shared at CNBC’s Iconic Tour in 2017.
The takeaway: Whether you’re working or doing something for fun, avoid the temptation to multitask and engage with the present moment. You’ll be rewarded with boosts of inspiration sooner or later.
Virgin founder and CEO Richard Branson shared his best advice on staying motivated in a company blog post. So, what’s his secret? There is no magic pill, it’s a mix of finding purpose beyond making money, structuring your life and work to make sure you are always working towards your longer-term goals, and striving for continuous learning, which he does by seeking new challenges and talking to people who inspire him. “I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If money is your only motive, then I believe you shouldn’t launch the business at all,” he said.
The takeaway: Find your why, get organized, and remain a student of life.