This guest post is by Kent Sanders from The Artist's Suitcase. Kent writes about how we can inspire others with our creative gifts. Creativity and art isn't just what we put on canvas, a computer screen, a musical composition or a intense novel. It's how we touch people around us. If you are struggling with your creative gift, you may have a new insight into how powerful you are (and can become) in the lives of those around you after reading this post.
All of us want to make a difference in the lives of others. But too often, we believe that we must be larger-than-life in order to make a difference. The truth is that the world doesn’t need another Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa or even another Seth Godin. Those are all wonderful people who have made great contributions to world.
But what the world truly needs is you.
If you want to inspire others and make a difference, here are three simple ways. The great news is that none of these have to do with talent, titles, or income. You can do them simply because they flow from who you are, not what you possess.
1. Be Encouraging
The world is filled with disappointment and heartache. You’ve seen it in the eyes of your friends, co-workers and even complete strangers. You can see the hurt and sadness that flow just under the surface. Even “successful” people have battles they are fighting. Everyone needs encouragement.
I remember a time when I was having some personal difficulties, and a friend sent me a simple card of encouragement. I still have that card.
I remember the time in college when I was sitting at lunch with a group of friends, and my favorite professor walked by and gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze of affirmation. That was twenty years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.
I still remember the time several years ago when I was with a small group of worship leaders, and a friend of mine prayed for me. It felt so good to have someone acknowledge my needs and lift me up in that way.
I keep a folder in my desk drawer, and it’s simply labeled “Encouragement File.” Anytime I receive a note of affirmation, I drop it in this file folder. I’ve even printed out text messages, like this one sent by a student who was switching majors: “Thank you so much for all you have done for me, and invested in me. I appreciate it.”
You can also make a difference in the lives of complete strangers through your words of affirmation. A few months ago I switched our home internet provider and had to work out a billing issue with the former company. The customer service rep was helpful and friendly, especially considering the fact that I would no longer be a customer.
At the end of the call I asked to speak to her supervisor. I told the supervisor how helpful the rep had been, and how much I appreciated her service. You could hear the surprise in her voice that someone had taken the time to ask for a supervisor and praise an employee.
Isn’t it sad that we live in a world where people are surprised to hear something positive? There is such much negativity in the world that any amount of encouragement will be received will surprise and delight.
I love this quote that is attributed to Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” It’s a reminder that every person you meet—whether friend or stranger, young or old, well-known or unknown—is starving for affirmation.
Action step: For the next 24 hours, be mindful of everyone you meet (friends, family and strangers). Be fully present and do something to encourage them, whether in your words or actions.
2. Be Generous
One of the most powerful ways to inspire others is to be generous. We normally think of generosity in terms of money, but being generous can also mean giving your time, energy or attention. It means sharing what you have for the benefit of others.
The further I’ve ventured down the road of being an artist and writer, the more I see this truth of this statement: the most successful people are usually the most generous. That’s not to say that being generous always leads to success. However, one cannot be truly successful without also being generous.
It’s easy to believe that being generous takes a huge amount of time and effort, that it’s something we cannot possibly do with our limited resources. But nothing could be further from the truth.
When I interviewed author Jeff Goins for my podcast, he made this observation: “There is a small difference in terms of effort between the status quo and generosity.” When you give just a little more, it makes a big difference. (You can listen to the entire interview here. Jeff shares a number of great insights.)
If you want to be generous, it begins with your thinking. Specifically, you must have an “abundance mentality.” You believe that the more you give, the more you receive. There is enough pie for everyone.
Contrast this with a “scarcity mentality,” where you believe that in order for you to succeed, someone else must fail. If you freely give to others, that automatically means there is less for you.
If you want to inspire others, you must see life through the lens of generosity.
Action step: Think about one or two ways you can generous to others today. It doesn’t need to involve a lot of time or money. But when you’re intentional about generosity, it will come back to you in big ways.
3. Be Unique
In today’s online world, it seems as if everyone has something to say or sell. There is no end to the number of websites, books, courses and other kind of content available.
If you visit Amazon, you can select from millions of books. There’s no shortage of things to read.
If you visit YouTube, you can select from millions of videos. In fact, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. There’s no shortage of things to watch.
If you visit iTunes, you can choose from over 250,000 unique podcasts and more than 8 million individual episodes. There’s no shortage of things to listen to.
With so many options to grab people’s time and attention, how can you possibly stand out from the crowd?
The answer is surprisingly simple: be yourself. And the good news is that there’s only one of you in the whole world.
People aren’t looking for cookie-cutter personalities and copycat entrepreneurs. They’re looking for unique individuals with passion and creativity. They want to be inspired. They want to be challenged. They want to be reminded that they can make a difference.
But the only way for you to help them is to serve and create from the very center of your being. You must travel your own path and be who you were created to be.
What unique mix of skills, passions and interests do you bring to the table? What is your core message? What are the problems that get you out of bed in the morning and keep you up at night? What were you born to do? The answers to those questions help you find your unique angle in life and in business.
It took me a long time to figure out my unique angle. I had to do a lot of writing and connecting with others before it became clear to me. (I also had several failed blog attempts, lots of mistakes and more dead ends than I can count.)
My unique angle is this: I want to help others unlock their creative potential. That’s the filter guiding my writing, work, and ministry efforts. It’s literally what I was born to do.
Whenever I write a thank you letter to someone, I will often include a skeleton key along with these words:
P.S. Here’s a little something as a reminder of your incredible power to help unlock the potential of the people around you.
Sending a handwritten note with a key is a small investment of time and money, but I want to help people feel appreciated, and I want to do something memorable that will inspire them to action. It may not change the world, but it will change one person’s world for at least a few moments because they know I appreciate them and believe they can make a difference.
If you want to inspire others and change the world, it starts with one person at a time.
Action step: Think about your unique mix of talent and passion that you bring to the world. Can you distill it into a sentence or phrase? If you haven’t yet reached this point, ask for input from a few people who know you well.
Inspiring others doesn’t need to be a complicated process. If you are encouraging, generous, and unique, you can have a tremendous positive impact on the people around you.
Kent Sanders writes about the creative journey at The Artist’s Suitcase blog. He is also the creator of The Take Note System, a productivity program that helps artists, writers and other content creators harness the power of Evernote. You can follow him on Twitter or read more about him here.