This is an edited talk I had with Kathryn, my business partner a few weeks ago, as we were just launching the name “Inspired Success”, and it reflects on why we like those two words together. I really enjoyed looking back at our reflections on what creativity really is, what we’re really about, and the vulnerability it takes to put something out into the world that’s meaningful for others, and still maintain your own integrity, about being that person you want to be, and having all those things come together. This is the exciting space that we’re working in, and supporting other people to work in. So I’m excited to share this talk with you.
So, we could discuss the name inspired success. I’ve gotten a lot of positive responses. And I can obsess, trying to find the perfect phrase. So that’s not always helpful, but that’s why I asked other people instead, and see what their response was.
I’m juxtaposing, I realized that’s my whole thing. I juxtapose things, like: spirituality and money; impact and fulfillment; all those things. It’s an ongoing inquiry. Like: “I don’t know what deep prosperity is. I don’t know what inspired success is” — in other words, we have a lot of ideas about it, but that’s the whole point, is that it’s an inward, an ever-spiraling inquiry. There’s no one right answer.
“Success” on its own puts you in a one-track mind, and inspired success forces you to spiral around those two ideas. Like: what does it mean, if I take my inspiration and infuse my success with that? Or my success is informed with my inspiration?
Kathryn Gorges: What I like about it is it takes a word that’s a business word that means I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. It’s very business-oriented; it’s very down to earth. It’s, you know, understandable. And then another word that’s not a business word at all. It’s a life word, “inspiration”, “inspired”, anything having to do with that. People don’t usually put it into the business world. They put it into the life realm, right? And, you know, rather than saying a “lifestyle business”, or a small business, or you know, something like a “passion-based” business, inspired success means that you’re inspired, and you want to achieve something. You’re inspired to achieve something. I mean, you said, it’s a juxtaposition and it is; but it shouldn’t be, right? And a lot of times, it really isn’t. So it does some work for us in terms of saying these are married concepts, inspiration, and success. They are married.
Chris Burbridge: Right. When I think about the people that instantly loved it, are people that are creatives, who are in the process of doing that.
Oh, you know, I just realized that the word “inspired” comes from “in-spiration”, which is the breathing of life into something, right? Isn’t that what it means? Yeah. Inspiration.
Kathryn Gorges: Yeah. My dictionary definition is saying it’s referring to the Latin, but it’s also saying it’s in Middle English, “divine guidance”.
Chris Burbridge: Or I’m breathing in air. So I think that’s perfect, because that’s the feeling I get is the idea of success, it’s like breathing life into the idea of success. That’s really perfect, because we are interested in the traditional business stuff and we do like that stuff, and it’s really cool. But then part of our context is like: why is it so cold and sterile and devoid of human personality sometimes? So we’re interested in breathing in heart. Yeah, and we do.
Kathryn Gorges: Yeah. When I’m looking at this, the word was originally used in the sense of imparting a truth or idea to someone from a divine or spiritual being. So I don’t even just see this for small businesses or solo preneurs, but anybody who’s got a commitment to a larger mission and impact in the world and community, in shifting perception or offering something different. That’s all inspiration, right? And so then how do you get that out into the world through business? And you can’t get it out if you’re not successful. So inspired success can communicate something about what you really value and that you really want to have an impact on getting it out into the world.
Chris Burbridge: That’s great. It gets you to think about what success actually looks like. It’s really good. It does this weaving back and forth between the pragmatic, down-to-earth, grounded fundamentals and frameworks, and inspiration. Or, yeah, it’s kind of like in a medieval context, bringing life down from the heavens, into the clay , or into the body.
The other thing… this is a good thing. Inspiration is not something you can entirely control, whether it’s an ancient idea of being infused by the inspiration of the muse in your creative work, or a Design Thinking process where you brainstorm until you come up with an inspiration, there’s a sense you have to sort of let go and you have to allow many influences to come in. And inspiration is unique. Inspiration breaks things out of a pattern. Inspiration breaks the mold.
Kathryn Gorges: It’s interesting thinking about the definition of it, because if I think about inspiration, it’s almost like it’s come from outside. And then it kind of takes hold of me. And flow plays a role in this, right? When I’m operating inside of my inspiration, I’m in flow about something that matters to me and gives me meaning in my life. And so there’s all of that kind of feeling. I don’t want to take that too far, because I believe in free will.
Chris Burbridge: But it’s outside of our control system. It’s outside of our ego. It’s outside of our shell. It’s not really outside of us, but it’s outside of us as this blocked-off, overly-defined control center.
Kathryn Gorges: Yeah. That’s kind of part of the higher self. You know, our better self. And when I think of all the buckets of ideas that we’ve talked about, they all fit in this idea of being focused on business that’s inspired, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a B-Corp or nonprofit. Facebook is inspired. As much as people want to malign Facebook. Facebook was an inspired project.
Chris Burbridge: There’s also the sense of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. So that’s what we can get out of inspired success. It feels like the very linear thing, where you break things down farther and farther into segments and sub segments like in marketing — sub-sub-sub segments… If you sterilize everything, you lose the spirit. Of course the word spirit and the word inspiration have the same root, and “spirit” and “breath” have the same root.
Kathryn Gorges: Yeah, well, and that goes to life too, right? You know, like you can’t divorce life from business.
Chris Burbridge: And in the book Small Giants, at some point he talks about how all of the businesses, all of the small giants he profiles — they have very different dynamics or sizes and so on, but they all have this certain quality that he calls “mojo”, because he doesn’t know what else to call it. But that’s what he’s talking about, is they have spirit. Yeah. It’s pretty cool. So then it fuses together these two essential things about what we are, that we don’t want to lose.
So this inspired success has to be this combination of knowing who you are, which we talked about on Monday, and knowing how that works with and for other people, which is something I think that we both love about business. It has this wonderful utilitarian quality of making things for other people.
Kathryn Gorges: This correlates with the ideas that I’m communicating in Spotlight Your Brilliance, which is knowing yourself, understanding how to have an impact and how your impact lands, how to have that intention, and how to have that understanding and listening. And then that third piece, which is having the courage — that’s really what mojo is — the courage to be vulnerable in actually doing those things, in actually living your inspiration, which means knowing who you are and knowing how you land and what you do. How what you’re doing lands for other people, you have to have courage to do that, and in my Spotlight Your Brilliance, what I call that is leading with brilliance. So there’s knowing; there’s owning — owning your impact; and then there’s leading, which takes courage to live into it. And where do you shy away from putting yourself out there? Because to live your inspiration means putting yourself out there and being vulnerable to how that lands. And for some people it’s going to land and for other people it’s not, but you have to have the courage to see that through.
Chris Burbridge: Yeah, there’s something so vulnerable, because what I was thinking before is, the traditional picture of creativity focuses a lot on the individual — on the first point — which is: “I feel this way. I want to say these things in the world. I care about these things.” And that’s a really beautiful, important thing. But then the second leg is relational. It’s like: “I am me, but I want to have this mysterious relation with the other in the world, and make something for them… where I don’t get lost. I don’t lose myself. In the sense of becoming submersed in their reality, but I make something wonderful for them that they delight in, in some way; benefits them, in some true way. And that’s what you mean by impact.
And I’d love to find a different word than “impact” because I feel like impact feels very slamming into things… but for now that’s fine. And, so what I get from this is: it’s incredibly vulnerable sometimes to put something out of you, in the hopes that it will be welcomed. But without that, we don’t have relationships. So it’s really not any different than if you look at how people are in romantic relationships, there’s the level of vulnerability that they’re willing to have with their partner, or not. And that’s the level to which they can maybe grow together. And the level to which they’re able to create something bigger than the sum of the parts. But then that’s the same in a funny way, that’s not different from, if you make… a really wonderful kind of cheese because that’s your thing is to make this wonderful cheese for the people that think it’s very, very special… It’s the same vulnerability. Like, Seth Godin talks about just being able to say “here, I made this for you”.
Kathryn Gorges: Yeah. That last piece, that vulnerability, it does correlate to being out in the world. So you can know yourself and own your creativity, and then understand how you can make a difference for someone else, and how that feels to them, what, what effect that has on them, right? And then that third step, of being vulnerable and having the courage to put it out into the world, let the larger world know about what you’ve done, and just, you know, whatever it is it is. And just keep focusing on the people that it resonates with them and they love what you’re doing. And it really does take courage to be out there in the world, because there’s going to be a lot of people that are just going to go, “Well, that’s stupid. That’s dumb. Why are you doing that?” And “Wow, you can’t scale that.” And, you know, “Why are you taking those risks? And you know, “What are you going to do?” I mean, the litany goes on and on and on, right? About how to be vulnerable in doing something that really matters to you.
Chris Burbridge: Totally. I was thinking , sometimes what it looks like to have that creative courage is the feeling of like, “Oh God, this is awful.” I mean, not thinking my work is awful — although that can happen sometimes — but the feeling of, “I feel miserable right now.” I don’t feel this way today, but I can feel this way, where I have to put this work out today. I have to put this podcast out or something, and it feels awful right now. I feel miserable because I’m in the middle of a mud bath of that vulnerability, and not knowing if anyone’s going to like it. And I don’t like that feeling. And that sucks for a little while. And knowing that that’s part of what the creative process feels like sometimes. And that’s okay — that’s a thing I got from Steven Pressfield’s book (The War of Art), when he talks about how Marines learn how to be miserable. It helped me so much to know that sometimes your creative process means feeling miserable for awhile, as you put things out, and it’s not a sign that everything’s wrong. Yeah , and that’s why it’s courage. It takes internal fortitude.
Kathryn Gorges: I mean, hold on a second, let me look up “courage”… it comes from “heart”.
Chris Burbridge: Comes from French, “the heart”. Yeah. But it’s it’s the strength of the heart, like a muscle that’s beating, every moment of the day for us, and never stops. Yeah. And what I realized the other day, we just keep homing in more. The people that we want to attract are creatives. They are creatives at heart, that want to make something pragmatic and beautiful out of their creative work.
Kathryn Gorges: Well, but I think, okay… so when I look at the work that I’ve done, all of this applies to the work that I’ve done. Now, would those people that have been considered “creatives”, you know? A health practitioner? But to her, she was impassioned about helping people be well, and she wanted to do whatever it took to be able to help people be well. It’s not true, everyone I’ve worked with. Not everyone was impassioned about what they did, right? So I can tell. I can see the difference in how my work resonated with people that were, and how it didn’t resonate with people that weren’t. So even the consultant that I worked with, she was passionate around people having a great work environment, and thriving in their work environment. So her executive coaching, her leadership development, her training, they are still all passionate around bringing something to the corporate world that allows somebody’s inner strengths and their motivations, and their own passions to come out. And so, I mean, it’s not limited to people that are traditionally “creatives”.
Being in a business that’s driven by your inspiration and your passion to get something out, one metaphor I think about is like water going downhill. Water is going to go downhill, and if you put obstacles in front of it, it will find a way around those obstacles.
Chris Burbridge: Yeah. I’m thinking… there’s two aspects. One is an inner determination to make something really good, to make something wonderful. And then the other part, which is the creative part, is an openness to trying new things and innovating, or finding new solutions, exploring, experimenting. The impulse to make something better really means trying out a lot of combinations and ideas; exploring, learning and playing. That’s what kids do when they’re playing. They’re learning new things. And then the determination is that you’re just not… you don’t… you’re never going to stop.
Point 1 is: “I have something to give and I’m going to stand behind that”. Point 2 is: “Here’s who I want to give it to”. There is like a sequence of importance, because believing in yourself is Number One. But Without having it in relation to others, it’s not the flywheel that we care about. What most marketing is trying to do is putting the cart before the horse, and teaching people how to get out there and do a Facebook Live or whatever, before they know who they really are, and before they really understand what their thing is for, for other people. And it’s certainly not that you have to wait until you totally know, because that’s another trap; but they’re still putting the cart before the horse. And so it’s like what you said a little bit ago, that they’re skirting over, or they’re missing the big issue. It’s the story of the man that’s looking for his keys under the spotlight because it’s brighter under the spotlight, even though he lost his keys in the dark. It’s the easy thing to do, to tell people how to go on Facebook Live.
And I think it’s very similar to the way people would come to me and ask for a website. And I would validate that “that was what they needed”, and make them a website. And then $3,000 later, they still don’t have what they needed. And then I felt that was wrong. So we’re really capturing that essence of what needs to come first.
Kathryn Gorges: When I think about what you said about being accountable to the difference that you make for other people… you know, I remember the first time that something I did lit somebody’s eyes up, and they realized that something that they’ve been dreaming about in their life was actually feasible, possible… for the first time they saw a path from here to there, it was so rewarding for me, and at the same time, terrifying. Because what was terrifying about it was like, “Wow, who I am for other people can have a big effect on other people’s lives. And I need to be aware of that. I need to take responsibility for that. I can’t hide behind whatever the name is for the work that I was doing, the business name, right? You know, whatever that was, like “consulting” or “instructing” or “training”. We often want to hide behind those names of our activities and say, “Okay, it’s not really me out there. It’s the activity. And whatever people get out of it is the activity.”There’s like this little glass wall between me and them, so I’m protected and they’re protected, and none of us has to take any of this personally. And then when you realize, actually, that what you do can have a personal impact on somebody’s life, all of a sudden I realized what a construct that glass wall is, that there isn’t really a glass wall between me, the work I do, the work they do, and them; that it’s just me and them.
I’m thinking about the impact of the pandemic on restaurants. Restaurants are a place that nurtures community. And people form relationships with the restaurant, but also with the people that work in the restaurant, whether it’s a wait person, a person that seats you, the owner or the person behind the bar, whatever part of the restaurant where you’ve created this relationship. And it may just be something where you see them once or twice a week, like you go to a neighborhood restaurant and you see them once or twice a week and say, “hello”. And pretty soon you ask them a “how are you?” And maybe someday they, they say, “well, I haven’t seen you in a long time, are you okay?” because you haven’t shown up. And a relationship gets built, and that’s community.
So when we think about all of those neighborhood stores like that, and think about the marketing that they do, the marketing that they do has that wall, between them and the people they serve. And in reality, there’s no wall between them and the people they serve. There is a giant wall between big companies and the people they serve. And that wall is made up of all of the layers of people that are between the people that are making the service of the company and the people that are delivering it and… big companies have a completely different set of problems.
Little companies have this huge opportunity to take down the wall and say, “you know what? You really matter to us. We’re here for you. We’re part of the community. You matter to us, we matter to you, let’s make it happen.”
And I realized that a lot of the local restaurants had no idea. And when this really came home to me was when people started doing GoFundMe’s for local restaurants. And the local restaurants were like, “why are people doing GoFundMe’s for us? Why are they doing that?” And I’m like, oh my God! These people have no idea what difference thay make to actual individuals in their lives, in this community, that that restaurant makes something possible in people’s lives in this neighborhood, in this community that people want to make sure it lives.