what’s your inspiration

I’ve written in the past about things that get my creativity going. I think in my last example, I went on about Mel Brook’s History of the World, Part I. What a great movie. There are other movies that just knock my socks off. Young Frankenstein is an other example of a super creative movie. I’ll admit, I love anything that has well done, double entendre. I even like it more when I say something that is double entendre, and half the people get it, and the other half have blank looks on their faces. Hilarious… Okay, I’ll get my mind out of the gutter.

Innovation and creativity are funny things. For me, I find it can be a balancing act. There have been times in my life when I feel like I am on fire and I am really being innovative and rocking. Then, something happens, and it feels like a punch in gut and I get “thinkers block” and I am paralyzed. In the past, this paralyzed feeling has in some cases lasted years. For example, I used to try to work on my Mom’s house when I lived there. Nothing would work and I felt like a worthless handy man. I eventually gave up trying to do things around the house. Years later, I realized my shortcomings as a handyman were really lack of experience (naturally) and the builder took a lot of shortcuts. When my wife and I bought our first home (which was built in 1947), something clicked and I became the handyman that I always wanted to be.

When I was in high school and in college, I worked on my own cars. Then something happened and I became an inept mechanic and I felt like I had no business under the hood. When I had my old Mercedes diesel, (I still wish I had that car), something happened and I was back under the hood changing glow plugs and brake pads. Now, with our modern cars, (a Volvo and VW Eurovan), I am back to changing brakes pads and rotors and saving thousands of dollars in dealer repair costs and offering to help others with their cars.

Sure, part of it is confidence, but I don’t think that’s just it. I remember when I read “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and the only thing I remember is how the author said something along the lines of “I have a motorcycle, it makes sense to me to understand how it works and to learn how to work on it” and he said one of his friends just let the repair shop deal with the problems.

Part of it, is also just being willing to try it… figure it out… make it work. I’m lucky. My wife tolerates my experiments. I heard her tell the kids one day, “Don’t worry, Daddy can fix it. Daddy can fix anything.” Wow, not only was that a boost in my confidence, but it showed me that my family thinks I can fix anything! I felt like a Super-fix-it-man!

I’ll give you another example how this translates into my life. If you have kids and pets, you probably already know the value of a carpet shampooer. I’m not talking the professional kind you rent, rather the consumer grade ones. We’ve had one for about six years. The hose, that allows you to use the hand attachments broke where the handle tilts back. We can easily afford a new shampooer but otherwise the unit still works really well for cleaning the carpets. The other night I was out for a run and it happened to be trash night in our neighborhood. Someone was throwing out a newer version of the shampooer we have. My first thought was, “Cool, maybe I can use that hose…” and I went and gave the discarded shampooer the once over. As I titled the handle back, I saw that the hose ripped in the exact same place so I wasn’t interested.

My point with all of this, is that… well I don’t know. I guess since my family thinks I can fix anything, I feel like I can.

Back to the creativity and innovation thoughts… The other night, I was watching TV with the kids. I was really tired of cartoons so I was trying to find something we could watch, (deep sea creatures and sharks are always a big hit with the kids). In a rare occurrence, we tuned to catch the very beginning of the Pink Panther movie. I grew up with these movies and remember seeing them in the movie theater in Chicago with my Grandma. I forgot how clever and creative the beginning segments are. I’ve always like the Pink Panther cartoons. He’s very expressive and can make you laugh without saying a word. So the opening credits were great. The kids loved it. It made me think where I got my sense of humor from.

Over at Chris Brogan’s blog, he’s got a neat post about the “Bucket Meme” and it was something I was going to write about here, but my time is already short this morning so I’ll have to get it in the next post.

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