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What is Your Creative Inspiration?

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
3 min read
What is Your Creative Inspiration?

I really enjoy getting behind this microphone. It is my personal creative outlet that is separate from the day job. What was it that got me to start back in 2005?

Like all things, I got inspired. My inspiration was when my mentor, Bob Davis, lent me my first self-help set of cassette tapes created by Earl Nightingale. If you are not familiar with Earl Nightingale, he produced a spoken word record, The Strangest Secret, which sold more than a million copies, making it the first spoken-word recording to achieve Gold Record status.

As we say the rest was history.

Those cassettes put me on a path of continuous learning in a format that made it easy to consume during my 1-hour commute in Chicago traffic.

A few months later after listening to that first cassette, Earl launched a monthly series he called “Insight”. A monthly subscription was $70 which was a lot of money for someone starting their first job in 1982. I signed up immediately.

On those monthly cassettes, Earl challenged his subscribers, to think, to reflect, to motivate and to be willing to change. The content was what I needed to hear. I’ve kept every single cassette and still have them in my office.

Years later, I was having a discussion with Bob Davis about how could I pay him back for the time he invested in me that led to my career success. He laughed and said I couldn’t pay it back, I needed to pay it forward. Find others who I could invest in. A challenge I wasn’t quite sure how to deliver against.

Then I got inspired.

I thought back to Earl and how he impacted me and asked how I could do the same by sharing my experiences and lessons learned with others. When I looked around, there wasn’t an easy way to produce something like what Earl did with Insight without great expense. So - I put the idea on the back burner.

Then I stumbled upon a small group experimenting with audio being distributed via RSS feeds over the internet. The lightbulb went off. I figured I could produce a recording and then distribute it using this new approach. So I jumped in.

Launching The Podcast

On March 5, 2005 - I produced the first episode of what we now call a podcast. I produced that first show using a crappy little microphone plugged into my laptop setting in the bathroom at a Marriott Resort in Arizona .. and I loved it.

Bob and Earl’s inspiration in my life had come full circle. I had found a way to pay-it-forward. I’m nowhere near the impact of Earl Nightingale - but I’m trying my best -- and creatively it challenges me and keeps me learning.

True inspiration goes deep. It changes us. It transforms us. What some people call inspiration isn’t. Some things we may think is an inspiration isn’t because of how brief of time we work at it.

What some call inspiration may be the “new shiny object” that we try and then figure out its not something we are that interested in. For me, that’s photography. I have this long-standing love-hate relationship. I come back to photography repeatedly but then just as quickly lose interest. Ask my family. I have storage cards full of images that no one has ever seen.

Earl Nightingale’s Inspiration

So what inspired Earl Nightingale?

When he was seventeen years old he joined the United States Marine Corps. Earl was on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor and was one of fifteen Marines aboard that survived.

Following his close call in the war, Earl was inspired while reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill when he realized that the six words he read were the answer to the question he had been looking for!

What are those six words? , 'we become what we think about'.

He realized that he had been reading the same truth over and over again, from the New the works of Emerson. 'We become what we think about.' 'As ye sow, so shall ye reap...'

Those six words became the foundation for his career success. Later he was challenged to share that insight with others and that is what led to his recording of The Strangest Secret.

He went on to record more than 7,000 radio programs, 250 audio programs as well as television programs and videos.

Earl passed away in 1989 however he is still inspiring others through his spoken word.

What Inspires You Creatively?

We all have a story about how someone or something has creatively inspired us?

What is your creative inspiration? How are you translating your creative inspiration into having an impact?

Send me a note and share your creative inspiration story. I would love to hear it.

I’m Phil McKinney -- and thanks for listening.


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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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