Education, Experience, Inspiration

In my opinion, there are three elements to a balanced and effective professional in whatever field: education, experience, and inspiration. The combination of these elements are essential if a person is going to be a producer - that is - they are going to produce results. I’m a software developer so my mind goes first to the production of software, but the concept is universal.

Think for a bit about a mouse in a maze. You know, the one that learns by trial and error. He runs into decisions and dead ends and each time adds this information to memory to as to eventually rule out all of the ways he should not go. Imagine now that he were able to read an instruction manual or study a map for his maze before he embarks.

The instruction manual is the education and the trial and error is the experience.

Staunch academics will decry the need for experience, claiming that what there is to be known can be read in a book, committed to the brain, and recalled when required. In the other camp, the non-academics - the ones that were all to happy to be finished with school - make opposite claims about the worthlessness of book knowledge. Their claim of “street smarts” is that experience is not only a much better teacher than education, but can almost entirely replace it.

Neither is correct, of course, but the battle will surely rage on.

But I want to talk briefly about a third dynamic - inspiration. Inspiration is the cheese at the end of the maze and perhaps even the intrinsic joy of laying tracks! With education we know how. With experience, we know how not. With inspiration we finally have why.

But it doesn’t always make sense on paper or in our cerebral analysis. We might scan a prospective’s resume like a robot taking in data about schooling and work experience, but we might overlook the passions and objectives. None of the elements in the trifecta should be diminished, but most certainly not inspiration. Without education or experience a person will be behind but without inspiration I submit that he will be lost.

So how do we inspire? The questions on how to impart education and experience have easy answers, but not as much with inspiration. Inspiration is seed tossed into the soil. It requires some receptive soil, some time, and some faith. It’s a tough process. It’s tough because it’s hard to put words to any right method and no one actor is entirely in control.

I’ve always been interested in a concept I call general inspiration. I’ll explain.

I do not play guitar. I wish I did, but I have never loved it quite enough to practice everyday and learn how… which is obviously what is required. But when I hear someone play the guitar I can become rather inspired - not just inspired to play the guitar mind you because I’ve given up on that, but just inspired. I might redirect that inspiration into software or computer graphics or cooking or conversation. But what was given to me via the medium of a the instrument, I give back in another form. Inspiration was, then, the common currency of the transaction.