Looking For Inspiration? Start Here

Inspiration CC HansAlexander Looking For Inspiration? Start Here

Launching a startup is exhilirating. Your product or idea is like a powerful drug, that dilates your pupils, and makes your heart beat faster when you think about it. But what about when customers don’t agree, or things take longer than you think they should? This trough of despair–the dip in interest after your major fundraising announcement, or public unveiling–is one of the most fundamental parts of success.

But what do you do when life isn’t all sunshine and roses? How do you get through hard times when the media isn’t cheering you on, your family and friends haven’t heard from you in weeks, and the road ahead looks bumpy?

Below are a few of the outlets I choose when I’m looking for fresh ideas, or a temporary escape from the stress of entrepreneurship.

Where to seek out inspiration

A lot of the blogosphere is mean-spirited, alarmist, and designed to entice you and waste your time. And Facebook is actually bad for your mental health, as researchers have concluded.

But the Internet is full of amazing, inspiring and beautiful blogs that can get your creative juices flowing in no time.

While there are no shortage of great blogs and online communities for inspiration, here are a few of my favorites:

  • My Modern Met–Contemporary art, art instillations and products that will challenge and inspire you.
  • FastCoDesign–Brilliance in advertising, film, and storytelling as told through the lens of Fast Company.
  • PSFK–Design news, innovative ideas and creative though leadership.
  • Core77–What’s new and hip in the world of design
  • Flowing Data–A roundup of the best data visualization and infographics from professionals and ardent amateurs.
  • Swiss Miss–Cool design, innovative products for kids, and wonderful stuff from around the Internet.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of sites where you can find inspirational art, film and design. They’re just a few of my favorites, and the authors do a great job of helping to broaden my perspective and think creatively.

Read more fiction

I spend my whole life reading. It seems natural for someone in my line of work, and as someone who blogs constantly. Reading is the best way to stay on top of trends that affect your industry, and to absorb new ideas. But information overload is a guaranteed way to burn out. There’s a lot of bad things happening in the world, and there’s only so much we can process before everything becomes noise.

Reading literature is a great way to get reacquainted with the power and beauty of the written word. A good novel wraps you up in the lives of its characters, and makes you live their struggles through stories. A clever writer might even sneak in a few lessons, which you can use to tackle the challenges you face in real life.

I confess that I don’t read nearly as much fiction as I wish I could. The last novel I read was Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, about India’s opium trade before the opium wars. And while I picked the book by accident, it still had lots of interesting nuggets about entrepreneurship and commerce, albeit set against a very grimey backdrop.

In any case, fiction gives us the chance to flex our imagination, which is key to successfully overcoming the many challenges we will face.

Documentaries as inspiration

I love watching documentaries. For inspiration, they can’t be beat. In startup mode we’re used to being consumed by the problem we’re solving and the market we wish to conquer. Without this kind of focus it’s difficult to make a real impact. The downside, of course, is that we become so obsessed with our work that we forget about how big the world is.

A great documentary exposes us to the highs and lows of people very different from ourselves, and allows us to temporarily experience life through the eyes of another.

I like to watch Vice documentaries on YouTube, or I go to Netflix to see what they’re recommendation algorithm has in store. I found out about Wayne White and Beauty is Embarrassing this way. But whatever your flavor, documentaries are a great way to experience more of life without a passport.


Below are two of the most amazing documentaries I’ve ever watched, Baraka and Samsara

Samsara: Embedding disabled. Sorry.

Filmed without words, Baraka and Samsara are deep, rich journeys around planet earth exploring the chaos, the beauty and the depth of our world. In short, it’s what we do it for.


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