Speaking for myself: my sources of Inspiration

I have many opportunities to speak to people about life and inspiration, and I often share the following links, often in rapid succession. And then the idea came: What if I just shared one link, that had all the other links?

And so, here they are, my sources of inspiration, all in the same place:

I first encountered William Deresiewicz’s The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, and that was the first of many Deresiewicz essays.

Then, What Are You Going to Do With That?, about what people experiencing elite education could be doing, other than jumping through other difficult and prestigious loops in life:

The question my title poses, of course, is the one that is classically aimed at humanities majors. What practical value could there possibly be in studying literature or art or philosophy? So you must be wondering why I’m bothering to raise it here, at Stanford, this renowned citadel of science and technology. What doubt can there be that the world will offer you many opportunities to use your degree?

And then, Solitude and Leadershipwhere he argues that leadership requires genuine thought, and not merely following orders or the past:

We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper­tise. What we don’t have are leaders.

What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision.

David Foster Wallace’s This is Water (text here, video here) talks about how necessarily ego-centric we are, and how a liberal education ought to cause us to see a different point of view:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

And then, there are a few contemporary videos that I would like to share: one is a interpretation of something old, and two others are on TED.

The first is Anna Deavere Smith’s reading of MLK’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’, or view it here.

And then, Bryan Stevenson, talking about racial inequality and justice – and a stirring call for social justice in general as well.

Andrew Solomon talks about parental love in spite of differences.

Brene Brown also touches on something important: on the need to recognise vulnerability and the power it brings.

I hope these sources will be as inspiring for you as they have been for me (even if they trouble you somewhat). Yes, there definitely are other inspiring sources, such as Upworthy – the video website on positive moments, but for the sake of brevity, I have chosen the few here.

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