Ten Pieces of Inspiration #3

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

1. My daughter’s enthusiasm for ballet
My three year old daughter started with a community ballet program a few weeks ago. Her passion for music and dancing already seems to run quite deep, but I was stunned at her focus, as young as she is.

Smile

At her first practice, all of the children were asked to do somersaults. She couldn’t do one. She tried over and over and over again and just couldn’t get the tumble right.

Over the next week, she voluntarily kept at it in our living room. I noticed her practicing and would compliment her, not on the relative success she was having, but on the fact that she was practicing.

On Thursday, she excitedly wanted to show me something, and she proceeded to execute two perfect somersaults right in a row in our living room.

Bravo. She certainly inspires me to keep focus on the things I want to achieve, both big and small.

2. John D. Rockefeller on perseverence
Sometimes, the things we have to do in life are simply a slog. They’re not fun. They’re repetitive. We’d rather be doing anything else. Rockefeller’s words from 1901 put me in my place this week.

“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

Stick with it. You’ll eventually wear it down, and you’ll find success when you do.

3. Charlie Munger on happiness
At the 2010 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Charlie Munger had this to say:

“The secret to happiness is to lower your expectations.”

If you only allow yourself to be happy when things are exquisite, you’ll never be happy. There will always be some flaw. Look lower and you’ll find much in the world to love and cherish and enjoy.

4. The Gettysburg Address
In a lot of ways, this inspired me this week.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That was the entirety of Abraham Lincoln’s speech after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Brief, powerful, and eloquent. No speech has ever had more impact on me, both from the perspective of how well-crafted the speech is and from the perspective of the message being conveyed on that grave day.

5. The incredible shrinking mortgage balance
Recently, I did a simple comparison of my mortgage balance from January of last year to January of this year. It’s down about 8%, mostly thanks to consistent extra payments. At this pace – and it’s a pace I hope to accelerate – our home mortage will vanish by about 2018.

Watching the debt numbers slide downward always makes me want to jump up and push forward with even more strength.

6. Cezanne, “Arbres et maisons”
I want to live here.

Cezanne, "Arbres et maisons"

This was painted by Paul Cezanne roughly in 1885.

Many thanks to E and J’s film crew for sharing their photo of this wonderful painting, taken at Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris.

7. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” piano solo
This is what I’ve been working on at the piano as of late.

Seeing good players play these songs inspires me to work harder and better at it.

8. Gordon Pirie’s Running Fast and Injury Free
The link above is to a book I discovered recently, written by Gordon Pirie, which is perhaps the most helpful document I’ve ever read about running. Pirie was a long distance runner from England who won a silver medal in the 5,000 meters at the 1956 Olympics.

This book focused more sensibly and comprehensibly on the mechanics of jogging and running than anything I have ever read. It’s helped me to figure out several mechanical problems with my pace and, as a result, I’ve actually been doing some barefoot jogging in order to adopt a more natural pace.

Pirie had written a first draft of the book and was involved in editing it just before he died, and for now it appears to be in the public domain (or in at least in some state where a late draft of it can be read for free). You can also snag a PDF of the book here.

9. Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine
I have been unable to get this bouncy song out of my head all week. May it keep your head and spirit bouncing, too.

10. Maya Angelou
She puts it very simply.

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

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  1. friend says:

    Trent these Saturday posts have been so rich! Not so much to do with money, but all sorts of things to remind us why we’re alive. Thanks especially for the Cezanne and the Dog Days.

  2. I’m not a fan of Rockefeller. His perseverence to outlaw alcohol is a big reason why we’re dependent on fossil fuels today.

    I’d post a link but my comment will get stuck in moderation and die, so I recommend Google-ing John Rockefeller and prohibition to see what you come up with.

    Yeah, perseverence will overcome almost anything…especially if there’s profit to be made.

  3. valleycat1 says:

    I’m enjoying these posts too – a nice positive way to start my weekend!

    My child showed (& still does as an adult) remarkable tenacity like your daughter’s when faced with a personal challenge she decided she could conquer. She continues to inspire me every day, as we’re quite different personalities & have a lot to learn from each other.

    When my DH proposed paying off our mortage about 10 years ago with some inherited $, I was weirded out at the idea – it was ‘normal’ to have a mortgage payment, right? He convinced me, we did it, & it is so great not to have a monthly payment anymore, other than what we put toward the insurance & property taxes.

    I recently did a comparison similar to your mortgage check, but of year-end credit card payments (they’re both almost paid off) – not only the balance but also the huge decline in the amount of interest I’ve been handing over annually. Just look at several years’ of December statements for a nice summary. Quite the motivation to keep going on the snowball plan!

  4. Amber says:

    So glad your daughter loves ballet!!! It will show her dicipline and respect for herself if she sticks with it! Love these Saturday posts!

  5. J.D. Roth says:

    I’m not ashamed to say that when the Glee kids performed “Dog Days are Over” at the end of the Sectionals episode (about six weeks ago), I cried. I actually cried. It was frickin’ awesome.

    Thanks for reminding me of that song, Trent. I’d meant to buy it from iTunes then, but forgot. I didn’t forget today!

  6. Mary says:

    Love the Charlie Munger quote. Like a lot of people I can get really big expectations on something that means a lot to me in my life. I mean sure it’s normal to feel like that, but my expectations get to the level of humanly impossible. You get much further to your goals this way, at least.

  7. mary m says:

    i love this series~

  8. Bill says:

    Of all my kids hobbies, dance was my most hated. My daughter danced for 10 years. I had to sit in my car during practice because inside all the other parents where women and they would talk non stop about nothing.

    Not to mention the recital’s 2 hours of pain 4 times a year.

  9. Thanks for sharing the Gettysburg Address. Agreed, it IS inspiring. And the history behind the speech is interesting too. If you’ve seen Ken Burns’ “Civil War” documentary, you’ll hear how the speech was so short that the photographer didn’t have time to get his equipment set up to get a photo of the president. Also, whenever we hear someone give this speech, it’s always in a deep, profound sounding voiceover type of voice (like Henry Fonda, or David McCullough). In reality, Lincoln had an annoying, high-pitched voice and a really strong Kentucky twang accent, and the east-coast intellectual establishment loathed him for it. Funny how history repeats in unusual ways.

    Dan @ Casual Kitchen

  10. Jeanette says:

    Bill
    Sorry your interest in your child wasn’t strong enough to overcome your annoyance with the women who talked nonstop (you could sit by yourself and enjoy your child’s efforts).

    Ironically, many of us women feel the same way at various sporting events when we have to listen to men and (and some women) making inappropriately “enthusiastic” comments and screaming crazy admonitions while our children are simply trying to practice and play well and enjoy themselves.

    Yet, we do not stay in our cars because we can’t stand listening to the language and watching the behavior that we don’t like or condone. Being present to encourage and support our children, boys and girls, is far more important than our discomfort because some people act so badly.

  11. Russ says:

    Every time I read the Gettysburg Address I am struck by this irony:

    “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

    I would say that the world, taken as a whole, remembers what Lincoln said there far more than it remembers the battle itself. Outside of America, I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who remembers “what they did here”, yet even harder pressed to find someone who DOESN’T recognise the words “four score and seven years ago”.

  12. Jenna says:

    I absolutely loved this and the previous post like it! So many things to inspire me – from your daughter to Abraham Lincoln! This is a great idea and I hope you keep it up! Have a good one!

  13. Rachael says:

    If you like the barefoot running style but don’t want to actually run barefoot, try Vibram five fingers. Your feet will hurt at first but it is the only way I can run without shin splints. Definetly worth the money.

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