Updated on 03.25.11

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #12

Trent Hamm

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. Rachel
Some of you long time readers may remember that a few years ago, I posted an article about a friend of mine named Rachel. The post was something of a conversation with her, where she outlined some of the difficult financial and personal choices that were involved with choosing a career in social work.

She’s still following that path with as much vigor as ever. I had a few conversations with her about it over this past week and it’s just inspiring to see someone with that kind of commitment and focus. Not only that, she’s managed to build a solid financial foundation for herself; she’s purchased a house on the income of a single social worker. How? Frugality.

2. Ralph Waldo Emerson on success
Who’s responsible for your success? Is “the man” or your situation holding you back? I don’t think that’s true.

“No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Succinctly stated. There’s no one responsible for your success or failure more than you are. In the end, it really is up to you and no one else.

3. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein
I’ve been devouring this book this week. The thing that stuns me is how much of it parallels today, except that everything is shifted substantially more to the right. The Democrats today sound, in many ways, like Goldwater sounded in 1964.

This is one of the best books on American history I’ve ever read and it’s stunning to me how many of the elements of the events in this book are shaping our world today.

4. Earl Scruggs and friends playing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”
This video is an amazing display of musicianship. Earl Scruggs the one at the start who plays a very, very difficult banjo solo without even looking down at his instrument.

I can’t even begin to describe how amazing this is to me. The years of skill that it took to pull something like that off and make it look so effortless is just stunning. The musicianship of everyone on that stage is just amazing. I can’t imagine how much fun playing with a group like that would be if you had the talent to keep up. I would want to do that every day for the rest of my life.

5. Frederick Robertson on improving yourself
What makes you happy and makes you great does not come from the outside. It comes from the inside. And, often, it’s not easy. It takes work.

“No one can be great, or good, or happy except through the inward efforts of themselves.” – Frederick Robertson

You can define what makes you happy or what makes you great, but you don’t just wake up one morning and decide that’s how it’s going to be. It takes time to grow yourself into the person you want to be.

6. Mark Bezos on opportunity
Mark Bezos is a volunteer firefighter who talks about opportunities and courage, big and small.

Life gives us a chance to prove ourselves over and over again, from sweeping a broom at work to every interaction you make with the people around us. Those chances often become powerful opportunities.

7. Elbert Hubbard on dignity and ignorance
It is often hard for anyone to admit when they don’t know something. To do that feels like an admission of failure or to be less of a person. Or at least it feels that way.

“Dignity is a mask we wear to hide our ignorance.” – Elbert Hubbard

I’ve come to find that the opposite is actually true. Almost every time I’ve admitted my own ignorance and said, “Okay, I don’t understand and I need your help,” people have been glad to help, I wind up with more than I ever thought possible, and they wind up feeling better about themselves and their own abilities, too.

Sometimes, it’s fine to admit that we simply don’t know.

8. A child’s focus
My youngest son, Matthew, is at that point of early toddlerhood where he’s learning on every front. He’s learning to crawl. He’s learning to make sensible words. He’s learning to pull himself up on things. He’s learning to use a spoon. He’s learning to walk.


The inspiring part of this is that it’s not a matter of simply waking up one morning and being able to walk. He’s trying very hard every day, over and over again, to accomplish these things. He’s constantly trying to crawl in order to reach things. He’s pulling himself up over and over again on various things. He’s constantly babbling and repeating syllables that we express approval of, like “ballaagaboladadada…” “Good! I’m da-da!” “Da da da da da da!”

It’s constant effort and he’s so persistent with it that it makes me want to be as persistent with my own goals.

9. Wayne Dyer on abundance
This is an eloquent way of making the point that having “enough” isn’t a state of possessions, it’s a state of mind.

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.” – Wayne Dyer

It’s easy for me to sometimes feel like I don’t have all the things I want. Then I think about my wife and my kids and realize that I have plenty.

10. Noreena Hertz on using experts
When do you use the opinion of an expert or use your own judgment? This video offers some great thoughts.

Experts are advisors, not people to simply follow.

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  1. Troy says:

    Nice work, Trent.

    This series isn’t generic, rehashed PF information. It is unique, authentic and displays some of your best work.

    Keep it up.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Thank you for sharing these things each week. I know they don’t generate a lot of comments, but i certainly enjoy these things you share.

    I think Noreena Hertz is spot on.

  3. Len Penzo says:

    I’ll echo Kathryn’s sentiments. I look forward to reading these every week. They always raise my spirits. The photos you occasionally share of your son Matthew always bring a smile to my face — probably because it brings back such nice memories of when my 13 and 11 year old kids were his age.

    All the best,

    Len Penzo dot Com

  4. Pat S. says:

    For sure, Len.

  5. Stacy says:

    I love these posts as well.
    The music was awesome- I too was blown away by their level of skill.

  6. Gwen O. says:

    Do you mean Goldwater reminds you of the Republicans?

  7. Kelly says:

    Love the picture of your son and totally agree that kids have this way about them of being persistent without necessarily even realizing it. I teach kindergarten and the improvement the kids make during the year is amazing and it comes with a lot of hard work.

  8. NMPatricia says:

    I have to totally agree with your son being an inspiration. When I think about how much individuals who are that age are learning, and nearly constantly, it amazes me – and fills me with respect for these little beings. Hats off to kids.

  9. Kate says:

    Gwen: I think that he meant it the way that he wrote it. The Democrats of today are very much like the Republicans of the 60’s when you read about their belief system and their platforms.

  10. Joanne says:

    Thank you Trent. Great ideas

  11. kk says:

    I love the fact that you include your children as sources of inspiration. If we take the time, our children can teach us a thing or two. Or simply remind us of the basics of life. Thanks for sharing.

  12. valleycat1 says:

    My daughter continues to be an inspiration to me – & she’s 29!

    Banjo players always make it look like so much relaxed fun. Steve Martin’s CDs, if you like good banjo music, are a lot of fun. Bela Flek is absolutely amazing as well – & goes far beyond what you think of as typical banjo music.

  13. Creede says:

    Hi Trent,

    I really enjoy getting the newsletter.

    W/r/t the Earl Scruggs/Steve Martin clip: You’re right, it is an amazing display of musicianship. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Earl can play the solo from “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” without looking at his instrument, though. For one thing, he’s been playing the banjo since his early teens (he is now 87). For another, he in essence invented the hard-driving three-fingered picking style we have come to associate with bluegrass and that is exemplified in the video. And for yet another, he wrote “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in 1949 and has been performing it since.

    My point is not to take anything away from Scruggs, his performance, or anything you said. My point is that Earl makes playing the banjo at breakneck speed look easy because he’s been doing it his entire long life. He has put in the hard hours of practice and is reaping the rewards for it.

    “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not because the nature of the thing has changed, but because our capacity to do it has increased.”

  14. Debbie M says:

    When you see how many hours upon hours it takes to learn how to walk, you see that it’s a good thing that people never tell kids things like, “Well, you gave it your best shot, but have you ever thought that maybe you’re just not the type of person who will ever walk?” And if someone did say that, fortunately the little kid wouldn’t understand. Kids just keep trying and trying and trying until they get it.

    It’s certainly possible to err in the direction of not giving up soon enough, but I definitely err in the other direction. So when I find myself getting frustrated, I remember about little kids, using all their core muscles and even neck muscles and eyebrow muscles just trying to stay sitting up, and then falling over anyway, but just for a a brief period in their lives until they get it.

    I love that attitude on experts, too. I need to surround myself with differing opinions more, and ask about assumptions and “how do you know that” more often.

  15. kat L says:

    Your post about Rachel makes me think of my best friend Val. She too made the decision to pursue a career in social work while in high school and spent 17 years working in a women’s shelter and for Canada Mental Health. She was killed by a client at work about 6 weeks ago and her funeral was a testament to the number of people she touched through her work; it was a huge church and it was overfull. People were even in the basement and standing in the corners of the church for the service. She never made a lot of money in her lifetime but her life was an incredibly rich one. Her impact was such that there has been a memorial award set up in her name by some of her colleagues and friends. http://valeriewolski.net/award/ Individuals who work in these types of careers have my upmost respect and appreciation.

  16. ChrisD says:

    Watched the ‘learn to question experts’ TED talk, that lead to the washing machine talk and learning about Hans Rosling, that lead to learning about his Gapminder website, making statistics sing.
    Just go look at the map of every country in the world, (colour coded by continent) changing in size in proportion to the population, moving on the x axis of average income and the y axis of life expectancy over the last 200 years. Absolutely fascinating. Now I’ve introduced TED and Gapminder to my flatmate.
    Thanks Trent!

  17. joan says:

    I love the Elbert Hubbard quote and your comments. I work for a federal research and development laboratory where PhDs are the norm. Having only a little bachelor’s degree to my name, it would be very easy to feel intimidated around all the scientists and engineers I work with. My job, however, is to communicate their incredibly complicated ideas to audiences ranging from peers to laypersons or politicians with no scientific background. If I don’t ask “stupid” questions so that I can at least somewhat understand what they’re talking about, I can’t do my job. I’ve learned that people–even really smart people–get very excited about sharing what they know with others. People who have chips on their shoulders don’t last long around here. And there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

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