Updated on 08.08.11

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #31

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. Madeleine (1892) by Ramon Cassas
The face of the woman in this painting has stuck in my mind all week. I kept wondering what her expression meant. Is she afraid? Worried? Anticipating something? What is she looking at? Is she about to run away?

Casas, Ramon (1866-1932) - 1892 Madeleine

It is little mysteries that capture my imagination in art. Almost every painting I consider great has some mystery in it, some little glimpse of life seen through someone else’s eyes that I’ll never quite understand.

2. Nietzsche on the hows and whys of life
This is the first – and only – time where I thought Friedrich Nietzsche sounded like Dave Ramsey.

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Or, live like no one else so you can live like no one else. If you have a reason and a goal and you believe in them, you can suffer almost any path.

3. Cashback
This is a short film about what goes on inside of a supermarket during the night.

Everything has a hidden life. What you see is only one face of the complete picture.

4. 100 Skills Every Person Should Know
This isn’t sarcastic, it’s realistic. These are useful skills for handling many of the small crises of modern life. The more of these you can do, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to handle a small crisis without panic and without calling for help immediately.

I can proudly do somwehere around 70 of these without help, which, in a certain way, made me feel very good this week. It made me want to work on the other thirty.

5. Jim Carrey on being rich and famous
Yes, the comedian.

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” – Jim Carrey

I can certainly recognize what he’s saying. Every time I’ve acquired something material, it felt great for a fleeting moment. Every time I’ve done something myself that I’ve always wanted to do, that same fleeting feeling happened. The things that last are the people I can share it with and the small handful of things that make my soul sing inside.

6. The Banjo Lesson (1893) by Henry Ossawa Tanner
I’m drawn in here, not by the lesson itself, but by the obvious closeness between the boy and the old man teaching him.

Tanner, Henry Ossawa (1859-1937) - 1893  The Banjo Lesson

My immediate instinct is that the old man is his grandfather because of their closeness, but is that necessarily true? Either way, there is an emotional warmth in this painting that’s hard to deny.

7. Robert Louis Stevenson on a good day
A good day doesn’t show great results. Instead, it plants the seeds for great results down the road.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

My garden is a literal example of this. My children are more of a figurative example. In both cases, I can easily invest a day with nothing to directly show for it. However, the growing plants in the garden and the growth of my children both show the results of this philosophy.

8. Thoreau on establishing patterns
For something to become natural, we have to repeat it. It’s just like making a trail in the woods.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. – Henry David Thoreau

The only way to make something a natural part of your thought process is to think about it over and over again. The only way to make something a natural part of your day is to do it every single day without fail.

9. The Khan Academy
If you’ve ever wanted to bone up on a subject but tend to learn more from visual experience than anything else, this is the site for you.

It’s a giant collection of professionally-made videos that focus on instruction in specific areas ranging from biology to organic chemistry to economics to linear algebra. It’s fantastic for supplementing your knowledge, particular in areas of mathematics and science.

My favorite video, perhaps, is how they handle a side-by-side comparison of evolution and intelligent design, something that people on both sides of the issue should watch.

10. Lao Tzu on enough
I’m coming around to a pretty simple definition of the word “rich.”

“If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” – Lao Tzu

You’re rich if you feel like you have enough. If you don’t, you’re not rich.

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  1. Sonja says:

    Again with the awful ever-increasing font size. I am so over this.

  2. Spokane Al says:

    I think the woman in Ramon Cassas’ painting looks a bit ill from smoking the cigar that she is holding.

  3. krantcents says:

    I am a big fan of Khan Academy. It is one of the best uses of the internet!

  4. Nadine says:

    Khan Academy is awesome! I use it extensively in our homeschool.

    Don’t know what’s going on with your fonts – mine are perfectly normal and have never changed at all. It sounds quite odd.

  5. Nadine says:

    Please make sure to mark when the videos are not suitable for small children. I did not expect full frontal nudity in a supermarket video.

  6. Carrie says:

    The painted entitled Madeleine – I’m feeling “bored and tired” from that one. I’ve seen that expression on someone sitting by themselves at a table after a long day of work at a restaurant. I’ve seen that expression on moms’ faces as they wait for their kids at a park or play place, and they’re just beat.

    Perhaps it’s because I’m kind of bored and tired, though… I feel like that is the expression on my face after some days!

  7. Johanna says:

    On #9 (and not suitable for small children):

    Charlie Darwin looked so far
    Into the way things are
    He caught a glimpse of God’s unfolding plan
    God said, I’ll make some DNA
    They can use it any way they want
    From paramecium right up to man
    They’ll have sex and mix up sections
    Of their code, they’ll have mutations
    The whole thing works like clockwork over time
    And I’ll just sit back in the shade
    While everyone gets laid
    That’s what I call ‘intelligent design.’

    – Chris Smither

  8. lurker carl says:

    In regards to 1. No mystery here, it’s still 1890s in the painting. Madeline’s smoking and leery of being caught. Duh.

  9. Amanda says:

    Maybe someone should email the advertiser’s on Trent’s site since he can’t be bothered to care about this problem.

  10. Sam says:

    #3 is less about what happens in a supermarket at night and more about a college student passing time by imagining female shoppers naked. I’m not exactly sure what is so inspiring about this video. I’m not sure how happy I’d be if my husband linked to this on his blog and considered it an inspiration piece. People uninterested in seeing a lot of naked women should be warned not to watch this video. I certainly wish I had been.

  11. Steven says:

    Yup, my font sizes are messed up too.

  12. Erik says:

    I’d like to add to the comments regarding the need for a disclaimer on the Cashback short film. I have been casually following this blog for a while now and don’t recall anything so “adult” ever being posted. The “Pieces of Inspiration” posts are some of my favorites but I think it was inappropriate to post that film without a disclaimer.

  13. Mary says:

    The Khan speaker keeps saying that he’s not taking sides/not expressing an opinion, but he plainly took sides & expressed an opinion. Nothing wrong with opinions, but I found his repeated disclaimers to be disingenuous.

  14. jackie.n says:

    regarding #3. my husband entered the room during the “sausage” scene. he appeared a bit skeptical when i explained it was a inspirational video from a personal finance blog.

    if a colleague would have clicked on this link in our break room computer at work they would have definitely been subject to disciplinary action had they been reported to management. something to keep in mind trent—it SIMPLY would have been appropriate to advise viewers that video contains nudity or footage not considered workplace “friendly”.

  15. kc says:

    I seriously doubt Trent watched Cashback (#3).

    Does anyone who reads this blog regularly think he did? I suspect someone sent him a link, or he found the video online, read a synopsis which didn’t mention the nudity, and posted it without watching more than a minute or so.

    His description of the film – “Everything has a hidden life. What you see is only one face of the complete picture.” – is remarkable only for how utterly innocuous it is. I don’t think he watched the video.

    Unfortunately, we’ll never know, as he won’t comment.

  16. Sara A. says:

    “and just when you think that you’ve got enough
    enough grows
    and everywhere that you go in life
    enough knows”

    – Ani DiFranco

  17. kristine says:

    @Sam- it was an academy award winning short years ago. It’s just an amusing reminder that the female physique is a work of art, in all its various forms.

  18. kristine says:

    Oh, but yes, I do not think he watched the whole video. Egg on face for no disclaimer. He prob watched the first little bit, which is pretty innocuous.

    However, if the video was not screened in its entirety, it makes the whole “inspiration” premise suspect, and instead, a disappointment, and more a slapdash excerpt of an hour or so surfing, and compendium of links/quotes, etc. of the kind people get from friends in e-mail, prefaced with a few intro lines to tie it to the “inspiration” theme.

    I truly hope that is not the case, as I would feel duped by false sincerity.

  19. Andrea says:

    Does Trent have something against editing his posts? If he actually read all of the comments saying it should be labeled as not safe for work, you would think he would take two seconds to make a quick edit warning people. Unfortunately, I agree that he may not have watched the entire video, because previously with other videos he has put up warnings about inappropriate language, etc. Going along those lines, if he was aware of the nudity I feel he would have at least said something…

  20. marta says:

    Kristine, I have suspected that to be the case, actually. It feels as if he looks for pieces of inspiration just for the Saturday posts – “hey, I need a painting, then quote, and then a poem, and then a couple of videos…”

    Some things he says about some pieces show he hasn’t really been that “inspired” by them — entirely missing the point of some work, or making it blatant obvious he hasn’t read/watched something past the first paragraph/couple of minutes… it also happened in some Round-up posts.

    It’d be better for this not to be a regular feature. That way, he’d post only if he was TRULY inspired or affected by something,

  21. marta says:

    Andrea, the jury is still out on that one. Either he reads the comments and choses not to do a damn thing about the many issues raised by readers, or he just ignores the comments completely.

    Either option reflects badly on Trent, and shows (ha!) contempt for the readers.

  22. kristine says:

    Oh, one last note on “Cashback”. It is copyrighted, and still for sale on Amazon, and ITunes.

    This is inadvertent but illegal pirating and distribution to have a bootleg on this blog. This is a money-making blog. I doubt the copyright holder, Ugly Duckling Films, gave Trent permission for embedding it in a commercial site.

    I’d take it down.

    I know this because I own it- got it on DVD last year to screen for possible film class use (uhm…no); it is in the 2006 collection of Academy nominated shorts.

    It did win: Best European Short Film Festival (Grand Prix)
    Chicago International Film Festival (Gold Hugo)
    Leuven International Short Film Festival (Audience Award)
    Lille International Short Film Festival (First Prize)
    Tribeca Film Festival (Best Narrative Short)
    FIKE 2005 – Évora International Short Film Festival (Audience Award)

    I am totally against pirating- it undercuts good artists from making a living.

  23. kristine says:

    FYI- Cashback was removed from DailyMotion.com by the moderator. Probably due to the copyright violation.

  24. Johanna says:

    #3 is not so much about imagining women shoppers naked as it is about fantasizing about stopping them in time and *taking their clothes off* while they’re unable to resist. That is a form of sexual assault.

    Now I am really hoping that Trent didn’t actually watch the video all the way through, because if he did, he’s saying that he finds sexual assault inspiring.

  25. moom says:

    The video could be seen as inspiring as the art student sees beauty he can draw or paint all around him while doing his boring shift in the supermarket. He takes the womens’ clothes off so that he can create art.

  26. Johanna says:

    @moom: Are you saying that that somehow makes it OK, because he’s creating art? Assault is assault, whether any art is created in the process or not.

    I find the video contemptible because the art student regards the women’s bodies as public property: He thinks his desire to create art is more important than their right to choose for themselves where and when to take their clothes off. Even though what he’s doing is imaginary, this is presented as a positive thing. For someone to find it inspiring because he’s creating art, they’d have to agree with the premise that women’s bodies are public property, and regarding them as such is a positive thing. And I find that equally contemptible.

  27. kristine says:

    Remind me of being pregnant, and every stranger on the street thinks they have the right to touch your belly. Uhm, hey-that is still my body, not a public landmark!

    And FYI- in art school, we tended towards extremely fat models, who had fabulous folds and wrinkles to draw with contour lines, or bodies with a lot of character. These bodies would have been considered extremely boring for sketching purposes.

  28. kristine says:


    It is a portrayal of fantasy. There is no such thing a a thought crime. The objectification is absolutely there, even if the object is adored but taken advantage of. But that is the entire basis of the porn industry; objectification of women is neither rare not fringe in mainstream America. The film is supposed to be metaphor for hidden in plain sight beauty, but yes, it definitely had a creep factor as well.

    Anyway- I have no idea why it is on a finance blog.

  29. Elizabeth says:

    I hardly ever comment, or check comments, but I have been obsessively checking back for a good explanation from Trent on this Cashback nonsense.

    Inspiration: Beauty is the naked body of thin white females between the ages of 18-24.

    Totally offensive. Sad Trent posted it; even sadder that (like @kc mentioned) the most likely explanation is that he never even watched it. Some inspiration.

  30. Bill says:

    I for one like nude women!

  31. Nick says:

    For those women who feel compelled to bitch about someone’s blog and whether or not the author looks at the content or reads the comments — grow up. The author of this blog does not owe you a damn thing. If you don’t like how he runs the blog — don’t read it.

    I’m guessin’ you’re the types of broads who love to argue with your men just to demean them. You come across as petty, bitchy and unstable.

  32. Johanna says:

    @kristine: You’re right that it’s a fantasy (and a physically impossible one at that). But it’s pretty close to the reality of many situations, in which a man assaults a woman who is asleep, unconscious, under anesthesia, or otherwise incapacitated, and gets away with it because “she didn’t say no.” It’s a widespread idea that the default state for women is consent, and you can do whatever you want to a woman until she says “no” or puts up a fight (and sometimes even then, if you can argue that you didn’t understand what “no” meant), and if she’s unable to say “no” or put up a fight, well, lucky you.

    (N.B. I’m aware that many sexual assaults don’t involve male perpetrators and female victims, but the video is about a man assaulting women, so I’m sticking with that.)

    You’re also right that there’s no such thing as a thought crime, but (1) once you take your thought and make a movie about it, and people give you awards for it and post it on the internet and call it inspiring, you’ve ventured pretty far out of “thought” territory and into “action” territory, and (2) likewise, it’s not a thought crime for *me* to point out that the video is based on a contemptible premise. Freedom of thought (or speech or expression) does not imply freedom from criticism.

  33. moom says:

    The movie is not that original anyway. See “The Fermata”…

  34. Kate says:

    I see what people are talking about with the increasing font size on these posts. It doesn’t happen when I use Firefox for a browser, but sure does when I use a laptop with Internet Explorer.

  35. Brenz says:

    Regarding font size – on my computer when I use Internet Explorer I have the font size problem. Using Mozilla I do not. I don’t know why but the increasing font size is truly annoying.

  36. Brittany says:

    Didn’t watch the video yet, so I won’t comment, but “This is the first – and only – time where I thought Friedrich Nietzsche sounded like Dave Ramsey.” cracked me up.

  37. DOT says:

    I just watched the video and have to agree with Johanna that it is assaulting women.

    Seventeen minutes of straight up porn would have been more inspirational and not as degrading to women.

    I wonder what part of the video Trent found inspirational? And is this the “art” that he showing his kids?

  38. kristine says:

    Nick, sorry you see things in terms of gender issues.

    I would have made the identical comment had it been a female blogger. Disingenuous is disingenuous, regardless of what restroom you use.

    My hubby, for one, would never write of something as an “inspiration” that he did not even watch through. But he’s a Quaker, and has an extremely high standard of integrity.

    Integrity counts. And frankly, it is not the worst thing that some people still expect it.

  39. Johanna says:

    It’s very interesting that Nick’s misogynistic comment (#31) was not there when I wrote my most recent comment (now #32). It must have been caught in moderation, and Trent came by and released it. Apparently, this is the sort of thing that Trent thinks “contributes to the growth and thoughtfulness of other readers.”

  40. Steven says:

    Must’ve been inspirational, it inspired a great deal of discussion here…

  41. DOT says:

    #40 Steven
    Thought provoking yes, but not inspirational

  42. Des says:


    I’m guessing you’re the type of loser who likes his women barefoot and pregnant. You come across as uneducated, antagonistic, and misogynistic.

    That or a shill…

  43. Elizabeth says:

    @Nick “For those women who feel compelled to bitch about someone’s blog and whether or not the author looks at the content or reads the comments — grow up.”

    LOL! Of course I’d expect an author to look at the content, he’s the one writing and/or publishing it, isn’t he?

    @Des Nice, that’s the same impression I got.

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