Updated on 12.09.11

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #50

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.

Sarah and I spent a lot of time assembling Christmas gifts this week, so our mind was on the spirit of the season.

1. ifttt
Have you ever taken pictures with your camera and wished they would automatically show up on Flickr and Facebook? Ever wanted an email sent to you with a note if someone posts something new on their blog? ifttt does all of that.

This really is a pretty cool tool, and it’s easy to set up, too. I’ve been playing with it all week.

2. Emerson on sticking to principles
The best way to feel good about accomplishing anything is to know that you did it by sticking to your guns.

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To me, this is one of the big keys of personal finance. There is a lot of internal reward from having the willpower to stick to a goal and make it happen.

3. Sir Ken Robinson on how schools stifle creativity
As many of you know, my wife is a schoolteacher. She also feels that by teaching to a standardized test, the teachers are stifling the creativity of their students. They stuff the students’ minds with facts, but they don’t work on creatively using those facts.

What’s the solution? I’m actually opposed to standardized testing as I don’t think it relates to the quality of the students graduating. What does? I don’t think there is a way to objectively measure the quality of students. You can measure how many facts they’ve absorbed, but you can’t measure how they can put them to creative use.

4. Digital: A Love Story
This is an amazing little game that tells a beautiful story. It’s set in 1988 (with 1988-appropriate computer graphics), but …

It’s just one of those things that’s worth taking some time to experience. It’s just a great story told in a clever way.

5. John D. Rockefeller on charity
While I don’t completely agree with this quote, it has caused me to think quite a lot over the years about charitable giving.

Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it. – John D. Rockefeller

There are some charities worth giving to that do not have this as a goal because independence is not a realistic goal for those they help, such as developmentally disabled adults. However, if a charity is helping people who are able to help themselves, I think it’s vital that they try to get those people on a path of independence. Food for thought, as any good inspirational piece should be.

6. Dorothy Parker’s The Maid-Servant at the Inn
Dorothy Parker is one of my favorite poets. I’ve always loved her wordplay, and I absolutely love this poem about the nativity. The perspective and word choice and rhythm are just amazing.

“It’s queer,” she said; “I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright-
We’ve not had stars like that again!

“And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening-
This new one’s better than the old.

“I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed,
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

“I never saw a sweeter child-
The little one, the darling one!-
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You’d know he was his mother’s son.

“It’s queer that I should see them so-
The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
I’ve prayed that all is well with them.”

7. John Stuart Mill on desire and happiness
The one thing I’ve learned about desires is that as soon as you sate one, two more pop up to replace it. The wants grow within you.

“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” – John Stuart Mill

It’s far better to seek happiness and pleasure in other things.

8. Advent candles
One of our traditions is to light candles on our table centerpiece during the four weeks leading up to Christmas. I took several pictures of our lit candles, but none were nearly as beatiful as this image by Per Ola Wiberg:

First Advent and first candle is lit

It’s a nice, soothing reminder that the season isn’t about presents.

9. Sophocles on preparation
No matter how well planned out we think the future is, chance often destroys those plans.

“Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown.” – Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

The best way to prepare is to improve yourself and keep some cash on hand. The more you focus on these things, the better you’ll be able to deal with whatever life hands you.

10. Frank Sinatra singing Let It Snow
This is one of my favorite winter songs.

I have a ton of respect for Frank Sinatra as a singer. He’s so good at phrasing and making the words he’s singing absolutely clear while staying in tune and adding immense character to the song. I wish I could sing even a tenth as well as he does.

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  1. Brittany says:

    First we get a ton of nonsensical political beliefs on the blog that “tries to keep politics off” it, now we get jesus poems from the same source who claims he also tries to keep religion out of it. Le sigh.

  2. Johanna says:

    The Dorothy Parker poem is one of my favorites, and I don’t think of it as a religious poem. I think it works whether you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of god or just a person who had an enormous influence on the subsequent history of the world (but not until long after his death, which is why the maid servant wouldn’t have heard anything more about him during her lifetime).

  3. kevin says:

    Brittany – it’s not a sure thing that Trent has even read the poem.

  4. deRuiter says:

    I’m with #5. I never got the point of the upper classes trudging down to the homeless shelter . soup kitchen / local charity free food place for Thanksgiving and Christmas to “feed the hungry.” Think it would be better for the charities to pick out some of the higher functioning homeless / needy, give them a good scrubbing and clean clothing, and put them on the line serving food, to EARN their meal. Modern charity is designed to keep people dependent, living at a low level on the government dole. “Give a man a fish and he eats today, teach him to fish and he can eat fish every day, sell his excess catch to his neighbors for cash, eventually he can hire others to fish for him and all become prosperous.” But if you follow this philosophy, you can no longer give this man things as he is earning his own way, and you can’t feel sorry for him and have warm fuzzy feelings about your charitable nature.

  5. Johanna says:

    To shamelessly steal somebody’s point from the GRS thread the other day, there are millions of people out there who already know how to fish. But they’re not catching any fish right now, because the fish aren’t there. There are people in need of help right now for reasons other than being unskilled, lazy, stupid, or unclean.

  6. kristine says:

    #4 Even higher functioning homeless likely have NO medical care. I would not want to eat or offer food served by a homeless person, no matter how well scrubbed or freshly dressed. Your suggestion is a risk for the spread of infectious disease. You have an ideological goal, but your practical suggestion is not at all well considered. Many homeless have mental issues no readily apparent, and do not belong interfacing with person, after person, after person. Let them sit, and eat, and keep to themselves. I would not want to appoint myself judge of who is acceptable to feed homeless little Suzy and her siblings.

  7. Alison says:

    Love how Brittany spends time reading the whole blog, then criticizes it. Brittany! You can take this one off your “favorites” list! You don’t ever have to look at it (or comment on it) again! Same to you, Kevin!!

  8. Kai says:

    It’s not like he’s preaching. It’s a post explicitly mentioning some things he likes, and one happens to be a poem about a religious topic. If you can’t even handle a person indirectly mentioning their religion, you might want to re-think your sensitivity.

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