Updated on 07.31.14

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #9

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. Winston Churchill on environment
“You shape your houses and then they shape you.” – Winston Churchill

You choose your friends, but then their continued presence influences you and alters your direction. The same is true for almost every major element of your life: your job, your hobbies, your home, your spouse.

Choosing such things should be done very carefully, because they will shape you in more ways than you realize.

2. A box of crayons

Sharpener on the back of the box!

About once a week, I’ll sit down at the kitchen table with my kids and a giant box of crayons. We’ll each take a sheet of blank paper or two and just draw something, whatever we want.

The results of these projects are both insightful and inspirational. My oldest child, for instance, always draws his family. He draws me, Sarah, himself, and his two younger siblings. My pictures usually involve trees. My daughter almost always draws pictures of girls in dresses (she’s three – you can actually see her artistic improvement on a week-by-week basis).

Every once in a while, one of these pictures will capture something really interesting or inspirational. A few days ago, my son drew a picture of himself with a very serious look on his face, while everyone else was smiling. I asked him why, and he said, “I want to be better than I am right now.” “At what?” “Everything.”

3. Michael Jordan on failure
As I’ve mentioned on The Simple Dollar before, I enjoy watching baseball and basketball (but not football, interestingly). Basketball is probably my favorite sport to watch from a pure artistry standpoint, and Michael Jordan is likely the best to ever play the game. Why?

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

When you fail, you have two choices. You can either keep laying on the ground, giving up. Or you can get up, dust yourself off, and keep trying. The first option doesn’t lead to success.

4. Clair de Lune from Scratch
This is a long series of YouTube videos that walks someone who knows nothing about the piano through learning Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy.

While I’m past some of the basics in this series, the straightforward guidance in this series is a great stopgap when I’m ready to tackle something new between my normal lessons.

5. Benjamin Franklin on want
The more you have, the more you want.

“Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” – Benjamin Franklin

Studies have shown that once you reach a minimum income level to cover your basic needs well, people actually become less happy with more income. The peak is somewhere around $45,000 per year.

More money won’t solve the problems you have in life. The solutions to those problems need to come from somewhere else.

6. Presentation advice
On occasion, I speak publicly. Because of that, I’m often out there looking for advice on how to present more effectively. In that search, I found this video.

This is probably the best short collection of tips (presented while also being entertaining) that I’ve ever seen. If you can handle these things, your presentation will improve quite a lot. It made me want to get up on stage, which in itself is an impressive feat.

7. Charlie Munger on learning
“This is really crucial: Warren [Buffett] is one of the best learning machines on this earth. The turtles who outrun the hares are learning machines. If you stop learning in this world, the world rushes right by you.” – Charlie Munger

Simply put, if you want to succeed at life and earn more money, you need to learn as much as you can about not only your subject area of expertise, but about every topic you can. The more you learn, the bigger the advantage you have in making connections that others do not see, and that’s really the route to earning money in this world.

8. Water Lilies (detail, 1914) by Claude Monet
Spring is in the air.

Monet, Water Lilies (detail), 1914-17

Monet’s paintings remind me of spring and make me want to sit by a lily pond somewhere.

9. Toodledo
About a month ago, a friend suggested I try out Toodledo for my list-making needs. I make a LOT of to-do lists and have used Remember the Milk for years.

I used it. I liked it. This week, I migrated my lists to Toodledo. It just does everything I need in a somewhat less cumbersome way, which is really all I can ask for.

10. “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s
First, a bit of backstory. My kids like watching Sesame Street. A few times over the past year, they’ve used a segment on there about the letter T, which you can see here.

For some reason, that song stuck with my kids. They would sing it all the time around the house and try to get me to sing it as a bedtime song.

Since I didn’t know the words, I wound up eventually searching online for it, and I learned that the “T” song was actually a parody of a song I’d never heard before, one that embedded itself quickly in my head.

This morning, I played both versions for my two kids and they actually liked the original better. They both sat still as I played it several times, rocking back and forth in a chair.

So, anyway, here’s the song.

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  1. NMPatricia says:

    I love these inspiration posts. It is like having 10 mini postings of inspiration of things across life. Thanks for them and please keep them up. I also want to say that I would guess they take a huge amount of effort and for that, Thank you.

  2. Amy says:

    I agree with poster #1. I think this is my favorite series to date. I know you get quite a few snarky commenters on your site, but I for one appreciate the effort you put into providing this free information. Not every article resonates with me, but the ones that do have made me think about things differently and make some subtle changes in my life that have paid off in a big way.

  3. Sandi says:

    That Plain White T’s song is one of my favorites, and I think it’s wonderful that they had a version for Sesame Street! It brought a smile to my face to think of your kids rocking back & forth quietly listening….how precious.

  4. kristine says:

    Great series. If you like Plain White Ts, also try Mumford and Sons-Blank White Page. Lovely.

    I completely agree with #5, but assigning a dollar amount is arbitrary. It would be hard to even have a roof over your head on that amount on LI.

  5. Brittany says:

    Tee hee hee. The T song makes me happy. Much better than the original.

  6. Barry says:

    I love the Charlie Munger quote . It’s probable that if Warren and Charlie had never met nether would have achieved what they have done together though both would have done very well.
    Reading the thoughts and speeches of Charlie Munger is a self contained world class course in philosophy.

  7. Charles Cohn says:

    On item #5: That $45K/year might be enough if everything in your life goes smoothly, but as you have pointed out, you need a lot more in reserve to deal with emergencies. I don’t believe it is possible for people in our middle-class category ever to accumulate enough money to deal with every conceivable contingency. Therefore, we had better hang on to every bit of money we can grab.

  8. Sara says:

    Ok, this is weird. I am listening to my MP3 library played in random order, and the song that just started playing while I was reading this post was “Hey There Delilah.”

  9. Have you heard Tim Hawkins’ version of “Hey, Delilah?” Get ready to laugh till you cry. It’s a parody featuring the story of Samson and Delilah. You can find it easily on YouTube. :D

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Andrea says:

    I am really enjoying this series as well.

    I read most of the ‘Running’ e-book from several weeks ago and it has completely changed the way I’m running and exercising. I’ve been battling injuries to hip and foot over the last three years an after reading that book I run pain free! So I signed up for a 10K on 3/27 with a friend. Horray!

    The real reason for logging in to comment today, though is the crayons. Over Christmas we took one blank sheet of paper and 12 colored pencils. Each person took a turn drawing or coloring one thing and then passed it on to the next person who did the same. This activity kept four of us going for about an hour and a half when the page was filled. The person who’s home we were visiting put it on their fridge as the best memory of Christmas week. :) it becomes a very cooperative work.

    We’ve done it before with with just a ball point pen and a piece of notebook paper too while on a car trip.

  11. Julie says:


    I tried to post the same comment with a link and it never showed up. I agree, Tim Hawkin’s version is better than the original.

  12. guinness416 says:

    Thanks for the heads up on toodledo. I’ve been playing around with it since you mentioned it and it’s very good (needs an android app though ….)

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