By Kenneth Braswell
When you seek inspiration, one of the hardest things to do is determine of all the people, things, and events that inspire you, which is the most significant. I struggled writing this piece because so many things have inspired me at different times and moments in my life. Some of my greatest inspiration has come from situations and events that caused me some level of pain, particularly incidences of loss; such as, the death of a family member, end of a business, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship.
Pain certainly has a way of inspiring us in ways that are not so beneficial; such as imploding into self-pity, embarrassment, or depression. It can also lead us to seek revenge and retribution. Ironically, the most painful moments of my life have produced the biggest and most positive elements of my life.
Then there are those things in life that bring us joy. All of my children have inspired some measure of positive change in my life. From my oldest, Tiarrah, I learned that being young and imprudent is not an excuse for not taking care of your responsibilities. Amber has impressed upon me that just because a child is not biologically yours, a man can still have a fatherly impact in her life. Nzinga continues to remind me that at some point in life you have to grow-up and be responsible, while KJ continues to teach me that a son is a precious blessing and a true reflection of how I see myself.
In addition to my children, the stability of my marriage to a wonderful woman who clearly understands and supports my passions and purpose, to the cooperative co-parental relationships with the mothers of my children, and the spiritual grounding in a church that provides me the space to worship, learn, be supported, and develop my relationship with God all bring incredible amounts of joy to my life. And, of course, there is the amazing inspiration derived from seeing the impacts of my professional work with fathers and families.
As you can see, it becomes quite difficult to identify one inspirational person or event when you are immersed in inspiration all the time. Therefore, if I were to answer the question, “What or who inspires me?” the answer would have to be inspiration itself.
I am addicted to being inspired. I look for it in everything that I do, every conversation I have, and every person and experience in which I engage. It is like following breadcrumbs or the yellow brick road. I believe the most fulfilling part of obtaining goals and accomplishments is the journey itself, in which the beginning and end are just props in the storyline of life.
A few years ago on a trip from Malaysia, I had the chance to watch JOBS–the life story of Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple. I had heard about Steve and knew that there was something unique about him, which is what made me curious to watch the movie. I had no idea that I would cry through most of the documentary and it would keep me paralyzed for the rest of the flight home, and for days after. What struck me about Steve Jobs is what people misunderstood about him; the same misunderstanding I believe people have about me: How can one man have the outrageous notion that he can change the world? Steve believed he could change the world by creating a product that would change human behavior and become an extension of one’s self. For me, changing the world means restoring the passion of fatherhood for the purpose of deeply loving our children so much, that being without them would be equivalent to being without air itself. Ron Williams, a close and respected friend once said to me, “I don’t understand how people call themselves living when they don’t have something in life to which they can’t breath without.” It is not a far-fetched concept once you understand that inspiration is what happens when passion and purpose come together.
JOBS climaxed for me when I looked down and realized that while I was watching the movie, my iPhone was sitting on my knee. At that moment, I understood. I realized at that moment that inspiration is a verb–that purpose and passion can inspire (move) you to clutch the things you believe–good or bad. I believe Steve Jobs had this inspiration for Apple, Dr. King had it for equality, Malcolm X had it for the injustices faced by Black people, I have it for fatherhood, and Jesus has it for salvation.
The movie closed with Steve Jobs saying, “People thought I was crazy for wanting to save the world; when in fact you have to be to want to do so.” I don’t completely agree with that statement; that is, crazy can help, but you must be inspired beyond anyone else’s understanding or desires to support or agree with your purpose to make a change in the world. Passion and purpose will ultimately determine your position. At times people will look at your title, education, lifestyle, upbringing, economic status, religion, age, etc. and wonder why you are where you are or why you do what you do. Here’s what INSPIRATION wants you to understand: Passion and Purpose will place you in positions that credentials and man lack the ability to create or to take away.