Who is it That Inspires You?

Back when I started the internship that I am in, we had a two day commencement event. It was packed with speakers, information, workshops, and chances to network. One of the ways we broke the ice right in the beginning was a fun little game: we all wrote down a question on a piece of paper, found a stranger to ask it to, and then switched pieces of paper. Rinse and repeat. My personal favourite was “If you were a tree, which tree would you be?” which might seem like a tough question for some people.
I would be a Douglas fir, obviously.
My question wasn’t as unique as that. I went with the basic “If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would it be?” which really serves to highlight the creativity that I am so proud of. I got a wide variety of answers: The Queen, Morgan Freeman, Ghandi, Kennedy, Scorsese, Elvis. My own personal answer – the question came back to me, and I answered the tree question two or three times – was Abraham Lincoln. Again, not the most creative, but Lincoln truly is one of my role models.
So now, with a month and a half left in my internship, I am doing a lot of reflecting on where I was at the beginning, and where I am now. For some reason, that question – that cliché – still sticks out in my mind. But now it is less about who I want to have a conversation with, and more about who inspires me. I have met dozens of incredible, influential people in the last year alone, but there are some – whether I have actually met them, or just learned about them – that truly inspire me.
Take, for example, Elon Musk – Most likely the first answer that many aspiring entrepreneurs or innovators will point to. Musk co-created PayPal, is the CEO of Tesla, and is the spearhead for initiatives like SpaceX. He is the man that wants to send people to Mars in within the next decade, and he has even started testing hyperloops – magnetic levitation tubes that eliminate friction and can move faster than any other public transport. My hour and a half each way would literally be cut down to minutes. Elon Musk is one of the innovators who is bringing science fiction into the realm of reality.
Or how about Malala Yousafzai? Undoubtedly you have heard of her, the young girl who the Taliban attempted to murder, who was shot in the head with an assault rifle. Malala is now an international champion for women’s rights, education, and a true symbol of courage. She may not be an entrepreneur like Musk, and she may be younger than me, but the her actions and ideals are a testament to just how incredible she is. She shows us how incredible we all can be.
But we don’t just draw inspiration from famous people. We might not even draw inspiration from people at all. I can still distinctly remember reading the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden, the dark elf from R.A. Salvatore’s books. Drizzt – while being pretty badass – showed that where or to whom you were born does not define you. He defied hatred and racism, and usually ended up saving those who would have merely spat in his face. He was truly the first hero that I idolized, way back when I picked up that first book at the age of twelve. And, of course, it was the writing itself, combined with a handful of authors on a growing list, that have inspired me to write. So thank you, Drizzt and Mr Salvatore.
You don’t need to be a sword-wielding dark elf to be an inspiration, though. Just yesterday I spoke to the father of a young girl who has been diagnosed with cancer. This girl – a hero in her own right – is
making a difference by donating new board games to a children’s cancer ward, and buying gift cards for parents of recently-diagnosed children, so they can spend the night and make breakfast that much easier. It is such a simple, yet incredible act of kindness and compassion. If you were to place her and Drizzt side by side, I would see to inspiring heroes of equal stature standing next to each other.
Inspiration comes from all around us, driving us to do better each and every day. Whether it be on a grand scale – internationally, like Malala, or even beyond Earth, like Elon Musk – or on a smaller one – at your local hospital or within the pages of a book – you do not need to look hard to find incredible people. Let me know who inspires you in the comments, big or little, real or fictional. How does their inspiration drive you? Musk pushes me to go the extra mile, because nothing, nothing, is out of reach. Malala inspires courage, Drizzt compassion, and that young, amazing girl shows me that no act is too small to have an impact.
Just think that, some day, you might be the one inspiring others.