To Inspiration and Beyond

NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson was a tinkerer. He had been his whole life. In the early ‘80s, he was working in Pasadena, California on developing an unmanned spacecraft that would travel to the moon. Johnson was experimenting with different types of refrigeration systems that used water instead of Freon. He connected a nozzle to a bathroom sink, and the water shot across the bathroom in a “cartoonish” way. His experiment reminded him of a child’s water gun. He tinkered, and months later the Super Soaker was born.

Some of the best inspiration and creative ideas come from the places you least expect them. Like the bathroom sink. Inspiration feeds creativity, and naiveté and curiosity are integral to finding inspiration. Creativity is something that can be coaxed, but not forced, and it’s as much a state of mind as something innate. When you search for inspiration, you fuel your creativity.

Here are a few things to remember for shaking loose new ideas and finding inspiration.


Change is one of the most valuable tools for gaining inspiration and feeding creativity. A change of scenery or veering from your normal process stops cyclic neural patterns and challenges your brain to work differently. The idea, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” is best applied to the creative thought process.


Staying inspired and creative in your work has everything to do with how you spend time outside of your eight-hour work day. We tend to think the quickest way to accomplish our goals is by pushing ourselves relentlessly until we arrive at a solution, or burnout. Give your brain rest. By disconnecting from typical patterns and activities, you’ll provide your brain the capacity to engage with activities and experiences that stretch, challenge and teach you. To stay inspired, experience new things and absorb unlikely beauty. The more creativity you surround yourself with, the more you’ll begin to reflect that creativity.


Seek outside perspectives when you hit a creative wall. Look to others on your team or those who are completely disconnected from your project or problem. Collaborate with people in other departments and look at what other companies are doing, especially those in different industries. You never know what it might spark. Seek something unexpected to give you a jolt out of your rut.


As you work to solve problems or develop new ideas, don’t get stuck in your well-worn and comfortable patterns of thought. Instead of looking to experts and experiences that relate directly to the topic at hand, seek unique perspectives that can come from the naiveté of new eyes or from seemingly unrelated fields. You’ll find inspiration in the most unlikely places.