[A “Scoutmaster’s Minute” is a short talk given at the end of a troop meeting. In a boy-led troop, it is the only time the scoutmaster addresses the troop as a whole.]
Tonight, I’d like to talk about inspiration. The word “inspiration” literally means “breathing in,” and it comes from the idea that a divine spirit enters you and motivates you to do something, especially something creative. People sometimes talk about being “inspired” to create things like books, songs, paintings, or inventions.
Sometimes, too, people make the mistake of thinking that inspiration is all it takes to achieve success; that all it takes to be successful is to have a good idea. But, as Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.” What he meant was that even the best idea in the world won’t amount to much without work. It takes effort to make an idea reality.
But I would go even one step further than Edison, and say that the work itself—the perspiration—is where the inspiration comes from in the first place. The artist Pablo Picasso once said that “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” He didn’t get ideas for painting by sitting around in cafes; instead, he rolled up his sleeves and painted. Sometimes what he painted wasn’t great, but sometimes it was. And when it was, he built on those ideas and used them as his inspiration.
This lesson applies to a lot of things. If you want to create something of lasting value, don’t sit around waiting to be inspired. As another artist, Chuck Close, put it, ”Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work.“