Brilliant People Find Inspiration in the Most Unlikely Places

Brilliant People Find Inspiration in the Most Unlikely Places


Whether it’s going for a run or looking at the ocean, sometimes inspiration just hits you. At Onboardly, we get inspired by different surroundings. Whether it’s taking our work to my patio or the sunroom at my house, a coffee shop, or a new room, we take ourselves out of the same environments in order to be stimulated by various atmospheres with different energies. If we hit a creative block, we freely leave our current environment in order to refocus and come back to work refreshed, however long it takes.

A Journal of Consumer Research study shows that the humming sound of white noise helps most people stay focused and productive. If you ever check our Songza lists during the day, you’ll notice a liking for ‘coffee shop sounds’, or ‘running water’ lists. The tranquil and consistent low hum of a positive sound helps us stay focused.

Uplifting surroundings inspire everyone, but for some of the most brilliant minds, their inspiration has come in the form of toothbrushes, corkscrews, nightmares, and Forrest Gump. Sometimes the most unlikely places and objects make for the best inspiration. A toothbrush?


Before Kavita Shukla invented FreshPaper, a sheet that help fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer, she was a regular 13 year old visiting her grandmother in India. While brushing her teeth she accidently swallowed the water–a catastrophic event in a country where the water is far from safe. Her grandmother gave her a homeopathic remedy and Shukla never got sick.

Back home in the U.S. Shukla played around with her grandmother’s remedy for a middle school science project, realizing that the recipe inhibited bacterial growth. This led her on the path to create FreshPaper during her senior year of high school. It’s like a dryer sheet for produce that keeps your fruits and vegetables fresh up to four times longer. Feel free to use this anecdote to motivate your kids to brush their teeth.


Some of the most revolutionary concepts of our time are the result of a deep sleep or a catnap. So if you want to have a big idea that changes the world, Go to sleep!  Even afternoon cat naps can help invigorate you and leave you with some pretty great ‘dreamy’ ideas.

Theory of Relativity

When Albert Einstein was younger he dreamt that he was sledding. But it wasn’t a normal dream about a winter wonderland. In this dream he was sledding down a mountain so fast that he came close to the speed of light. After thorough meditation on the meaning of the dream, he finally worked out the theory of relativity.

The Periodic Table

Have you ever worked tirelessly to solve a problem, only to get the solution after a night of restful sleep? It’s like your brain did all the work while you got to relax. The same thing happened to Dmitri Mendeleyev, noted Russian and architect.

 He was struggling to understand the building blocks that make up physical matter. While on a family vacation, he drifted off to sleep after listening to some chamber music. He then dreamt of the basic elements of the universe arranged together like a musical composition. When he woke up he drafted what would then become the periodic table.

TV and Movies

Now you don’t have to feel guilty about binge-watching TVs and movies on Netflix. Many entrepreneurs and high-achievers have gotten inspiration from movies. There are the more obvious choices–The Social Network, October Sky, Rocky–and then there are the less obvious choices that are just as inspiring, no matter how unconventional they are.

"Zoolander contains the best entrepreneurship wisdom I know: 'What is this? A center for ants?...The building has to be at least... three times bigger than this!' It's a great lesson in remembering your dreams should be at least three times bigger than what you originally thought — and that they'll be at least three times as much work!" - Derek Flanzraich, CEO and Founder, Greatist

"[Talking about the movie Boiler Room] No, I'm not encouraging or condoning anyone who commits fraud, violates SEC regulations, or acts like a sociopath. However, that does not mean there aren't some great things for entrepreneurs in the movie. One positive takeaway from Boiler Room is Seth's relentless hustle and scrappiness. He just crushes through problems (both good and bad) and gets stuff done!"

- Seth Kravitz, CEO, Technori

"I watched the Olympics on television and realized these girls were trying to do the same things I was trying to do. And I started to think, Maybe I can go to the Olympics. That was a big moment for me, because when I was growing up in the 1970s, women in sports weren't a celebrated thing, but I happened to think there was a kind of grace in the women I saw. I realized there was nothing unfeminine about being a powerful athlete — just the opposite. There was something really beautiful and empowering. I saw myself in these girls on television, and that's when I really started focusing." – Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic athlete

The Science Behind Inspiration

Ahh, inspiration. The elusive lover that is fickle with her blessings. Sometimes she visits you everyday. And sometimes years go by before you hear from her again. Actually, inspiration isn’t some magical happening that goes and comes when it pleases. It’s wired within our brains and can be induced if we pay attention to our own bodies.

Even when you’ve stopped growing, your brain hasn’t. It’s constantly evolving, forming new connections and neural pathways. Inspiration comes from the development of those new pathways. This is known as neuroplasticity. And the best part is that you can induce higher levels of plasticity through everyday activities. Like your body, your brain has to exercise so it can grow. Reading, meditation, playing video games, and exercise all help you increase your neuroplasticity. To learn more about neuroplasticity and inspiration, read this lengthy Lifehack post.

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Where or how do you get inspired? Let us know in the comments. 


What do you think?


I like the way you think, Heather.

Inspiration is not usually aligned with productivity, so most people shy away from it during the workday. I’ve worked in B2B sales and taking a nap, escaping in a Hollywood movie or changing scenery – while helping inspiration – come at the cost of producing my work. Its hard for most people to overcome this relationship.

Personally, I feel most inspired at work and I force myself to drift away in thought. Its like I’m sneaking out. 🙂 The time I spend thinking ahead doesn’t always bear fruit but when it does…

Depending on the workplace and the person, “inspiration on demand” would make things better for the employee, their manager and their customers.

Practice makes perfect!

Inspiration comes from pretty much anything or everything. Sometimes our mind needs it, so it finds one.

Having a good positive attitude helps in getting inspired from worst of things.

The stories were really inspiring to see everything in much different way. See I got inspired by your article.

A sweet article, I found on kingged.