Open your refrigerator or go into your pantry and take an inventory of all the products with an expiration date on them. Now check out any produce you have on the counter and assess how much longer they might be edible. In the pantry, you will likely find that some things have a very short shelf life while your canned goods will be edible for years to come. The shelf life of your produce has many variables, but most must be eaten within a couple of weeks. They likely don’t have a date stamped on them and it may be difficult to determine when they are optimized for consumption, but it will be obvious when that time has passed. For me, avocados and bananas speak the loudest. I usually wait patiently for the avocados to get soft enough, while I am quick to consume bananas before brown spots emerge on the peel. Once a banana gets a brown spot, they are no good to me. The shelf life of perishables, perishables or otherwise, is something we all pay attention to…or at least should.

Learning is powerful and I don’t know many people who aren’t excited about learning new things. When we learn something, most of us want to apply our newfound knowledge even if that means little more than sharing it with someone else. For after all, the accumulation of knowledge is of little consequence, it’s the application that matters. This past week has been one where I have turned up the volume on inspiring others with whom I serve. The amazing Liz Wiseman (author of Multiplers and Rookie Smarts, among other books) came to speak to the Command. At the same time, we have recommenced our 3-day workshops focused on inspiring more critical thought and creative problem solving across the team. Truth is, those who have attended either or both sessions are riding a high. They are ready to apply what they have learned.

I read a fair amount, listen to PODcasts even more frequently, and thoroughly enjoy watching inspirational talks. They make me feel good. They make me want to take action and apply what I learn. I see them as investments in me. I feel as though if I don’t do anything while in my newly energized state to demonstrate a return on the investment (even if only to myself), then I ought to acknowledge that the book, the talk, or the PODcast was more entertainment than investment (and yes they can and should be both).

It’s increasingly evident to me that there is a shelf life on inspiration. A shelf life that gets increasingly shorter over time in the absence of action and follow-through. For this reason, I called a “Now What?” session with teammates in whom I have invested of late. The thought is that I invested in them by creating opportunity, they invested in themselves by taking me up on the opportunity, and it is now a shared responsibility to provide a visible return. A return that will give me additional reason to create more opportunity, for a larger audience to take advantage of future opportunity, and the individuals more confidence in themselves.

We all deserve the opportunity to be inspired by our work, our teammates, and our environment. And when we are fortunate enough to be in that state, it will thrive for as long as the resulting actions are evident and the outcomes are visible. Some people are more than OK seeing their work as just that, their teammates as mere coworkers, and their environment as sterile. Most are not. But everyone loses when the bread is moldy, the fruit overripe, and the once inspired no longer.

  • What is the inspiration level of your team?
  • What are you doing to extend the shelf life of that inspiration?
  • How do you inspire the uninspired?