The Problem With Inspirational Quotes

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New Zealand is a beautiful place. I’d travelled there to visit a friend who had been living there for a year. The plan was to go on a road trip around both islands and see anything and everything worth seeing. We hired a camper van that looked like an ambulance from 1973 and headed off. Parties, beaches, alcohol, drugs and wild all nighters were just some of the things we didn’t get up to whilst we were there.

It may have been in the plans but it was off season and we would be lucky to see another human being in the long drives between cities. One thing we did see though was beautiful nature on both islands. It is a stunning place. We would comment every time we saw a new mountain range, we stopped at every waterfall, blue river or stunning lake. Look at the tree lines, we have to stop. Lets go up this mountain.

Then after about 2 days it stopped. It was so beautiful everywhere you looked that it just became… normal. We didn’t stop as much and we didn’t take a lot of photos after that. Occasionally one of us would reference a beautiful bit of nature but mostly we put our energy into starting a new tradition of waving your elbow at fellow camper vanners.

OK, so in my short time writing online, I have had my only exposure to social media in that time, as previously I’d never been part of it. At first, I was inspired. Quotes, quotes everywhere. I was even saving them, to inspire me at a later date. If there is one thing you should know about me it is that I am not so irresponsible as to overdose on inspiration in one sitting.

Again though, two or three days in and I stopped saving them. The volume was astonishing. How unmotivated must we be? How uninspired are we all? I mean talk about over supply. If studying economics has taught me anything it is that over supply will inevitably reduce the value of the product. And that is what quotes seem to have become; a product. Really making me question the true intentions of the poster. In my short time online I’ve seen people even selling quote packs and printables.

It is a product in massive over supply. That is not to say I don’t have a few favourites myself.

Well now that you’ve asked.

Carl Sagan’s ‘The Pale Blue Dot‘ speech and Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena‘ speech.

I get it, we as humans are aspirational. We want to look up to things, to wisdom and intelligence. But what I see is product pushing, its often vague motivational inspiration in lieu of any real, practical or responsible information. When I see them I see a lack of context. And I think context is everything. Context is what is missing from all forms of modern media. The before/after and all around. The edges.

’33 children died today in a raid by a US Drone… heres Ted with the sport!’

We need the context; why is this information important, what does it relate to, how can we use it and what can we learn from it. Often quotes are lifted from huge literary works, with masses of context stripped away. Quotes lose or change their meaning as a result. Just ask Ghandi, well you can’t, but his famous quote ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ is actually not a quote from him at all. It is the boiling down of his works into a simplified idea by an unknown source.

What is the big deal Mindfump? So we take meaning from things, why is the author or authenticity important at all?

Quite right.

We are very good at applying meaning to things. In fact, as a species we are the undisputed kings of it. We apply meaning to everything. It allows mediums to flourish, religions to prosper and modern art to sell for millions.

Followers of the blog may have noticed that I posted an inspiration quote yesterday – if you haven’t seen it, catch it here. Theres two interesting things about that post; firstly, the picture was taken on my trip in New Zealand, and it is the beautiful Lake Tekapo. Secondly the quote is entirely made up by me – obviously.

There is a secret 3rd point of interest*  and that is; I will produce an entirely made up quote every Saturday for my own entertainment. If you want to stop by and apply the most ridiculous meaning possible to the quote and how it has changed your life that would only add to my amusement. Or if you would like to contribute with your own posts I’d love to pop over to your blog and read them – I think as a rule though there should be no context and no indication that it is a joke.

So in terms of world problems, over supply of inspirational quotes is pretty low on the list. It probably places just above having more clothes than hangers and just below closing incorrect tabs in your browser. But by saturating the world with more quotes, we can make them as valuable as the Zimbabwe dollar and force people to read things longer than 10 words. Still, New Zealand is beautiful.


*Using that term loosely.



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