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The Lie of Inspiration (5 Reasons Waiting Almost Never Makes You Better)

lie of inspirationSo you’ve got that next sermon series to write, a project to push forward, a video to release or that book you’ve wanted to write that you should (finally) begin.

If you’re like most people before you start you ask yourself: do I feel like it? Is today the day?

Again, if you’re like most people, the answer to that question 99% of the time is “No.”

It’s as though we’ve elevated inspiration to a mythical level, and it’s killing us. Somehow we’ve fallen for the belief that all great art, literature or inventions are birthed out of a eureka moment that has eluded us again today.

And so we tell ourselves that maybe inspiration will hit tomorrow. Or if not tomorrow, then next week. And then, when we’re inspired, the ideas will just flow through us as we assemble a masterpiece.

You know what that is?

That’s a massive lie. That’s exactly what that is.

If you’re waiting for inspiration to push you to your next breakthrough, you’ll be waiting a long time.

I get asked all the time how I produce so much content—from 30+ sermons a year, to blogging several times a week, to conference talks, to hosting two podcasts, to writing books and developing online courses.

The answer is pretty simple: sit down and write.

My guess is that moment you read the line above, your brain will start generating 1,000 reasons why you can’t sit down and write right now. Which is exactly the problem.

For sure, I’ve built my schedule and my life around developing content. You can’t be in meetings 50 hours a week or constantly distracted and produce at a meaningful level.

I share the exact strategy I use for scheduling optimal writing time (and how to figure out yours) in my High Impact Leader Course, which I’m excited to announce opens again for new registrations in May 2017. You can learn more and join the waiting list here.

In the meantime, let me share five reasons waiting will almost never make you better.

1. Lack of Inspiration is Just Procrastination Wearing a Mask

Saying you can’t write or launch something because you’re not inspired is really just another form of procrastination.

It sounds like a polite form of procrastination—even a noble form—but it’s still procrastination.

You will never finish what you don’t start. So begin.

You know what procrastination is? It’s a thief—a thief that robs you of your God-given potential.

Dreams die because leaders procrastinate. People suffer because leaders procrastinate. And although I’m a firm believe in the sovereignty of God, sometimes I wonder if the Kingdom suffers because leaders languish.

Maybe the best thing you can do when you’re waiting for inspiration is to call it what it is: procrastination.

And if that’s what you want the story of your life to be, continue.

2. Your Emotions Are Unreliable

Here’s one truth I run into again and again: I almost never really feel like doing what I need to do.

I rarely want to


Eat healthy

Get enough sleep


Follow through on my obligations


But I do all of them anyway, because it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve found almost all the best decisions I’ve made in my life come on the other side of a struggle.

If I let my emotions tell me what to do, I’d probably still be trying to graduate high school.

The good news is that once you push past your emotions, there’s a payoff: your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience.

I know in my marriage, there were a few seasons where we didn’t feel in love anymore. We pushed past them.

Eventually, our emotions caught up. And we are more deeply in love than we’ve ever been.

It’s that way in leadership and in life. Your emotions catch up to your obedience.

3. Doing Beats Thinking

Let me tell you a sad little secret.

I had an idea for a book back in 2005. It was going to be called The Power of Why.

The book was all about how three words come up around every leadership table: why, what and how. The most powerful—and the most neglected—word among the three is the word “why.”

In my imaginary book, I was going to encourage every person to talk about why twice as much as they talk about what and how, because why unites. What and how divide. I was going to encourage every leader to start with why and end with why, because it’s a far superior way to lead. There were many more ideas behind the book, and it was going to change the world.

Guess what? I never wrote the book. In fact, I never even started it.

But someone else did. As you probably know, his name is Simon Sinek, and he pretty much owns all real estate associated with the word “why” in the leadership spaced, based on his best-selling 2009 book and Ted talk.

Am I saying my book would have been as good or influential as Simon Sinek’s? Of course not.

But no one would ever know. Because I never wrote it.

Remember this leaders: ideas that don’t ship never change the world.

Since then, I have published three books and this month I’m finalizing a publishing deal for the next two. I’m super excited for that.

To paraphrase an old proverb: The best time to start was a decade ago. The second best time is now.

4. Your Best Ideas Usually Come After You Start, Not Before

One reason you fail to start is because you think you need to store up your best ideas and then start.


What if actually works the opposite way?

Most people get better by doing, not by thinking.

Writing a C+ or B- first draft still beats not writing. And your A ideas or A+ ideas usually only come after having sorted through all your B ideas.

It’s easier to make a good thing great than it is to create a great thing from scratch.

If you want to access your best ideas, start by writing down your good ideas.

5. The Real Enemy is Probably Fear

Chances are the real reason you haven’t started is that you’re afraid.

Get dead honest with yourself. What are you afraid of?

Not being good enough?





Just come clean. What’s driving your reluctance?

If you unlock the real reason, you’ll unlock so much more in your life.

Chances are the fear is wrecking a bunch of other things in your life too.

Wrestle it down.

Remember, leaders, no one can follow fear. Fear doesn’t know where it’s going. It only knows where it’s not going.

What Do You Need to Start Doing?

So what do you need to start doing? Don’t leave a comment. Just do it.

Don’t even leave a comment below.

Just do it.

And if you want more on organizing your time for maximum productivity and impact, join the High Impact Leader waiting list here.


  1. […] The Lie of Inspiration (5 Reasons Waiting Almost Never Makes You Better) […]

  2. Matt Norman on April 12, 2017 at 6:43 am

    I can’t even begin to tell you how perfectly timely this post is. I have been waist deep in all of these for eh past several months. I’ve been praying for some guidance from God as to what steps to take towards the vision I believe He has given me for the church He’s called me to lead.
    The thruth is I’ve been “looking for inspiration”, but really just procrastinating.

    I’d love to talk more, but I gotta go do stuff.

    P.S. Looking forward to seeing you at RLC in a couple weeks.

  3. Danny Murphy on April 11, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for this highly motivating post. I recently came across a Wall Street Journal obituary of Chet Cunningham. He wrote 375 books! His straightforward advice to writers was, “Put your butt in the chair and do it.” Nothing ambiguous about that. I guess it’s time to crank out the last four thousand words of the project I’ve been working on.

  4. Matthew David Brough on April 10, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    I know you said don’t comment, but Carey, this post is fantastic. More people, especially Church leaders, need to read this. About ten or fifteen years ago I thought “I’d love to write a book someday,” and I had all kinds of excuses for not starting. I would think to myself things like: I don’t have enough experience, my Church is small so I can’t credibly talk about leadership or ministry, it will just take too much time.

    Just over two years ago I started down the road of independent publishing and now I’ve written and put out two novels, and my first non-fiction work. Currently working on the next two non-fiction and planning the next novel. Also just launched a podcast. I am having a ton of fun doing it all. All while still pastoring a small but busy Church. What changed for me? It was almost 100% mindset. I started getting up earlier to write – every day, sitting with a cup of coffee and actually doing it. When I started, I had no idea where it would all lead (and I’m still not sure!) I do know I am so thankful for leaders like yourself that can show what is possible.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 10, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      Matthew… I love this. Thanks for commenting. You’re allowed, because you started! And you shared some key points. Way to go man. Thrilled for you and the Kingdom.

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