AIMPOINT: Interview with Motivational Speaker Jeremy M. Burke

By Mick Michaels

As artists, we are always in need of a heavy supply of inspiration and motivation. They go hand-in-hand and are the bread and butter of our creative process and career-goal outlets. The lack thereof, compromises not only our efforts but can often wreak further havoc on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels of our well-being.

Struggling to find those ebbs and flows can be challenging at times. And for those of us who are stuck in a rut, the light at the end of the tunnel may not be bright enough to lead the way at the moment.

In this edition of AIMPOINT, we speak with US Veteran and Motivational Speaker Jeremy Burke on how we can keep the juices flowing; creating both a maintainable, rewarding and sustainable level of inspiration and motivation.

AIMPOINT: Hello, Jeremy! Welcome to AIMPOINT. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it is greatly appreciated.

Jeremy Burke: Thanks for reaching out and counting my thoughts an opinions as positive content that matters to others. It’s truly appreciated.

AP: Finding inspiration can be a challenge for us all, even daunting at times, seeing how much stuff life can throw at us at any given moment.  How would you suggest people find a hint or level of inspiration when needed most? Is it about taking advantage of the moment?
JB: Well, before anyone can find inspiration from outside themselves they first need to look inward. To be inspired is to be open to change. Like anything in life, if you’re not open to changing things about yourself in a positive way: losing weight, eating healthy, avoiding negative people, learning a new skill or advancing your current skill set, you must first accept that where you’re at now is now where you want to be. Think of people who enter addiction programs like NA or AA, the first step they have to take before they can get better is to admit there’s a problem. It’s the same in a creative world because you have to open the door for inspiration to find you.

Once you can make that personal affirmation that you’re open for inspiration, you’ll find that it will come at you from many angles. Sometimes very obvious but a lot of times it will be subtle. The more open you are to accepting inspiration, the more likely you are to identify it and receive it.
Depending on what the inspiration is for, you’ll find you get there through many different ways. For someone who suffers from an addiction, they often need to hit rock bottom or get to a point where there is no other place to go but up. But for many of us, we’re struggling with the ability to improve ourselves either physically or mentally; or we’re struggling with moving forward in our lives because we have no direction or hint at a destination.
That is the time for those people to write out a list of goals or aspirations and use that as a starting point to begin your journey of advancement. Have you ever found yourself at the beginning of a brand new day, maybe a Saturday morning and you have nothing on the schedule to occupy you or no plans to do anything and you’re hoping to use this day to advance yourself. But you find after several hours of doing aimless things, puttering around or maybe just sitting around thinking you’ve gotten nowhere. You’ve accomplished nothing. And you’re blaming inspiration or the lack thereof for not moving toward your goals.
The fault lies in that you haven’t open yourself to inspiration because you don’t know what your inspiration is for. Being more specific, if you wanted to write a song and found that the words just aren’t flowing….you’re stuck because you just wanted to write a song. Give yourself some direction or a more specific purpose which will then allow your conscious to become more open to receiving inspiration.
AP: Since artists are always looking for inspiration, can inspiration be a contrived sort of thing, something we as individuals can manufacture when needed? Or is it truly a spontaneous, organic thing that happens when we least expect it?
JB: Inspiration can be both spontaneous and something, we can create it for ourselves. Thinking back to the previous question, if you can truly admit you’re open to change then you’re more likely to be open to spontaneous inspiration and manufacture an inspirational environment to push you in the direction you want to go.

Spontaneous inspiration can come in many forms and will often go unnoticed if you haven’t opened yourself to see it. Subtle things like speech in a movie/TV show, a voice on the radio and billboards can trigger inspiration in ourselves. If we keep ourselves open and are paying attention to the world, the inspirational moments will pop up all the time and you can use these little moments as a catalyst for bigger inspiration.
And even if we haven’t noticed the spontaneous inspirational triggers around us, we can attempt to put inspiration to work for us. It starts with the initial answer which is to make the conscious decision to step towards where you want to be. Sitting down and writing goals are also the foundation for an inspirational environment. You’ve identified where you want to be or what you want to achieve, now get specific and map out some points to get you there.
Another way to manually move ourselves into motivation is to eliminate things around us that will detract from our ability to achieve our goals. Sometimes that means finding new friends, getting a different job, eating different foods, or throwing away our routines. Professional writers have always separated themselves from their day-to-day worlds to eliminate distractions and negative triggers. You may find if you can’t find the inspiration or are stuck on something you’re developing…you may have to completely change your environment to reboot your mind under a new focus.
If you find you have a “day to day” routine then eliminate that routine. Get up early, go different places, take a different path to/from work, turn the TV off, listen to different music… Your mind is stuck in the abyss of routine and habit and you can reboot it by changing up all the little things in your life.
AP: Would you say aspiration is the initial building block to inspirational motivation?
JB: Absolutely! Aspiration is the first step for everything in life. You have to aspire for change or achievement. It’s the mental acceptance of a decision to become something or change something about yourself. Aspiration is the “want” that get’s you to the point of receiving inspirational motivation which is the “how”.

AP: Is inspiration enough to be motivated to act? Are there other players that should be addressed to get and maintain the proverbial ball rolling?
JB: Once you get to the point where you’ve aspired to do something, now surround yourself with things that will inspire you. The inspiration is there…it’s flowing through you and stirring in your soul. But you have to consistently act on it, develop it and use it to take each step to the next. You can never put inspiration on cruise control and hope you get there. You must commit to acting on that inspiration every day.
And it’s a commitment that feeds off of goals, consistent employment of the inspiration and a daily affirmation of your initial aspiration to get to where you want to be. It’s like everything in life that you want to do or learn. You have to practice and execute every day. Through this daily practice and execution you develop new rituals, routines and muscle memory. Once you achieve that you build upon it which fosters growth to the next level.

AP: A lot of emphasis these days is put on the outwardly, public personified label of success...if you can see it then it must be real, in turn, leading others to broaden the scope of what is essentially considered failure.  But is real success moreso found in the small things in life or within the things we cannot necessarily see rather than what the world view deems as such? What are your thoughts?
JB: I believe in the old…probably biblical, philosophy that human nature is divided up by Fame, Fortune, Power & Pleasure… There’s been many studies, focus groups and psychological testing where they ask participants to pick which of those four characteristics meant the most to them. And from there they can begin to map out who they are as a person.

I believe everyone should take a look at their lives, their goals and aspirations and examine intellectually. Pinpoint what you’re really searching for. Even those who are in search of wealth all too often pick a dollar amount as their target or goal for Fortune. Two things to examine here: What if you never hit that dollar amount goal? Does that mean you have failed? What if you do hit that goal, are you then happy?

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have indicated their goals were not tied to a dollar amount. They were tied to happiness and covering their debts. Some would say, I just want to be able to pay my mortgage, put food on the table, keep the lights on and send my kids to college.

But society has made the flash of materialism so desirable that too many people search fortune so they can have several luxury cars in the garage, 6000 sq’ mansion, giant home theaters complete with tiered leather reclining seats and popcorn machines, gigantic pools, etc. Remember that show, MTV Cribs. It was a great show, and many of us loved to watch it and it amplified our dreams of wanting wealth.

But what I always loved about that show is every Rock Star and Professional Athlete’s home they went into always showed a huge and lavish kitchen with the state of the art ovens, freezer and refrigerator. And I always remember, when they opened that $5000 refrigerator, it was virtually empty…maybe some Red Bull, left over Chinese food, and frozen pizza. The rest of the kitchen is typically unused. Why? Because the person who achieved a massive amount of wealth through their fame spent a ton of money on things because that’s what society told them to do. They’ve arrived financially so now I need the Viking Oven and Subzero Freezer, Granite everything and here’s a check for $100K to cover the entire cost.

This happens when people have goals, achieve those goals and forget them. They are told that true success looks like this or looks like that. When in reality success comes from when you find personal happiness from achieving your goals. Maybe you made some money…got some recognition and perhaps some pleasure as a result from your goals. But the true measure of your success is you looking back at the journey and realizing all that you accomplished. Now go set some new goals. Raise the bar!

AP: Everyone has their definition of what success and failure are or what the two mean to them. However, many experts have found that success and failure go hand in hand; you can't have one without the other.  A level of appreciation is often achieved when an acceptance and balance between the two are sought.  Do you follow such a sentiment? Are they essentially a yin and yang concept to get the most out of life?
JB: Great question and it’s one that I’ve come to embrace over the last 6-8 months of my life as I’ve made so many changes. So, for many of us, we have been raised or trained to believe that failure is a negative. Failure is very bad and you should never fail. And to a certain degree, this is somewhat correct in that if failure is the end point… when you stop. Then yes it’s bad.
But failing is so much a part of success. And the examples of this are endless. Think of every great achievement we have at our fingertips. I can make a random list as an example: space travel, automobiles, flight, open heart surgery, any Pink Floyd Concert, solar energy, water purification, pharmaceuticals, the cellar phone… the regular wired house phone, The US Constitution, the vacuum cleaner… The list could go on for a long time.

But think of the famous quote from Thomas Edison about inventing the light bulb. He had 10,001 attempts at creating a light bulb. And when asked about his failures he said: “I have not failed. I’ve just learned 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb”.

We all get too wrapped up on not wanting to fail. We’re embarrassed to fail because we don’t want the judgment of others. We’re too focused on what someone or some groups of people might say about our failure in an attempt to do something. Jeff Bezos started with a desk in his garage selling books online. How many people do you think told him that it was a stupid idea because everyone drove across town to the book store to get a book. Here we are almost 25 years later and his company is the most successful company in the world.

Failure is a good thing when you can learn from it and grow from it. But you have to keep going. You have to stay dedicated and keep moving forward. Accept that others, not on your path, are going to critique and ridicule your failures. Ignore them. Focus on the task at hand. Keep moving forward.

AP: Can people get too wrapped up in success and failure, thus, causing themselves to possibly miss the greater picture?
JB: Absolutely! So, we all get caught up in the outward or extroverted aspect of success. This is what others see, and what we can show that we have achieved. This goes back to the Fame aspect of human nature. We all want to have huge amounts of wealth because then we’ll have everyone around us accept that we’re successful.

This makes me think of the many local musicians I know that are slugging it out 4-5 nights a week playing local bars, pubs and clubs in solo gigs, duets, and small bands just to get their music out there. They’re living the dream. They’re in front of an audience…they’re playing their music and making some money. Many of them are very happy. Maybe they get a chance to go to Nashville for some time, maybe they get hooked up with a promoter and play in NYC or LA for a week or two. Regardless, they’re doing their thing and they’re so grateful for what they have and what they’ve achieved.

But unfortunately, for too many, they’re caught up in wanting to be the next big thing. They want to be the big rock star, the famous actor, the world renowned this or that. So to these types of people I try to remind them of any given Olympic Competition. Take a track and field event at the Summer Olympics. Here you have dozens of world class athletes that have collectively beaten out 100’s if not 1000’s of other athletes for a chance to compete at the games. After a few days of racing only one emerges as the champion.

So my question to those caught up in the hype of winning or being the absolute best is this… Take that athlete who did not qualify for the final round of competition. Their failing time was maybe 1 second away from the person who won the gold medal. In between there are several other competitors that are separated by tenths of second. Is this a true failure? Michael Phelps won a gold medal by 0:001 seconds. Did that person who came in second fail?

Sometimes we need to accept the fact that just being able to compete on a certain stage is a real achievement of success.

AP: In your opinion, what can be considered the "the greater picture"? Are we all looking for something that doesn't really exist?
JB: Great question and it goes back to the first question about finding inspiration. Many of us grow up being told an all too familiar sentiment that is “we can be anything we want to be…Doctor, President, Scientist, etc.” We were always told that we could be any of these ideas. Unfortunately, for many of us, this was a half truth or only part of the sentiment.

See, we all can be any of these things, but nothing comes without hard work and sacrifice. I’m a firm believer that if we’re going to tell kids they can be anything they want to be, we should follow up with a realistic promotion of the sacrifice they’ll need to make as well as the level of work they’ll have to put into making that achievement happen. You can’t be an Olympic Gold Medalist if you’re not putting in the long hours of training and conditioning. Just wanting something is not enough.

So whatever your profession or walk of life is, think about the things you want to do in that realm. Now be realistic and accept that sometimes, mega fortune and fame is by virtue of luck. Not everyone will be a Tom Brady, Mike Murphy, Jeff Bezos, The Rolling Stones, George Lucas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Jobs or Conor McGregor. But many of us will be competing in the same fields as those champions and achieving a lot of success. But we’ve built up this image of success in our minds that is so specific and massive that it’s virtually unrealistic.

Now of course keeping with my mantra, yes, you can have that same level of success as those other champions. But that is not the measure of your endgame. You can be very successful in any industry, any walk of life without being the big star or the poster child.

The key is to focus on being happy. And to be happy is to do what you love and to enjoy what you love to do. Regardless of your profession, just do those things you love and disregard the ultra examples of success. Just do. Execute in the lane you operate and be happy with what you’re achieving. You don’t have to stop when you get comfortable. In fact, you should keep pushing forward. But don’t define success as being the next great (insert mega star here).

AP: How do you find balance and what would you suggest to others who are looking to find it themselves?
JB: Balance is all about what you want in life. We all know the concept of “Work-Life Balance”. And to truly define that we need to identify what we want most in life. Family time, work success, physical success, etc. All these things come into play and are a part of our personal balance. And it will be different for everyone. Some people want more of a certain aspect than another. It’s not ours to judge…To each his own.

For me, I want to be very successful in my entrepreneurial endeavors, but not because I want fancy cars and big homes. I want success so I can spend more time with my kids and give them the things they need to be successful in life. Additionally, I map out my days and week so I plan all my work around when I know I need to be there for my family. They’re the most important thing to me so I make sure I account my time for them. It will never be perfect. But the best thing is you can adjust all the time.

AP: Some believe that because life is such a crap shoot, finding balance is a futile quest and often suggest just going with the flow, come what may.  Does this "take it as it comes" approach seem like a valid outlook and regular practice for people to follow in your opinion? Or would a more planned approach be better suited to help weather the storm called life?
JB: Life is indeed a crapshoot, but that’s Ok. We can’t control the actions of others or that of fate. But what we can control is who we are, what we stand for and how we act in the face of fate. Consider the average successful person or athlete that’s rocking their world. Suddenly they find out they’ve got cancer or some other terminal disease. Fate has intervened and changed course of that individual but that should have no affect on their desires, their drive, their motivation to be successful. Shit happens. You move on and you grow from every piece of adversity.
You cannot plan for every contingency. I learned this in my time in the military. So the best preparation for any operation was to not plan for every contingency, but to master your basic skills and performance measures. The translation for that is we all should focus on what works for us, what makes us happy and better ourselves in every aspect of our lives.

Yes, sometimes our work-life balance has to suffer, but as long as we’re moving forward with achieving our goals including the goal of having balance in life, we’ll level the scales out eventually. Everyone has to make sacrifices. It’s a product of life…it’s certainly a product of success.

AP: What do you feel is the one initial step people can take right now that can help motivate them to change their life and more towards where they want to be?
JB: So, I’ve been following several very successful entrepreneurs and listening to their motivations and their words about success. And there is a singular message that seems to be found in all voices… stop thinking about it and just do it. We all over think everything we want to take a leap into. We see a vision of things we want to do or to become, but we always start to over think the process to get there. We pile on the resistance and excuses and usually it leads to us walking away.
So the only way to truly start off on the right foot is to remove all of our assumptions, stop making excuses, don’t be afraid to fail and just jump head first and start to make shit happen. Nike always had the best slogan- Just do it!
AP: Thank you again Jeremy for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success.


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