Surrounding yourself with inspiring people

I was talking to my entreprenuership class the other day and made an important discovery--a lot of them lacked for inspiration from the people around them.  A lot of us have great friends--mostly people that life just put in our laps by geography or by shared interest--and they wind up being people you share a lot of history with.

However, those aren't always the people that get your brain stirring the most.  You know what I'm talking about--when you can actually feel, even hear, that little hamster spinning away on the wheel.  Your mind races faster than you can speak, and you trip over your words as you try and get them out into a verbal blueprint of some big mental breakthrough.

Marc Andreessen once quoted Dr. James Austin on the topic of luck, and how just getting your mind going increases the chances that you stumble upon something big:

"A certain [basic] level of action "stirs up the pot", brings in random ideas that will collide and stick together in fresh combinations, lets chance operate.

Motion yields a network of new experiences which, like a sieve, filter best when in constant up-and-down, side-to-side movement..."

I have a friend that is always coming up with big and sometimes ridiculous new ideas.  Once, he was going to get an aquarium for his apartment and populate it with agressive fish--"fish that eat other fish".  He was so psyched about it.  I couldn't help but be equally excited, but also somewhat suspect about the feasability of this endeavor.  Either way, it got my mind going.

Nate has a similar effect on me, too.  He has an idea a minute.  Perhaps one day he'll settle on something, but for the moment, he remains the Wile E. Coyote of Silicon Alley--always working up blueprints for something big.  You can't help but get the wheels turning when you talk to Nate, even if you totally disagree with him, because you're going to wind up exploring the idea and learn something along the way--or take something away from it that could help you with something completely different. 

These are the kinds of people I go out of my way to spend time with.  I probably take about three meetings a week with people who have inspiring ideas completely unrelated to what I'm up to, because it's a mental workout for me.  It helps me think better and gain perspective about my own ideas--a rigorous cerebral exercise.  What I was trying to explain to my students is that, if you're going to make a living off of your creativity and innovation, you need to set your life up in such a way that you spend more time with people who inspire you to think, as opposed to just spending your time with whoever lives on your floor, or the people next to you in class.

Along the way, we've all met pretty interesting people in passing, but we don't always stop them and demand more of their time.  That's active management--making a point to be more deliberate in our scheduling, and its something we all should do more of.  When's the last time you had a really inspiring conversation with someone?  Who was it?  What did they make you think about?  How likely is it that you'll talk to them again soon?   Perhaps you should ensure that happens sooner rather than later by asking them to grab coffee or something.  My life is filled with what I call "onesies"--people not really connected to the rest of my world but that I've pulled in because my interaction with them really lights a fire for me.

Who does it for you?  Why don't you drop them a line...