Thumos and the art of inspiration

Thumos, roughly translated, is Greek for a driving passion or energy. The Art of Manliness blog has a great introduction to the idea here. The overall idea is nothing new- we are told to “find our passion” in life and follow where it leads. It can take on an almost mystical quality, our search for meaning and purpose.

Many people I know find things that arouse their thumos not, contrary to popular belief, by sitting around contemplating life and waiting with bated breath for inspiration to strike. They find it while actively pursuing something completely unrelated: while reading a book, talking with a friend or partner, doing the dishes, driving to work and listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast… whatever. An interview with Laird Hamilton sent me to Wim Hof‘s website. Practicing his breathing and cold shower routine changed my relationship with cold water and inspired me to fantasize, just like I did as a child, about swimming the channel in front of my home, which sent me online to the Loneswimmer site and into the water.

And that is how it works. Neurons fire, physiology gives an endorphin boost, and the next thing you know you are rebuilding that Vincent motorcycle, homebrewing in your garage, remodeling your kitchen… or freezing your butt off in the salt water.

But a fire is no good if you don’t add wood. A common end to many an inspired start is a box full of parts stacked away in the garage and a gym membership you constantly forget to cancel. To combat that I often turn to books or music, regardless of whether it is directly connected to what I am trying to stay energized about. Once that energy turns on it can easily translate to excitement for whatever I am working on.

That is what the Thumos page is about. Different things I find inspiring- music, podcasts, audio and printed books, the occasional film or play. If it gives me a kick in the rear it may do the same for you.

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