Inspiration comes from challenges. For example, every great story starts with a challenge: a baffling mystery, a menacing Goliath, a childhood spent in a cupboard under the stairs.
Companies, too, are born of challenges — often personal ones. The same goes for inventions, art projects, and social movements. In every area of life, there’s a connection between challenges and creativity.
When I sought a guide on how to use technology to build healthy habits in people’s lives, I couldn’t find one — so, I researched and wrote Hooked to address that challenge. Similarly, a few years later, I found myself getting distracted from my priorities in life, but most of the books out there did nothing but blame technology. I decided to look deeper into the root of the problem, and Indistractable ended up being the book I wished I’d found. Eventually, the buzz of unsolved problems became a din, and that was my motivation to act.
I’ve also seen how this principle works from a front-row seat as an angel investor. It’s a privilege to support people who tackle challenges by building world-changing companies like Eventbrite, Kahoot, Canva, and many others. Each of the people building those ventures drew inspiration from challenges, both initially and along the way.
Back to the present moment: if there’s one thing 2020 has brought, it is challenges.
Globally and personally, it feels like every week has unveiled some weird new problem — and it’s still not over. On top of that, 2020 has also made many not-so-new challenges more obvious, including the challenge of providing healthcare to people and the challenge of digital disinformation and distraction.
- What will the challenges of 2020 inspire?
- Motivated by the challenges of this new era, what will we create?
- What new problems will we solve, and what will those new solutions look like?
Those are the questions I’m thinking about right now. They’re on my mind because of my daughter, who’ll grow-up in a world after COVID-19. They’re also on my mind because of the people I know who’ve been displaced as a result of it all. And of course, I’m as curious as anyone about what will end up in the history books in retrospect.
The world has become unrecognizable over the course of a year. But the astute will recognize the new opportunities change makes possible.
So, the timing was perfect when the Medium team asked me to write a weekly column here. This seems like a great space to explore these questions.
Broadly, I’ll continue to write about everything at the intersection of psychology, technology, and business, including my personal favorite concept of “behavioral design.” Those are my core interests. At the same time, I want to make this column useful. That means discussing ways for us, as individuals, to get inspired by the challenges all around us. It also means stress-testing my own frameworks under these new conditions.
The ideas expressed in this column will be shorter and less chewed over than my usual blog posts at NirAndFar.com. I will share ideas I haven’t fully made up my mind about. In the process, I hope to inspire you to chime in with your own insights. Perhaps you’ll help me see where my thinking diverges from yours so I can learn from your perspective? I certainly reserve the right to change my mind, so please, help me do so!
Challenges are my source of inspiration. Join me?
Nir Eyal is a former Lecturer at Stanford and is the bestselling author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Indistractable won numerous honors and was named one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon.