The Pondman Ponders the Keys to Staying Inspired

Published on February 29, 2016


To start on a positive note, I do not agree with this Oxford Dictionary definition. No, this is not going to be an Oprah-like article, and Dr. Deepak Chopra will not be mentioned in it (other than just now).

It is definitely not a “really nice ponds inspire me” type of article, either. This is INspiration as seen through the eyes of yours truly, a water feature builder with attention deficit disorder. The reason both the “I” and the “N” are capitalized is because, to me, the true definition of inspiration is:

“An emotional response to a fleeting opportunity within a very specific and definite point in time, that moves one to take action that does some good in the process.” — Freddie Combas, 2016 AD(D)

Case in point, have you ever sat on the couch with your significant other watching something about some person going to another country, and it changed the lives of millions? At the completion of the show (or movie, documentary, Oprah’s Inspirational Sunday show, etc.) your significant other turns to you and says, “Wow! That was so amazing and inspirational!” Then the next phrase you hear before the credits finish scrolling is, “Do you want a turkey or ham sandwich?”

Aqua UV
Needless to say, the inspiration didn’t stick. To be truly inspired by something, action has to be taken in that specific moment, or life will get in the way. A truly inspired person will pick up the phone and donate to a charity, and then go to Expedia and book a trip to a mosquito and malaria-infested region to act upon that inspiration.

So what INspires me?

I have been here. I’ve been there. I’ve built this type of pond. I’ve built that type of pond. I’ve traveled the United States and abroad building water features. I had thought my main sources of inspiration were water features that were unknown or new to me —“ the never-before-seen types of water features. I thought I had been inspired when I’d see something that made me step back and say, “I want to build one of those!” or “What if we take that and do this and that to it?” or “Dude! I was about to split an atom and I had this idea…” (Just making sure you are still reading.)

"Did I quote it right? Did I forget something? What if.....?" I was INspired to push through dangling self-doubt on my first project outside the United States.
“Did I quote it right? Did I forget something? What if…..?” I was INspired to push through dangling self-doubt on my first project outside the United States.

I would then obsessively perform research, analyze it, look for glitches, work through all the scenarios (good and the bad) and finally, to my wife’s dismay, I would go out and sell one of these unknown, new, never-before-seen water features. I am laughing right now as I write this, remembering some of the faces that my construction crew of more than 13 years have made throughout the years. They would say, “We’re going to do what?!” (Yes, that is an exclamation point after the question mark —“ not a typo.) Now, they just say, “Cool!” and add their thoughts about the design’s aesthetics, structural integrity and construction technique.

One day I was going over one of these new, never-done-before types of designs in my head, and I started to think about my crew and what they would be trying to add to my design. It’s always a plus if I can stay one step ahead of them and be able to say, “I already thought of that.” This led me to realize that we had created a company culture with an all-for-one and one-for-all mindset. So one has to ask, did I inspire them, or did they inspire me? Hmm, hold that thought…

Do you want to be inspired to create positive change? Or, do you want to be an inspiration to others so they can make positive changes? Does one lead to the other? I don’t know; I’m not Dr. Phil. But I can tell you that I’ve been lucky enough to have been on both sides of that coin. I have had a few contractors through the years tell me that a photo of our work, an article I had written or a seminar I had given had inspired them to do new things —“ specifically, looking at water features and the business of water features in new ways.

IN and Out of a Jam

Many years ago I was aggressively expanding my business in hopes of making it one of the biggest, “baddest” water feature construction companies in the country. I remember my pond-building buddy, Tony Sargeant, telling me to slow down and to enjoy the view, or I was going to have a heart attack. I didn’t understand his one-man operational approach to success, and I didn’t have the time to think or hear about it.

gravity drainage system
“The Unknown:” We dug a 55-foot by 65-foot pond, and by the next morning, the ground water had filled up the hole. We had to design an underliner gravity drainage system on the fly. Would it work as designed? That was 13 years ago, and it is still allowing water to continuously seep from under the liner.

Oops! I just dropped jelly on my laptop. Where was I? So Oprah and Dr. Phil are discussing breakfast recipes… no, that wasn’t it.

Oh yeah —“ so a short time later, the economy crashed in the middle of my expansion efforts, and I was trying to figure out what was going to be my next move. In the middle of my quandary, I remembered my conversation with Tony. He INspired me to change course into the business of the unknown —“ the new and the never done before.

I am glad to say that I have not had a heart attack… yet. Those few, short words he spoke to me many years ago not only INspired me, but also had a huge impact on both my future business and personal life.

The Most INspirational Man in the World

Throughout my life I have been inspired in different ways by both people and events. My children inspire me to be a better dad. My crew inspires me to think farther and farther outside the box. Awesome sunrises and sunsets inspire me to take time for the important people in my life. Lack of inspiration will cause a lack of action, and the lack of action will create stagnation, leading to death in your business life and boredom in your personal life.

As for me, I do like really nice ponds. My wife puts on Oprah’s Inspirational Sundays, which are actually pretty cool. I like grape jelly, and I think that you should strive to be INspired to INspire. The Dos XX guy would agree with me in saying, “Stay INspired, my friends.”

Japanese Koi Kodama

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