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I love tennis. The speed, the technical precision, the nail-biting thrill of a close match.

And I admire Roger Federer.

Ranked #3 in the world at age 34, proud dad of 4 kids, winner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles.

Above all, a class act.

The question of how we stay motivated, how we stay inspired interests me a lot.

For an athlete like Roger. For you and me.

Roger’s answer surprises.

Federer has been a tennis pro for 17 years. It’s a life of ceaseless training, ceaseless travel. The surprise? For inspiration, Roger travels some more. Plays exhibitions in remote places in South America, India, other parts of Asia. Covets trips to countries where he’s never been.

To add that twist of fun and magic and freshness, Roger Federer tells Tom Perrotta of the Wall Street Journal (11/11/2015), to everything besides the serious professional tour.


If, like Roger, you travel for business, more travel may be the last thing you desire. I understand; I have those days when I simply don’t wish to board a plane.

That’s when I need to flip Roger’s inspiration switch.

I like fun and magic and freshness. An encounter with the foreign offers this in abundance. Yet most of us shun the foreign with a vengeance, even when we’re in a foreign place.

Maybe you won’t dash off on one more trip. But consider the following ways of attracting more foreign inspiration:

  • When you’re abroad, covet the unfamiliar.

When you travel for work, seek the foreign. Mind you, everything will conspire against this. You will likely stay in a 5-star business hotel. Not foreign. Your very gracious hosts will wine and dine you and offer you the tourist version of their city. Faintly exotic, sanitized, safe. Nice. Not really foreign.

Inspiration will come when you leave the beaten path. Visit a neighborhood that’s not on a tourist map. Catch a movie in a language you don’t understand. Walk into a pub not listed in the guide book. Venture beyond.

  • When you’re at home, covet the unfamiliar.

The foreign, psychologist Blair Glaser reminds me as I interview her for my forthcoming book, is right around the corner.

Here are some ways in which we court the foreign in our own backyard: Attend a church service or spiritual gathering by a community whose beliefs differ from ours. Visit a social club where folks speak a foreign language. Join a Meet-Up chapter where folks are passionate about a hobby we know nothing about. Go to a concert by a band whose music we never listen to.

We tend to seek inspiration in the familiar. When we covet the foreign, we court a sense of discomfort and creative dislocation.

Our reward? Inspiration that challenges our status quo. Provokes us, propels us forward. Creates momentum.

And momentum is simply the best kind of inspiration.