Thomas Edison once said that “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” But I think inspiration is more than just 1%. I would say it’s about 20% for me.

This begs the question: what inspires me? Here’s my list.

  1. Music
  2. Traveling
  3. Books
  4. Internet
  5. People

Music has been a part of my life ever since I moved to the United States. This is perhaps the greatest asset of living in America for me. The first CD I bought was either “Nimrod” by Green Day or “Turn the Radio Off” by Reel Big Fish. I’ve been collecting music ever since. It’s the driving force whenever I need to relax and work. I used to fall asleep by putting on some soft music. In December of 2014, inspired by one of my Florida couchsurfing hosts, I exchanged my electric bass for an acoustic guitar and reignited my interest in creating music.

Talking about traveling… I remember there were times I saw something new that I never would have thought about looking. Once I was in Barcelona and saw this great photography book called Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs (Amazon). I didn’t buy it because I didn’t want to carry additional items in my already filled backpack. But it’s a great book to read if you’re a beginner photographer or just want to brush up on some photography concepts. There were numerous times when I thought of something new as I traveled. Traveling forces me to think differently.

Books are an obvious source of inspirations. Most of the books on my reading list are nonfictional. I find that I mostly enjoy reading books about the mind. I just traded in my Kindle for a Kindle Paperwhite, which I hope to bring with me wherever I go. On this note, I recommend a website called It’s a digital library where you can borrow ebooks using your library card. I’m lucky that I have a New York Public Library card that I can borrow books from the largest public library in the country.

In terms of quick reads, I have a RSS reader that I use for reading technology news, along with other news, from the internet. It’s called Ever since Google Reader was dismantled, I found Feedly to be the next best replacement. You can aggregate news sites via RSS to one central place to do all your readings. The blog that I follow the most is

And last but not least, I get inspirations from the people around me. I think each person has something I can learn from. Some people I learn a lot, some not so much. Either way, having an open mind is very important to me.

Maybe there are other things I missed in terms of what really inspire me, but I think these five categories are the major ones. I think we are all inspired by something, whether by mentors or sources of knowledge. What things inspire you and get you going?

Author: Hiatt Zhao

I'm a photographer, a web application developer, an explorer, and a creator, who is possessed by some sort of wanderlust.

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