Human Intelligence

What inspires you?
Answered by Martha Stewart, Michael Dell and 8 others
  • Martha Stewart

    Martha Stewart

  • Michael Dell

    Michael Dell

  • Hilda Huang

    Hilda Huang

  • Nina Tandon

    Nina Tandon

  • David Kelley

    David Kelley

  • Alessandro Stratta

    Alessandro Stratta

  • Jake Shimabukuro

    Jake Shimabukuro

  • Thomas Keller

    Thomas Keller

  • iO Tillett Wright

    iO Tillett Wright

  • Vanessa Woods

    Vanessa Woods

  1. Martha Stewart Founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia


    Well, I've always been inspired by experts. And it doesn't matter if the expert is an expert housekeeper, an expert gardener, an expert maintenance man, an expert carpenter. I'm drawn to people who know what they're doing, who think about their everyday work, who try to make their work better than it's ever been before. And when I -- and it doesn't happen a lot. Again, I'm finding it more and more difficult to find the experts. The pride in the work, the pride in the discovery, the pride in the everyday is not as prevalent as it used to be.

    More answers from Martha Stewart »

  2. Michael Dell Chairman and CEO, Dell Inc.


    When I was a little kid, my dad had this adding machine. I remember being fascinated where you'd type in numbers and more numbers would come out, and this was like a precursor to the calculator, the semiconductor-based calculator. Then I remember when the semiconductor-based calculator came out -- the first semiconductor-based calculator from National Semiconductor -- and getting one of those, and just being enamored with the idea that this machine could actually calculate. I was just incredibly interested in that. I kind of liked math. And then I was sort of growing up at the dawn of the microprocessor age. Timing is everything, so I'm reading BYTE Magazine. I'm reading about microprocessors and floppy disk drives, and so that was the embryonic soup that I was in.

    I saw all that and just became incredibly fascinated with the idea of these calculating machines. You could write a program and send it off, and the answer would come back. I dove into all of that and tried to understand all of that. Then I started taking these machines apart and learning how the different chips worked and where they came from and what they cost -- and saw that the ingredients that went into these machines were generally available. You sort of looked at what it cost to build a machine and what they sold for and how they were distributed.

    I really saw that the way these machines were sold was incredibly inefficient. So I started a business to sell upgrade kits and add-ons for computers, but I was always fascinated with the idea of the power of these calculating machines and the human mind, and how you could put those together and do amazing things. That's kind of coming true, so it's really fun for me. I continue to be inspired by what I see in our industry. I still think it's the very early days of how do you use technology to enable full human potential?

    More answers from Michael Dell »

  3. Hilda Huang Bach Enthusiast, Musician

    I have to say watching my peers work and my colleagues, and watching my parents and my teachers, all inspire me. They have this uninhibited passion to do whatever they love -- whether that is designing computer software, which is what my dad does. Or just like my friends, when they're learning music, they seem so interested that I feel when I'm around them I have to be just as interested as they are. And that really inspires me and pushes me to work more than what I usually would be able to do by myself.

    More answers from Hilda Huang »

  4. Nina Tandon Postdoctoral Staff Associate Researcher, Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, Columbia University; Associate Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

    People who are very joyful and doing something totally different than what I’m doing. It inspires me to want to learn more about them.

    More answers from Nina Tandon »

  5. David Kelley Founder and Chairman of IDEO & Founder of Stanford


    What really inspires me is my students mostly in that they have all this energy and they have all this curiosity, but they have no framework to put it in. And so it's great being the old guy. I can build the framework and then watch how amazing the things are that they come up with -- it's just like, "I would never go that way!" I have a friend who says the eggs teach the chickens, which I always thought is a great way to think of it.

    More answers from David Kelley »

  6. Alessandro Stratta Executive Chef; STRATTA at Wynn Las Vegas


    Some of the heroes, or the people that I call my mentors, are not so much chefs because of their actual technical skills. It's the way they bring across and express the rightness of working together, the wholesomeness, if you will, of having a common goal, and the fact that you want to do well by them, because the satisfaction that they get by seeing you progressing as one of their students -- it's palpable. And there's been two or three people like that in my life that even though one of them I was thinking about just yesterday, I haven't seen in 30 years, but I think that he would be proud of me.

    More answers from Alessandro Stratta »

  7. Jake Shimabukuro Ukulele Virtuoso


    A lot of my inspiration came from Bruce Lee and Bill Cosby. Bruce Lee because I just really got into -- well, aside from the fact that he was just so cool -- I really got into his philosophy and just the way that he approached martial arts was the way that I wanted to approach music. He started in a very traditional fashion with very traditional Kung Fu or Wing Chun. I kind of looked at it as, for me starting out on the ukulele, I started out playing all traditional Hawaiian music. That's very standard for the ukulele.

    But then there came a point where Bruce Lee felt that he wanted to explore the other styles of martial arts. He took it as far as just being open to everything. He felt that every style of martial arts had something special about it. He wanted to learn all that he could and then just take the things that really spoke to him or the things that he felt he liked or that he felt he could make a part of who he is. Martial arts was all just an expression for him.

    So I thought, "Well, in music, all of these different genres of music, like jazz or classical or rock or blues, those are just like different forms of martial arts." I remember thinking to myself, "Well, if Bruce Lee played the ukulele, what would he do?" That's why he was a huge inspiration for me -- even the physical things. For example, he had this technique called the "one-inch punch," where he could keep his hand an inch away from the target and yet he could just unleash this power that could send a 300-pound person to the floor.

    I remember thinking, looking at the ukulele, the distance between the first string and the fourth string is only about an inch, so I thought, "If I can apply that same one-inch punch concept to the way that I attack the strings," I thought, "Wow, that would be really cool. I could get that speed, that snap, that conviction behind every stroke."

    So that's when I kind of realized it's the one-inch punch, but just because his hand or his fist is an inch from the target, that doesn't mean that the source of the power is an inch away from the target. That's when I started to utilize my entire body when I played the ukulele because I realized it's not just about my hands. It's about my toes and my feet and my legs and my knees and my back and my hips and my shoulders.

    Putting all of that into every stroke or every strum and just snapping out all of that energy would give me the conviction that I needed and that power to create the music that I wanted to create.

    More answers from Jake Shimabukuro »

  8. Thomas Keller Chef / Owner of The French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Bar Bouchon & Ad Hoc


    "Inspiration" is an interesting word. I think, for me, really, I don't necessarily think it was inspiration that drove me down the path to become a chef. I think it was my appreciation for rituals and repetition.

    Standing in front of the dish machine at my mother's restaurant really taught me a lot about what I do, without even realizing it at the time, of course. It was those rituals of operating that dish machine, understanding how to be organized, how to be efficient, the fact that you were part of a team, and they all relied on you, and you had to deliver the dishes to the chef and the glasses to the bar and the silverware to the waiters.

    It was very important to be able to interact with the entire group as a team in order to reach your goals, which were to, again, give the guests the experience. And then repetition: Doing something over and over and over and over again, you get good at it. Certainly, as a cook, that's what our lives are about. It's about that repetition -- going to work every day and doing the same thing. It's not always something new.

    That's kind of a myth, that we do something new every day. It's being able to cut that brunoise of vegetables perfectly, every day, for 300 days a year, 10 years at a time, and saying, "This is what really gets me excited. This is what I'm satisfied doing." Yes, and there are those moments when you get to explore new avenues or learn new things, but even they, after a while, become part of that repetition and that ritual.

    More answers from Thomas Keller »

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