I have a hard time getting motivated, especially in the morning. A freshly brewed cup of tea; a snuggle with the dog; curling up again under the down comforter; an easy and soft landing into the day. What in the world could be better?
Like most self-indulgent habits, this one is not necessarily in my best interest. Feeling all cosseted, luxuriating in the freedom of the freelancer, I stroll into the day where I really should be charging full steam ahead.
But then again — should I? If I’m in control of my choices and how I spend my time, then maybe I’m doing the right thing by that easy entry into the day. After all, what exactly is it that I’m trying to be motivated to do? What would Steve Jobs, who accomplished so much in so little time, say?
These inspirational quotes may get you thinking about innovation, life change, ideas for how to stay hungry or how to worry less about how other people think you:
1. "My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time."
The older you get, the more this quote is true. Say no to people who drain you; no to projects that are better done by someone else; yes to a long walk in the park; yes to seeing your friends.
Saying no means that I have more time to focus on what’s really important in life. For me, that’s concentrating on marketing and business development and innovation. It can be discouraging since you rarely see immediate results, and getting the recognition you deserve can be a long game. But Steve had this nailed, recognizing that it is the dogged consistency, even when feeling hopeless, that matters in all great endeavors.
2. "I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."
So, I try again. And again the next day. Some days there are small wins, some days slightly larger ones, and for what feels like long stretches, no wins at all and none in sight. I wonder if I’m really accomplishing anything, making progress, building something more profitable, more sustainable, and larger than the one small effort I made that day. I can’t see it. I can’t know it. I’m not sure.
3. “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
Maybe I misread the small dots, not seeing them for the larger pattern they represent. The first newsletter to former clients results in personalized responses that are touching, affirmative, encouraging. People who want to reconnect, who reference my credibility, trustworthiness and intellectual capital. They remind me that the work I’ve done for the last 20 years has had an impact and left a lasting impression. And their recognition shouldn’t be characterized as a dot at all, but maybe as a sign of an increasingly long string of accomplishments, one bead stacked upon the other.
4. "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
Jobs knew extreme failure – he didn’t finish college, he was fired from Apple. Yet he had that magic combination of instincts and belief that I want just a little of. But fortunately I can – and so can you. If you ever feel discouraged, needing inspiration, or a hand in the small of your back pushing you forward, spend some time with Steve. For one who seemed to soar above us all, he was always the most human among us.
5. "That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple."
In a world that's increasingly changing at a fast pace, interconnected and global there are daily challenges to keeping our thinking clear and focused. Yet, Steve Jobs points out that it is probably one of his key beliefs and therefore it's worth investing in the way that you think about yourself, the world and your work.
6. "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."
While Steve Jobs is clearly a man with an incredible net worth, a lot of people attribute his success to his creativity, in particular and his ability to build a team around him that brought together creative ideas and productized them.
There's nothing wrong with wisdom and experience but there is also a benefit to maintaining a certain level of naivete. It can benefit you a tremendous amount not to pay too much attention to what the experts say, sometimes.
8. "You've got to find a job you love."
When Steve Jobs gave his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, he inspired a class of graduates to think about doing work that filled them with energy, in order to find personal fulfillment and success. One of his most memorable quotes was about finding work that you are passionate about.
9. "Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected."
Steve Jobs is legendary for his attention to detail and his commitment to perfectionism. Sometimes this got him in trouble with his colleagues or gave him a reputation for someone difficult to work with. But the results of his life's work and product and company are a testament to the outcomes when there is a collective commitment to quality from those on your team at work -- or if you work individually, to your own success.
10. "If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."
Often times, finding someone or something we love doesn't just fall into our laps. It can take years of trial and error before we find something at the intersection of our passion and talents and purpose. Don't give up if you don't find this sweet spot right away."
11. "Things don't have to change the world to be important."
Being to set an internal barometer for what is important to you is as important as whether other people think what you do or are working on is important. Be true to your inner compass and believe in what is of value and importance to you. If this is your work, fine. But your personal life and other social issues can be deeply important to some of us.
12. "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Whether you are thinking of making a life change or a career change, rarely do people go into those decisions feeling like the choice is easy. Steve Job's quote about remembering our mortality is a helpful way of reframing our choices and our feelings. Ultimately, we don't anything to our graves with us than our decisions.
The iPhone is, of course, one of the best-known product successes created by Apple and in no small part was this due to the design of the phone. The ease of use is something apparent to small children and Steve Jobs knew that design was an integral part of how a product works. If your work involves creating something -- even a service -- there is a lesson to be taken from this focus on the importance of design.
14. "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me."
One wonders whether Steve Jobs had a sense of his untimely future death when he spoke these words. This memorable quote is a good reminder to focus on what is important and has long-lasting value in life.
15. "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."
If you are someone who faces a lot of naysayers or surprise that you are taking the path less taken or making a decision that looks riskier than the conventional approach, it might help to remember that there is a pre-requisite mindset to doing what seems audacious. And sometimes, in retrospect, it doesn't look so crazy after all.
16.“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
This Steve Jobs quote is related to the earlier quote about the difficulty of creating simplicity. Life is noisy and there are many competing demands on our attention and time. Being focused can mean being narrow but it is also a requirement in some cases to achieving the focus and discipline you need for success.
17. "We don't get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we've all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it."
Sometimes it seems that many of Steve Jobs' quotes are about death but it may be the flip side of the coin that he was always so focused on how to live life fully, and achieve so much in a short time. Death puts a framework and perspective -- and quite frankly, a time limit -- on our time on Earth so in some ways it is no surprise that he is constantly aware of the ticking clock and deadline that forces our hand at choices.
18. "Sometimes life's going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did."
In sum, there are times when it pays to channel your inner Steve. Spend time on what’s important. Persevere and don’t obsess about predicting the future when we all know you can’t. Do work you love and above all — be guided by what you love, people.
19. "I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things."
Be proud of all of your decisions, always.
20. "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become."
True success happens when you follow your heart and you become who you truly want to become.
21. "I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next."
Always keep thinking ahead and moving forward. Appreciate your successes and do more.
Mistakes are inevitable. Admit to them and learn from them.
23. "When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through."
Whatever it is that you're creating, create it well all the way through.
24. "Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles."
Don't rush anything just to produce more of it. Quality is key.
25. "Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
You only live once, and your time is limited. Do the most that you can with it.
26. "We’re just enthusiastic about what we do."
27. "For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
A wise person knows when they need to change something about themselves.
28. "What is Apple, after all? Apple is about people who think ‘outside the box,’ people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done."
29. "Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them."
Your work should always put faith in people.
30. "I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed."
People might tell you that you don't have a shot, but if you believe in yourself, the change you can make could be revolutionary.
31. "My model for business is The Beatles: They were four guys that kept each others’ negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts."
When working on a team, help to balance each other out, and you'll achieve even more together.
32. "Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."
Getting fired isn't the end of the world. When one door closes, even more open.
33. "The doers are the major thinkers. The people that really create the things that change this industry are both the thinker and doer in one person."
Don't be a thinker or a doer — be both a thinker and a doer.
34. "In the broadest context, the goal is to seek enlightenment – however you define it."
Always try to learn from everything you do in life; look for the lesson.
35. "Ultimately, it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things into what you’re doing."
Humans are impressive — expose yourself to the best things that humans have done.
Nancy Halpern is an executive coach with a proven track record in helping senior leaders and their teams reach their full potential. She's been quoted in The Financial Times, The New York Times and other publications, as well as appearing on both NPR and the PBS NewsHour.
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