to live your life you must face your death
10 ways to make it through a stress-filled week

don't settle: inspiration from steve jobs

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you've probably heard the sad news of Steve Jobs' death. And you've also probably either read or watched all or parts of his 2005 Standford commencement speech. As someone who has been really struggling with her job lately — do I stay and keep the paycheck but feel unfulfilled every day? or do I leave and risk either not finding another steady job or not succeeding the way I hope to working on my own? —  listening to Steve's words has given me an immense amount of hope and inspiration. 

In the speech, Steve said:

You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. 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. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

After hearing that, I thought to myself: "You know what? He's right. Why should I settle for something less than what I love? I have passion. I have things I would love to be doing. So why am I not doing them?" There is only one answer to that last question and it is: FEAR. I'm afraid. I'm afraid to do what I love because what if I fail? What if I struggle and find that I'm miserable? It's one thing to be unhappy doing a job that you don't love, but it's quite another thing to be living out your dream and failing at it.

It's that fear and all of the rationalizations that come along with it — "The economy is so bad; I can't give up my paycheck." "How would I support myself if I wasn't able to make any money?" "I can't give up all of the amenities I've gotten used to in my life." "So many people try to do what I want to do and don't succeed so why bother?" "What will people think of me if I don't succeed?" "I have to be more practical. Grown-ups don't just quit their jobs to become writers." "What about health insurance?" — that are holding me back. 

But there is a force greater than my fear — a situation that cannot be avoided and that, as I mentioned last week, serves as one of the best motivators — and that force is death. Scary as the idea of dying might be, it's inevitable. It's going to happen. Like Steve, I want to use my knowledge of life's end to motivate me into living. In the speech, Steve shared this story: 


When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, 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.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure —  these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. 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.


Cliche as the "follow your heart" notion is, when put in this context, it is freshly inspiring. In the past, the notion of following my heart has always been held back by the thoughts of all I had to lose. But, as Steve reminds us, there is nothing to lose. This is my life — these are our lives and if we don't live them now, when are we going to live them?  

Though it saddens me to know that the world has lost such an innovative soul, the death of Steve Jobs and the words he left ringing in our ears has served as a reminder to me that life is short. After writing my post about death quite coincidentally last week, I was already thinking about how important it is to live life to the fullest, to enjoy and really make the most of each moment, and hearing the sad news of Steve's death only served to further remind me that this is my life. And it's up to me to make it what I want it to be. Likewise, it's up to you to make your life the life you want to be living.

As Steve said: Don't settle. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Though I've heard these phrases a million times before, his words came into my life just when I needed them the most. So from now on, I'm not just going to be listening to this advice. I'm going to be living it. 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Yep. It's fear and all that comes with it. Truly accepting the thought of death in the moment would be the ultimate key to opening the door for living life day to day. Even though noone knows how they would really feel if confronted with that reality. I say acccept that a great deal of the time life is living us. We just have to learn to go with it! Thanks.

What I also got from Steve Jobs passing is that he did however, have some regrets that he had been so busy with work (albeit inspirational, innovative, mind expanding work!) that his kids, his family, did not know him as well as he wished for at the end of his I feel it important to remember that part of the lesson as well...don't settle for doing less than what your love and brings you joy for your work, but don't sacrifice your love life and family life either! Balance is always key.

Great article, good luck, I wish you all the best! More people should live life this way :)

I love your blog and I've been waiting patiently for you to write a piece about Steve Jobs and his commencement speech at Stanford. Like you, I've settled into a job for the paycheck and I've been afraid to take that leap into the unknown (I also dream to be a writer). For years, I was told that the dream of writing is great, but I need a fallback plan... one that will actually pay the bills. So now, I'm living the fallback plan and wishing for the dream.

The day Steve Jobs died and I heard the commencement speech, something woke within me. His words made me realize that life is too short to ignore your dream.

I'm starting to realize that as long as you believe you can do something, then anything is possible but the most important thing is to believe that you can do it... and fight for it no matter what happens. Look at Steve Jobs. He was fired from his dream, basically rejected, but yet he knew what he loved and he fought to get it back.

Enough about me though. I'm really writing to tell you that your blog has gotten me through some tough moments and the daily e-mails always put me in a better place. You have true talent and it's wonderful to hear that you are going to be living Steve Jobs' advice. You are the only blog writer that I regularly follow... and it's strange, but you always seem to write about exactly what I need to read at a given moment. So, thank you for that... and you shouldn't be afraid that you will fail.

Derrick - Yes, learning to go with it is so important too. Even though we all want to be living specific kinds of lives, we often have to go with the flow and that's part of life. Often a great part of life!

Luey - Balance is absolutely key and you've brought up such a great point. Everyone is focusing on all of the work Steve did and not addressing that, like so many of us, he might have died with regrets. Balancing work and life is something we should all strive to do.

Kmorgenweg - Thank you! It's not going to be easy and I know that, but I have a feeling it's going to be worth it. Thanks for sharing your support.

Laura - Thank you so much! I'm happy to hear that you love reading Positively Present. I've definitely heard the words "fallback plan" more than once. It's a lot harder to accomplish anything when the fallback plan is holding you back. Like you, I'm suffering from this right now and, cliche as it might be, Steve's speech really made me realize that if I want to live my dream, I have to DO it. And you have to believe you can do it. And I'm finally starting to believe that I can. Thank you so much for your support. From your comment alone, I can tell that you're a wonderful writer and I hope that you and I can both achieve our dreams someday. Thanks again for reading Positively Present. It makes me so happy (and fulfilled!) to know that I'm writing about things that matter to you and that you can relate to. Reading your comment left me feeling inspired and I can't wait to get started on my dream so thank you!!

Hi - longtime reader, first time commenter here. I've kept this post open in my browser for the last couple of days so that I don't let go of the feeling of inspiration I've had since Steve Jobs passed away and I watched his Stanford speech for the first time. Steve's advice could not have come at a time more apropos, when I have been swirling in a sea of exciting ideas about where I want to go in life but hesitant to make too much progress in one direction. And it also came at a time when a beloved family member's life had just been cut short by cancer.

We all are guilty of thinking "there will always be time" for this or that project or family member or friend or for learning that new skill. No, there will not - that is the reality. So be sure you are making even a little progress toward your dreams TODAY. Make time for your good friends TODAY. Tell your family members you love them - TODAY.

Best wishes to you in living Steve's advice and following your dreams, and keep us updated. I myself was inspired last week to finally start blogging in earnest - something that's been in my heart to do for a long while, but until now I "just never had the time."

Sarah - Thank you so much for reading Positively Present! Like you, Steve's words of wisdom came at the perfect time for me, a time when I've been really thinking about where I want to go in my life. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss of your family member. Sometimes it is loss that serves as a reminder that we must really strive to enjoy every moment of our lives. It sounds like you've started doing something that you've always wanted to do, which is wonderful! Thank you for your comment and the inspiration.

That was the best post ever. It was the one I felt you writing it with all your heart, you know. And by putting Steve's words into it, I have to admit it just improved the post.

When I first read Steve's words, I thought "Wow. We think we live the most we can, but there's so much more to be living out there". Just as you said, his words came to me in the right moment in life also. But you know what? Your words, specially this "And it's up to me to make it what I want it to be. Likewise, it's up to you to make your life the life you want to be living." inspired me as much as Steve's.

Thank you.
Let's not only think, but live as well.

Samantha - Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and could really feel that I was writing this from the heart. I'm so glad this post inspired you!

thank you very much for ur guidance

Vijai - You're welcome! Thank YOU very much for reading Positively Present!

Great post Dani...probably one of my favorites. I haven't posted in a while but I've still been reading. I'm not at all exactly sure what to say in this comment, but it really resonated with me and especially at this time.

I was sadden to hear of Steve Jobs passing and my heart went out to his family. The quotes you posted above show that no matter how far to the top you get...we are all a work in progress and no matter how things look on the outside, we all strive to do and be better.

I've realized recently that fear has been a motivator and a deterrent in my life. I've gone for many things in my life to prove that I can do it (for those that told me for so long I wasn't good enough) and more than that for myself. I can't do anything halfway, and when things become to comfortable it doesn't sit well with me. I want to know I've made a contribution while I've been here. I'm going to work toward that goal.

I think you are a great writer and have a way with words that really touch others (more than you probably know or ever will). I wish you success in going for your dream (you have already been doing it pretty well from what I can see since I found your blog...I can't even remember how long ago now but that's a good sign because I enjoy it very much) and living it.

Thank you.

Saggleo - I'm so happy this post was one of your favorites. I know a lot of people have been writing about Steve lately, but I felt so inspired by him that I had to. In my life, I feel like fear has been one of the main things holding me back and listening to the words of Steve Jobs made me realize that life is too short to live in fear. Thank you so much for your kind words about my writing. It's the one thing I've always loved to do and it makes me feel so wonderful to know that it's appreciated by readers like you. Thanks so much for being such a great supporter of Positively Present!

Hi Dani.
Just following you on twitter. i'm happy to find your blog! it is abnormal considering so many other blogs are garbage.. obviously you gave me inspiration, but don't put pressure on yourself ;) i'd prefer few articles but quality rather than many but narrow.


Teguh - Thanks for following Positively Present on Twitter and reading Positively Present! I'm happy you found the blog. I usually post two articles a week and on Sunday I feature my favorite quote or song. Glad to know the blog is inspiring you!

Very well put! I wrote a blog about Steve Jobs as well and since I watched his speech on YouTube, I have kept the words, "Life is too short not to follow your heart" in my mind every time I was challenged in my journey to pursuing my dreams. Thanks for the inspirational words!

Chinh - Thanks for your comment! I'm glad you were on the same page, writing about Steve Jobs. He definitely had some inspiring words!

The comments to this entry are closed.