Brilliance or BS? A Three Part Series

The internet loves romanticized, courageous, renegade quotes about pursuing passions, taking roads less traveled and “just doing it”. Quotes saturate Pinterest boards and news feeds—we print them to hang on our walls, we tattoo them on our bodies. 

But how often do we listen to their advice? 

Sometimes I feel we use quotes the same way we use well-intentioned gym memberships: we buy memberships and post quotes but we rarely visit the gym and fall short of seizing the day. Yet even though we don’t use them, we feel better because we have them. 

Is it because the quotes are bullshit? 

Or are we lacking the courage to embrace the advice? 

I’ve thought about this a lot lately as I’ve noticed an imbalance between the number of inspirational quotes I see online and number of people doing interesting things. 

There are three quotes that have struck a chord with me in the past two months; quotes that I wanted to share online but realized I only wanted to share them if I was actually doing what the quote advised.

This is a three part series and the first of the three quotes comes from Steve Jobs:

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.

Is this quote brilliant or bullshit? 

Did Steve Jobs actually ask himself each morning if he was satisfied with his current situation? When the answer was no did he immediately change direction or rather did he let the dissatisfaction plant a seed in his mind that grew into a decision to make a change? Did he quietly resolve to fix the problem or did a wave of paralyzing anxiety wash over him? 

Any time I’ve thought about making a drastic change I’ve been overwhelmed with uncertainty coupled with ceaseless worry. 

You’re just being a quitter, suck it up.  

What if your new plan doesn’t work? 

You can’t just up and change direction, you made commitments! 

Everyone will think you’re crazy. 

This quote makes it sound like Steve would go four days feeling unsatisfied and then make a quick decision to pivot—much the way one would decide they’re unhappy with their outfit before absentmindedly throwing it off and putting on a new one. I know Steve Jobs was a brilliant mind but I refuse to believe that he had the confidence and self-assurance to make big changes at the drop of a hat. 

While he was probably highly skilled at not sticking around bad situations longer than necessary, he was still human, which means the change was accompanied by some level of uncertainty and anxiety. That being said, I do think there’s brilliance in the quote when it’s distilled to it’s core message: if you repeatedly feel you aren’t doing the right thing, do something different. 

If you post Steve’s quote on your Facebook page yet continue to complain you hate you’re job for months on end, that’s bullshit.

But if you decide the time has come to make a change and you find the courage to do it, that’s brilliance.