This Steve Jobs Quote Will Refuel Your Creative Ambition

Ryan Porter

“For Steve Jobs” by Srinath H S is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The goal is to let great ideas move you

I continuously believe everything happens for a reason.

When the pandemic forced me to leave my startup, I lost a piece of myself, and a domino effect of feelings left me unmotivated.

I had just turned 25. I was in the prime of my life. I was ready to take on the challenges of 2020. Wait, I didn’t ask for this, though.

It’s hard to think positive thoughts from a situation that has caused unprecedented turmoil across the world. But there’s a reason for all this hidden somewhere.

As a creative, I look for the significance in everything. Simple walks to the coffee shop become content in my mind. I see an opportunity to write a story, and I try to squeeze every ounce of juice from it.

Turning everything into content, however, is a double-edged sword. It’s the Midas Touch of storytelling, and we know how that tale ended.

Tim Denning wrote about the downside of being creative. He says that when basic occurrences like conversations, reading books, and frustrations become content, that’s when the problems start.

“Not everything you do in life has to have meaning.” — Denning.

Constant creativity is exhausting. My stories suffer when I don’t give my brain a chance to refuel. I’m left indolent, forcing myself to churn out content in pursuit of a greater dream.

This quote changed the game

One of my students inspired me during a Zoom call. I was checking to see if he had finished his art project, and he showed me one drawing with this quote inscribed in it:

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” — Steve Jobs

This quote is powerful. I’m drawn to it like I’m supposed to feel attracted to my passion. I thought about the “something” I care about. Lately, it’s been the writing.

I pondered the quote for a week. I thought about what it means, but more importantly, what it feels like to be drawn to something just because you love doing it.

Here’s what I’ve gathered.

Push vs. pull

I’m a pusher. Everything about powering through and getting what you want with determination and willpower makes sense to me.

There are plenty of aspects of life that you have to push for:

  • Asking your boss for an annual raise
  • Going through a tough breakup
  • Pushing the cart at the grocery store so you can fill it with bags of popcorn

Both literal and metaphorical, we push every single day of our lives. We’re built for it, but we can go overcapacity. You can’t live off of pure willpower alone.

Being pulled toward a vision makes me think of flow states. You only enter the flow state when under the right conditions, but you become fully immersed in whatever task is at hand.

When I sit down to write, I put on noise-canceling headphones, turn on music, and put the snacks away to give myself the best chance of entering the flow zone.

When I’m there, I feel like I can write forever. The words just come to me, and my mind melds into the topic I’m writing.

To me, that’s what it feels like to be pulled toward a vision. When it pulls you, all your decisions become instinctive. You’re a newborn puppy that already knows to scratch hard-to-reach spots with its hind legs.

The problem, naturally, is when we start pushing on a door with a handle. Some doors pull open, and some doors even open for us.

To push is to force

I climbed Mount Whitney in one day. It’s a 14,494-foot giant that stands above all other mountains in the lower 48 states.

My friends and I didn’t properly train, acclimate, or mentally prepare for the trek. We assumed we could conquer the mountain because we were young and robust.

We summited, but it was singlehandedly the most challenging thing, physically and mentally, I had ever done. The mountain didn’t pull me to the top; I pushed myself to my limit.

I didn’t want to summit another peak for a long time after that. I burned myself out after just one day.

When push comes to shove, you might end up knocking yourself on the floor.

Consistency is an essential factor in building a great habit. Making a habit of working your creative muscles is the only way you’re going to achieve your creative goals. You can’t expect consistency, however, if you have to push yourself.

Therefore, to push is to fail.

You’ll know you’re pulled by your vision

Acting on your vision isn’t a yellow-brick road. There are hardships, even in the most light-hearted and fun ventures. You might even love what you do but still find yourself pushing to make it work.

I love photography. It’s my favorite medium of expressing myself artistically. I know my style, and I embrace it. Photography pulled me in further when I started traveling with my friends. I practiced often and banked some high-quality shots.

Then, I figured I could make a living of it. I shot images of a few products and sent them to the companies and said, “Here’s what I can do for you. You should hire me.”

I got some responses, but something wasn’t right. I knew I was good enough to make money this way, but I couldn’t put my finger on the problem. Steve Jobs put the puzzle pieces together for me.

I realized I was pushing photography past my natural boundaries. There’s a difference between growing because you’re uncomfortable and pushing your agenda onto other people.

Not only that, but the push for photo work exhausted me.

When I started writing again, it felt weird too. I was stressed about it. I wrote about my feelings and how I feel useless when I’m unproductive. It took me a while, but I got into a groove. I started writing because I, dare I say, enjoyed it.

I found myself writing in my free time, bopping my head to the music, and catching myself smiling at all the fun I was having. The process of writing made me feel good inside.

The feeling pulled me. I felt like I was home. It felt natural.

That’s when I knew I had something. When I felt the pull, I felt like I was running downhill. It’s tough to stop a boulder in motion.

Put yourself in a position to be pulled to the sun

The earth wants to keep you down. This planet is full of negative people and problems we can’t seem to fix.

Think of the sun as your new center of gravity. It’s a powerful force that, if you get too close, will pull you toward it. Why shoot for the moon when you can aim for the sun?

Make your goal lofty, because why not?

Here’s how you do it:

  • Mental preparedness: Read books, blogs, and LinkedIn posts about your passion. Who are the pioneers of your industry? You can learn so much for free, and it’ll have a positive effect on your mindset.
  • Physical preparedness: Stay physically active to keep your mind and body stimulated. If you look good, you play good.
  • Prevent yourself from being overwhelmed: Set timers for your work. Work on weekends, but cut yourself off. You don’t burn yourself out and quit on your vision.
  • Separate work and pleasure: I thought I’d be making $8K per month right now selling digital products. I undershot my estimate quite a bit, but it’s okay. Instead, I’m focusing on improving my livelihood through a day-job first. That takes the pressure off my writing so I can enjoy the process.

Final Thought

Vision is what separated Steve Jobs from his competitors. Others pushed to create the next great technology, but Jobs let himself be pulled by it.

You will know when your vision pulls you. It might be an unfamiliar feeling, but it’s distinct. It’s not always going to be a linear-pull either. Working toward your vision is a bumpy ride.

Your vision will flux and push and pull you at times. Your feelings will go through a spin cycle. You’ll doubt your abilities and give up from time to time.

But when you give up, yet always return the vision, that’s pull. When you write five articles one month but write 15 the next, that’s pull. Time and patience remain the foundation your vision is built upon.

Your success comes down to a feeling. Your life force is consistent with your environment. Putting yourself in an optimal position matters, but the willingness to be pulled off your feet is vital.

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I write about startup culture, productivity, and life's moments. My goal is to serve as a teacher for the next generation of content creators.

Los Angeles, CA

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