How Steve Jobs Used His Own Death To ‘Save’ His Life

Steve Jobs

Guess what?

You’ll be dead soon!

Do I have your attention?


I know it sounds morbid. And I’m sorry to go all dark on you. But it’s true. You’re going to die. We all are.

But you knew that already right?

Have you thought about what that really means though? Have you stopped to think of the implications of that statement?

Steve Jobs did.

And in doing so he saved himself. He made the best of the life he had while he had it.


In his famous speech to the students at Stanford, Jobs explained that he asked himself this one question every single day for over 30 years.

“If today was the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”

And when the answer was “No” for too many days in a row, he knew he had to change something.

Steve Jobs said: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to make the big choices in life. Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, fear of embarrassment and failure, all these things just fall way in the face of death. Remembering you’re going to die, is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose”

When first heard those words, each one hammered it’s way into my soul. Every word left an indelible impression in my heart.


I marvelled at the gravity of that statement.


Because I think it’s one of the smartest ways to keep yourself on track to living a full life.

Let me ask you this: If you were to die at the end of this day … Would you look back on your life and have any regrets?

If you answered “yes” then you’ve got to ask yourself the hard questions!

What are you going to do between reading these words, and taking your last breath, that’ll make your life meaningful?

When I asked myself this question I realised that I wanted to build my own business. I wanted to get away from the rat race and really do something I believed in. Before I watched Steve Jobs speech it all seemed too risky.

But after listening to what he had to say?

I realised how fragile and finite my life was. And the fears associated with following my dreams just dissipated.

I was faced with two simple choices. Either I was going to live the life of a banker — the ‘right’ choice that had been presented to me by my society.

Or, I was going to blaze my own trail, and get paid to change the world in a way I thought was meaningful.

So, in light of Jobs’ words, what are your choices right now?

Here are some action steps I wrote down after watching Steve Job’s speech:

1. Ask yourself this one question every day

steve jobs 1

Each morning, look in the mirror and ask yourself: “If today was the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”

If the answer is not yes too many times in a row, then you know you need to change something in your life.

2. After asking yourself that one question, read this quote from Steve Jobs

steve jobs 2

“Remembering you’re 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”

This quote is very powerful for two reasons:

  • When you see things from the perspective of a finite life, change is no longer intimidating.
  • It automatically helps you prioritise what you want to change in your life and what you don’t.

3. Revisit your ‘why’ each day.

Just for a moment, forget about society’s expectations of you. Now, ask yourself: Why am I here on this earth? What is my true calling? What do I really want to do with my life?

Now unlike a lot of other authors, I’m not suggesting you abandon everything and madly pursue your newfound passion.

What I am suggesting is this: get really clear on what truly moves you in this life, and gradually work towards incorporating that into your daily activities.

4. Get comfortable with change by focusing on this one changing constant in your own body

Want to know something interesting about your breath?

Each breath has it’s own life cycle. In a sense you could say that each time you breathe in and then breathe out, that’s the end of one cycle.

A little death.

Now, view each breath as a precious little life cycle that it is. You’ll savour each moment  and you’ll take less for granted.

5. Unlock the secret of most successful entrepreneurs

There’s one thing I love about entrepreneurs. They see opportunity where most other’s don’t.


Because from an entrepreneur’s perspective, fear is not as big a motivator, as is opportunity. Like Jobs, they don’t think there is that much to lose. So they take their chances.

And because of this attitude, they see past the (fear based) problems most of us see, and are excited by the opportunity to solve those problem.

Their world’s are filled with possibility and potential while the rest of us plug away with our blinkers firmly on.

See, the truth is, most of the fears that are hardwired into our lizard brains, don’t apply in today’s environment.

Stepping off the beaten path, or taking calculated risks isn’t going to result in us being crushed by a woolly mammoth.

But our lizard brains tell us otherwise.

Ironically enough, when you live with the awareness that you’ve got one shot at this life, you’re more likely to recognise that ‘lying lizard brain’ that steals your dreams.

6. See the opportunity in change

Change is something we’re all hardwired to resist. Very few people I know actively embrace change.

But the ones who do?

They’re the one’s that enjoy true happiness and success in the long term.

And how do you see opportunity in change?

By training your mind not to fear it. By recognising that change is the one constant in life. By embracing new ideas and facing your fears proactively.

By using mindfulness to become aware of your reactions to change. Then by studying the underlying assumptions that drive those reactions. And then by changing them. One at a time.

Mindfulness is simple but not easy. It takes practice. It’s a lot like building muscles through weight training at the gym. It takes consistent effort over a long period of time.

And like most things that take time to cultivate, it’s so totally worth it!

7. Use the ‘5 year test’ to put things in perspective

steve jobs 3

Everyone has crappy things happen to them. We all have expectations.

And they often get thwarted.

Maybe you just missed your train this morning. Maybe you didn’t have time to get to the gym and you’re feeling frustrated with the lack of time in your life.

Or maybe some ‘inconsiderate jerk’ cut you off while you were driving to work, and you’re still seething.

Ask yourself this question: When I look back on this in 5 years, how much will this matter to me?

‘Nuff said.

You’ve got this!

You want to live each moment to it’s fullest?

You can.

You want to live a life you’ll be proud of?

You can.

You want to make your own dent in this universe?

You can!

Because listen, If Steve Jobs could achieve what he did in his very short life of 56 years, just think what you could do in your life span?

My guess: pretty much anything.

“But … but …” I hear you say    “Jobs was a genius. I’m no Steve Jobs”

I’m not suggesting you be anything like Steve Jobs.

What I am suggesting is you consider living with the same awareness that drove him to achieve true greatness and fulfilment: the awareness that he’d be dead soon and there really was nothing to lose.

  • He used this awareness to ‘get out of his own way’ and really give this world everything he had.
  • He made every day in his life really count for something.
  • He moved himself and others by doing great work that he truly believed in.

You can too.

Starting right now!

My hope for all of us is this: When we get off at that last stop of this journey called “life”, each of us are fortunate enough to utter the same words Steve Jobs did with his last breath : “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”


About Ash Roy

Ash helps busy professionals and entrepreneurs to eliminate stress by doubling their productivity in half the time. Download your free copy of Tips To Make You A Productivity Ninja and Win You Back 5 Hours Each Week. You can also check out his podcast which features some of the world’s leading online entrepreneurs including Neil Patel (Kissmetrics), Rand Fishkin (Moz), John Lee Dumas (Entrepreneur on Fire) and lots more.

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