Why Inspiration Is More Powerful Than Motivation

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

An article written by a co-founder of FeelingSuccess.com (originally published on LinkedIn)

People often wonder what the difference between inspiration and motivation is. I’m convinced that being inspired to do something great, is far more powerful than being motivated. I believe inspiration leads to passion, which ultimately leads to a more fulfilling and successful life. Here’s some definitions of the two terms:


  • something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
  • a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
  • stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity
  • Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on a human mind or soul



  • the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
  • the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
  • the state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something


Based on the above definitions, inspiration seems to be the starting point to a grand purpose, it’s the influence from a person, place, experience, or some other thing that gives reason for someone to do something. Motivation seems to be something that pushes someone to achieve something.

Author Wayne Dyer states “A highly motivated person takes an idea, goes out there, and won’t let anybody interfere with them. Inspiration is exactly the opposite. If motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, inspiration is the reverse. An idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.” (Source here)

After studying literally hundreds of successful people and documenting their traits, I have seldom heard of a story where the person watches motivational videos, goes to motivating events, listens to motivating music, finds their passion, and further uses motivation to achieve it. Instead, almost every story goes something like this:

1) A person, place, experience, or some other thing inspires the individual (often at a very young age)

2) That inspiring moment is so strong they can often still remember it years later.

3) The inspiring moment evokes some sort of new profound passion.

4) The passion becomes strong over time, and pulls the person towards the achievement of their desired goal.

It’s important to notice, no “push” is in the grand scheme of things. Sure motivation is used throughout, but motivation only lasts temporarily, often only used when the person is in a negative state and needs to get back to that passionate state. But inspiration is what initially created the burning desire.

Inspiration is something that evokes passion which creates a permanent inner yearning that pulls you towards your life vision.

Motivation uses some outside incentive to push you towards your life vision.

Let me further explain by using some of the most successful people of all time as examples. Steve Jobs was inspired by his dad who worked on electronics for fun, which evoked his passion for electronics. He was further inspired by John Lennon to be a “non-conformist” to be a little different and push outside the boundaries. He went on to be one of the greatest tech innovators of our time.

Magic Johnson was inspired both by his mom, and by two African American CEO’s. His mom bought him a basketball at the age of 5 which inspired him to be an NBA superstar. In fact, he became so passionate he took the ball with him everywhere. Johnson in his teens worked as a cleaner in an office building, and the two owners of the building were two African American CEO’s. Johnson states that he didn’t know that African American’s owned office buildings and big businesses, he was inspired by the two to want to be a businessman. He even pretended to be the CEO when the two weren’t around (watch the video here).

Inspiration doesn’t require someone telling you that “you MUST do this, get pumped up, let’s make it happen!” instead, inspiration is subtle, it creeps in when the mind is alert, when you’re “in the moment.” It often comes indirectly, it comes from a specific moment whereby all of a sudden you have a new perspective, a new state of mind, and that new perception often doesn’t go away. Most movies where a person walks away with a twinkle in their eye as if they’ve watched something magnificent describe the movie as “inspiring” not motivating.

Inspiration can not be taught or even preached, and often comes in many forms, usually, from the perception that what is being witnessed is something magnificent which evokes a new positive perception.

In the book The Unwinding, George Packer talks about how Jay Z was inspired after seeing a fridge that dispensed water and ice cubes, which made him realize how good life can be. After this inspiring moment, he developed a new, self-motivated, hustler mentality. Jay Z’s passion for music came from his teacher who inspired him to use words in various ways, and also from his mother listening to music throughout the house, who bought Jay a boombox when he was a kid.

Director James Cameron was already passionate about sci-fi movies and mechanics, but watching Star Wars inspired him to go full force into the movie industry because it showed him it was possible to blend science and art together.

NHL superstar Sidney Crosby as a young kid in a Tim Horton’s commercial states“Wouldn’t it be amazing? Getting up everyday and playing, doing something that you love to do” with his eyes glistening as he dreams about his future. One can only describe this scene as “inspiring.” Sidney Crosby was inspired by his dad (who was also a hockey player) to play hockey, and often looked up to Mario Lemieux.

Warren Buffett describes his transportation to work as “tap-dancing” to work, and in an interview with CNBC states “finding your passion” is how others can learn to “tap-dance” to work. Buffett was inspired from his father’s stock brokerage firm, and made his first investment at the age of 11.

The list can go on and on and on.

Inspiration comes indirectly, often from the perception of something great; great achievers, artwork, inventions, nature, and more. That’s why people describe these moments as “awe-inspiring” which means by definition, causing spectacular or magnificent.

I truly believe the greatest influencers, and achievers of the world were first inspired by something, which led to a strong passion, and that passion became so strong that it internally pulled them to their destination.

Tony Robbins often states that if the goal isn’t strong enough, the person won’t be motivated to achieve it. I believe that goal comes from being inspired by something, and that inspiration leading to extreme passion. After all, Tony Robbins was inspired by Jim Rohn to become one of the greatest personal-development coaches in history.

So the question is, who or what has inspired you?