Dave Worthen

4 years ago · 6 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Inspiration vs. Motivation, Steve Jobs, and Reverend Billy Graham


I remember when I was a kid watching the late Reverend Billy Graham on TV.

Holy Cow.

This guy was inspiring. Although I grew up in a fairly religious family, at that time in my life I was questioning religion, period.

But dang, it was hard not to believe Billy Graham. I mean if Billy Graham had told me that if I believed in John Deere tractors that I would be saved, I’m pretty sure I would have found the closest farm and snuck in and prayed to one.

And it had nothing to do with his brand of religion or his words or what not. I’d flip the channels on various evangelists and not one made me pause.

What was it about Reverend Billy Graham then?

He was inspiring.

He could have preached his sermon in Swahili and I would have listened. I was like, what is it about this man?

I felt expanded. As a being.  And it was coming from within.

And later in life I ran across this phenomena with a few others. It was one of those stop and listen things. You know, you’re walking across campus and you hear this person and you instinctively walk over and just stop and listen.

You start to feel your own soul grow. Like feeling the air expanding in the space of a balloon.

Somehow the message was coming from outside of me, but filling me up inside.

And I remember looking at this word inspire.

It comes from Latin, inspirare “breathe or blow into.” The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense “impart a truth or idea to someone.”

Yeah, that’s exactly what Billy Graham was doing. He was breathing and imparting his truth into me. And really, I couldn’t tell you if he was talking about First Corinthians or the Devil or what.

I just knew I felt alive.

Forget Mountain Dew. Gimme some of that Reverend Billy’s Divine Dew.

As I grew older, I ran across this feeling again when I heard John F. Kennedy speak.

Again, it wasn’t about his political slant or his Boston accent or any of that. Sure, like Reverend Billy Graham, he had his own charisma.

But there are plenty of executives and leaders who have charisma who are not inspiring.

The difference is these individuals spoke from the core of their own soul. They breathed their very own life-force into what they were saying.

And like Life itself, they breathed out the message and I inhaled.

And to be perfectly honest, I cannot recall the words from Reverend Billy Graham or even John F. Kennedy.

But I can recall being inspired.

And just forget religion and politics for a moment. Forget all of that. That often causes people not to listen. I’m talking about what is inspiration and its effect on you and those around you.

While reading this you most likely recall someone who inspired you like this. And the feeling was one of feeling expanded and filled from the inside.

And when you feel inspired, it’s as if that divine breath somehow elevated you to feel like you could conquer anything. You couldn’t explain it because the very breath of Life was beyond words.

It was intrinsically an expansion and growth of who you are.

Now I want to differentiate inspiration from motivation, which is a very similar idea, but has its roots in a different approach.

And the purpose of this article and this distinction is to pass along the lessons I’ve learned as a leader and being involved with those who lead. And this applies to CEOs to Office Managers, and really, to anyone who leads.  

The distinction between inspiration and motivation can often be the difference between your ability to actualize the dormant talent in your company and cutting edge breakthroughs vs. getting your crew motivated to take their production up another notch and make your fourth quarter numbers.

Both are valuable, but inspiration is like listening to Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement speech at the University of Stanford. You don’t have to be a Steve Jobs fan, but his iconic words, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish,” are still widely quoted. Because why?

Because the graduating class didn’t need to be motivated to go out into the business world and climb the ladder of success. They needed to be inspired to go out into the world and do something unique and breathe their ideas and talent into the culture.

They needed to be inspired to stay hungry and stay foolish because we need more talented minds sketching out the next iPod on their napkins at Starbucks.

You want to inspire your staff so they instinctively put down their cell phones and/or look up from their laptops, and realize something is stirring from within.


Motivation is important but you need to understand the difference.

Look at the root of where this word comes from:

Motivate: to provide with a motive, or a cause or reason to act; incite; impel. Verb, 1863, "to stimulate toward action," from motive + -ate.

Yeah, this is a totally different cat. You are providing someone with a motive. You are giving a reason to act. It’s coming as a stimulation from you.

It’s outward bound.


And often what executives and leaders run into is that they do in fact motivate their staff, but run into “I don’t know how much more I can motivate them.”


Because if it’s coming from the energy you provide for them, then when you are done with doing your best Tony Robbins, that speech, although valuable, has a shelf life. So you have to continue to motivate.

But the next time you bring them in for your morning meeting and you begin in earnest to get them motivated, they often will just turn off the motivational speech.

This is an important point to note.

We’ve all done it.

Enough on the “providing them your energy so they can piggyback it and go out and produce and sell more.”

You are not the Fountain of Youth let alone the Unlimited Supply Depot of Motivational Quotes.

And don’t get me wrong,  motivation has its place. You can take one of your key players who is working his or her ass off but also being given unrealistic demands from the client, and a strategic motivational talk can make the difference.

But if your staff or crew are not very inspired to begin with, and you use the tool of motivation, you often will not get the desired result because you are trying to motivate over a relatively uninspired team.

See the difference?

You cannot provide something for someone that he or she does not already have within themselves.

That’s because it has to be their own elan vital, their own life force, their own investment of who they are in the project or idea to begin with.

Reverend Billy Graham converted a lot of people on those Sunday mornings because he knew that individuals who believed could be touched by ideas or truth he was imparting.

He inspired others because others had the elan vital or life force inside them to be inspired by.

And, if they didn’t believe to begin with, they would just nod and say, “Good sermon today,” and go home and watch the 49ers play the Dallas Cowboys.

You will find in your business or company some unbelievably talented people. But uninspired talent end up designing something like the Zune, in answer to the iPod. A product no doubt motivated by competitive market share, but not very inspiring.

The answer to getting the most out of your best staff and your team is for those who lead to reconnect with the purpose of your business or company.

Steve Jobs could have said, “Go into the tech sector. Get Smart. Have drinks with venture capitalists. Make your first million by 30.”

And I’m quite sure there would have been the multitude who would have hung onto every word and followed that yellow brick road.

But he didn’t.

He inspired.

And Reverend Billy Graham could have said, “You need to knock off your frat parties and obsession with porn and read the Good Book.”

But he didn’t.

Reverend Billy Graham knew what ticked inside of every soul he spoke to. He knew that frat parties and porn were not only not the subject, they were things he knew only the individual could decide to change. And that change wouldn’t come from the outside.

It would come from within.

In those mass congregations he spoke to every single individual. He spoke to every single being who would listen.

Reverend Billy Graham knew that their own personal condition in life be it their own salvation, their marriage, or their work would only change if the being became inspired to make that change.

If you want to see the talent in your business or company take it up a notch, if you want to see what those on your team are truly capable of, remind them why they came on board. Reconnect them to the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve.

And then inspire them to not only be foolish, but be revolutionary.

Don’t just make those numbers.

Make the next portable digital music player that can be embedded in the ring on your finger. And wireless headphones that don’t hang off our ears like we’re Androids with Earrings. Make them sit like tiny warm cotton balls inside each ear, with mouth dropping sound that makes you think U2 has taken up permanent residency in your ear canal.

And sketch all that out on a napkin while on your lunch break.

And if that’s a tall order then the world needs more tall orders.

The truth is the world needs more innovation and inspiration to breathe life into the talented and those who dream.

Because really, the only life to live is an inspired life.

If you are interested in a no-charge, no-obligation phone or Skype consultation please click on this link below:

Free Phone Consultation with Dave Worthen

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Dave Worthen

4 years ago #21

Thank you, Hector Fong!

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #20

Thank you very much, !

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #19

Thank you! Luana Diwie

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #18

Yes, Larry Boyer, \ud83d\udc1d Brand Ambassador! An outstanding topic!

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #17

Yes! Outstanding topic!

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #16

Thanks very much, Larry Boyer, \ud83d\udc1d Brand Ambassador! Inspiration development would be a great leadership topic. I find in society that motivation will get the headlines or the memes because it's handy. But inspiration? It can be a meme, but hardly. It comes from someone or something that transcends that. Like MLK or Gandhi or many others. Good luck! The world needs more inspiring leaders!

Lu Diwieth

4 years ago #15

Uauuuu. Amazing!!!
Great topic for leadership development - understanding inspiration and motivation.
Love the distinctions and contrasts of the two concepts. It has me wondering about "inspiration development" as a leadership development topic. Having a power vision and being able to inspire and motivate as appropriate would be powerful. MLK and Ghandi see to be be people who were able to both inspire and motivate.

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #12

Hi Harley King! That's awesome that you shared a similar experience! And you were there! What inspires me? Truly helping people change a non-optimum condition they have had their entire life, and see it change in a matter of days. That's inspiring.

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #11

Thank you very much, Franci\ud83d\udc1dEugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador! Yes! Good on you! Live an inspired life!
Excellent read Dave Worthen, and your post is inspirational in itself. I agree the only life to live is an inspired life.

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #9

Thank you very much, Preston \ud83d\udc1d Vander Ven! I’m glad you enjoyed it. And your observation of the difference is very astute! You are a great writer yourself.

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #8

Thanks very much, Zacharias \ud83d\udc1d Voulgaris!

Zacharias 🐝 Voulgaris

4 years ago #7

Very inspiring buzz :-)

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #6

Thanks very much, Harvey Lloyd! Great contribution from You as well!

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #5

Thank you very much, Lupita \ud83d\udc1d Reyes! I appreciate it!

Dave Worthen

4 years ago #4

Thank you, Lupita!

Harvey Lloyd

4 years ago #3

Really enjoyed your journey. I can speak for myself and say it is easy to tell when someone is inspiring because it sounds like they are speaking to the heart. When someone speaks of motivation it is for the brain and ears. We can only inspire others from on heart to another. The moment this stops so does inspiration.

Lupita 🐝 Reyes

4 years ago #2

Worth sharing!!!

Lupita 🐝 Reyes

4 years ago #1

Just fantastic Dave Worthen!!! Actually , it is really inspiring!! Thank you!

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