Asymmetric positioning of the mitotic spindle before cytokinesis can produce different-sized daughter cells that have distinct fates. Here, we found an asymmetric division in the Caenorhabditis elegans Q neuroblast lineage that began with a centered spindle but generated different-sized daughters, the smaller (anterior) of which underwent apoptosis. During this division, more myosin II accumulated anteriorly, suggesting that asymmetric contractile forces might produce different-sized daughters. Indeed, partial inactivation of anterior myosin by chromophore-assisted laser inactivation created a more symmetric division and allowed the survival and differentiation of the anterior daughter. Thus, the balance of myosin activity on the two sides of a dividing cell can govern the size and fate of the daughters.