I enjoy Netflix as much as the next person. There’s nothing like settling in at the end of a long day to the drama of Narcos or the amusement of The Office. My affection for the world’s greatest video streaming service hasn’t gone away, and there will always be a time and place.
But I don’t watch Netflix as much as I used to.
Last spring I made a personal commitment to create more and consume less. It was a significant shift, and I’m happy to say it’s stuck.
Since then, I’ve come to view my time differently. Among other things, I’ve reordered my days to go to bed earlier (ie. less Netflix) and get up earlier (ie. more creative time).
The results have been transformative.
This isn’t a dump on streaming video services. I’ll always save some room in my schedule for entertainment experiences — particularly those shared and enjoyed with family. But my priorities and management of time have permanently changed. Now, when scraps of discretionary minutes emerge, consuming media is no longer one of my first thoughts. Instead, it’s creation.
What I mean by creative work
For some, creation looks like cooking or gardening. For others, it’s vlogging, composing music, or building boats. For my wife, it’s carpentry. Creation takes many forms.
For me, creative work has taken the forms of writing and podcasting. Over the last year, these two activities in particular have energized me, inspired me, and redefined my ideals. I’ve created more content than ever, and I feel like I’m just getting started.
I’m an eighth grade teacher, and one of the signs on my classroom door reads “Create> Consume.” It’s become my mantra and a regular rant. Our digital natives are keen on consuming, but what are they creating? That’s the challenge I put to them regularly.
Lately I’ve started the business of unpacking the motivation that now drives me to create first and consume later. Why do I spend valuable minutes crafting sentences and recording interviews instead of watching the next episodes of Black Mirror?
6 Reasons why ‘Create> Consume’ has become my paradigm.
- Creation is cathartic. For me, writing is my jam. It’s rejuvenating — a deeply enjoyable deconstruction of all those fleeting wonders, regrets, and ruminations that appear randomly in my consciousness but don’t have the chance to take full form, definition, and expression on their own. It’s a process that helps me look squarely at life experiences, critically reexamine my positions, and thoughtfully clarify my intentions. It’s an experience that helps me know and understand myself. At the completion of every written piece or journal entry, I feel a sense of satisfaction and renewal. Whether you’re writing a song, planting flowers, or building a coffee table, there’s something cathartic about pouring an authentic part of yourself into a product.
- Creative work makes the world a better place. Creative activities contribute things of beauty and utility to our world. If consumption is an act of taking, creation is an act of giving. Sure, by watching The Office for the fifth time I’m not harming anyone — I’m simply enjoying the creative labours of others. But how can I actually add value to the world around me? How can I help, inspire, teach, amuse, or positively provoke others to action? Creative actions offer the power of betterment.
- Creation builds impact and legacy. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how legacy is currency — how he measures the impact of his life not by how much money he makes but by how many people come to his funeral. Creation is not about earning cheap applause or padding one’s ego before death, but it is about making a dent in the universe. Creative activities have the power to change the environment and — if we create with persistence and excellence — leave a lasting positive impact. Brendon Burchard sums up our mandate this way: live, love, and matter. I like Netflix, but I don’t want my viewing to be part of my legacy.
- Creativity has become a critical skill. Our evolving economy has less need for automatons, more need for creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. Progressive school curriculums across the planet are shifting from content acquisition to skills development, from memorization to mindset. Design thinking and makerspace movements are pushing young learners toward cycles of ideating, prototyping, testing, and making that will guide them throughout life. It’s never too late to start developing the skills and habits of mind that make us more relevant, helpful in service, and valuable in the marketplace.
- Creative work produces personal growth, expertise, and self-actualization. When we shift our minds and energies from ‘entertain me’ mode to creation mode, we tap into our true talents and strengths. We connect with our life’s purpose and our deepest passions. We engage in activities of personal meaning and significance. We face our deepest fears, challenge our intellect, embrace uncertainty, and take calculated risks. We reinforce previous abilities and — through repetition, adaptation, and improvisation — we refine our craft and create with stronger proficiency over time. If 10,000 hours is the measure of a master, every minute invested on that formative journey is well-spent. The creative process helps us feel alive.
- Creative work builds new relationships and broadens opportunities. Writing and podcasting have connected me with people around the world that I never imagined possible just a year ago. Because most creative work takes us into the marketplace of ideas, we’re drawn out of our comfortable silos and into new relationship with others. The internet age allows us to connect with like-minded makers, creatives, and audiences the world over, and those relationships connect us exponentially with new learning and opportunities.
“Creativity is not a ‘talent,’ like the ability to run fast. Creativity is what makes us human. Creativity is what makes us happy. And creativity is something you can nurture, expand, grow, and learn.” — from Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom, by Amy Burvall and Dan Ryder
Creative work isn’t always easy, or safe, or comfortable. But it’s worth it. It’s in our design, our destiny. We were made to create. So get started.
What creative activity or project have you been dreaming about but have yet to put into action? I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below.