Taking a Look at the Consumption:Creativity Ratio

I love to consume. Not just food, but movies, TV, Facebook, mobile and video games, music, books, magazines, email, Twitter (add your own favourites here…). But consumption should be balanced by creation – making content instead of simply consuming it – if we are to lead a fulfilling life.

If we are mostly consuming content, we are letting others (that did the creation) dictate the pace and content of our enjoyment. That’s fine, and I enjoy a good laugh or a cry at a movie, or the small glow of seeing that my mum posted a picture on FaceBook. But I also want a piece of the creative action. At an easy level, I can post my own Facebook update. But I can also decide that having read a bunch of interesting content on the Internet, it’s time I created my own blog post. Or learn a new guitar piece, or write a book, or make a game, or paint a picture, or write a song, or … (these aren’t just random examples – they are all things I’ve been doing in the past few days).

It’s really important to note that the person that I am creating for is very definitely me. Trying to create content for others that I don’t enjoy isn’t likely to make anyone happy. I’m smiling as I write this sentence and listening to Long Train Runnin’ by the Doobie Brothers – these are the pleasures of writing this – the fact that you are reading it, and hopefully enjoying it, is a bonus. And I’d like to think that one or two of you readers might feel inspired. Of course I’d like to make the whole world happy – but in doing this I need to start with the only person that I can directly influence – me!

One of the biggest and most creative things I can do with my time, is to decide what to do with my time. It’s not easy to work out what is going to bring happiness to myself and others around me – it involves trying stuff out and learning what my own reaction to it is. And being flexible – first thing in the morning when I can feel my creative juices flowing, may not be the best time to do the easy stuff. Late at night and tired tends to work best with some consumption (Caprica is excellent!).

Most of us spend a lot of time working for someone who pays us for our time. We need to enjoy that – and a creative (and playful) mentality will help that be as enjoyable as it can be. Whether flipping burgers or making multi-million dollar decisions, we can ask ourselves what we can do to make it as good for ourselves and others as it can be. If I’m serving a customer, how can I get on that customer’s wavelength and provide them with the best possible service? In the long term, such an approach is likely to yield a good financial return, but that isn’t the point – surely the happiness generated for that customer, and mostly for me is an end result more important than dollars and cents. If there are more things to do that there is time to do them (which is essentially true all of the time for all of us in this always-on digital world) we have to make sure we grab the time for creative and fun activities and friends first and let the rest fill in the time that’s left.

Connecting with other people is another massive source of happiness and satisfaction (and really good for health and longevity). But text and verbal communication only capture a small part of what is being communicated – so it is crucial to get out there and meet people and really listen to them. I know lots about me (although interestingly not as much as my best friend with his photographic memory) so much more interesting to listen to others and learn about them. Everyone is interesting – really – if you go beyond their words and listen to what they are really saying. It’s also useful to develop the skill of politely moving on from a conversation that has run its course.

In the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to take a lot of the drudgery out of life – I think that is so important that I’m writing a book about it. Automation has already removed humans from many routine manufacturing and maintenance processes, and AI will remove humans from routine cognitive processes (watch out lawyers and accountants, or maybe look forward to world more focussed on creativity and social skills, and less on numbers). So humans will have more time to do the things we want to do – to create and to socialise. They will be the only ways to “make a living” in a post-AI world. And to consume – but not too much…