The Creator Ethos & The Consumer Coma

Almost everything we are exposed to in our daily lives (at least in the western world), is engineered to keep us consuming. From YouTube and Netflix binges to loyalty programs and addictive fast foods. It becomes very easy to slip into a consumer coma. It is also one of the most dangerous things you can do.

A couple of years ago I read Die Empty, and had a chance to interview Todd Henry. Among the ideas he shared, this one stuck with me:

“In my first book, “The Accidental Creative,” I recounted a meeting in which a friend asked a strange and unexpected question: “What do you think is the most valuable land in the world?”

Several people threw out guesses, such as Manhattan, the oil fields of the Middle East, and the gold mines of South Africa, before our friend indicated that we were way off track. He paused for a moment, and said, “You’re all wrong. The most valuable land in the world is the graveyard. In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrows ran out.”

An entrepreneurs, marketers, parents… as human beings — I believe we have a responsibility to create, and share our best ideas so that we leave this world a better place than we found it.

From Consumer to Creator

Consuming is easy.

Creating on the other hand takes considerable effort. You have to defeat an incredibly powerful enemy… The inertia of doing nothing. Apathy. Going though the motions. Feeling helpless to change things.

It’s easier to do nothing than get up and write a great article, set up a meeting, record a piece of music, or launch a website.

And yet, most are content with maintaining this inert status. Sure, we’re busy… but are we busy with creating something meaningful? Or just filling in time until our journey ends?

We admire people like Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk or Casey Neistat for their ability to create fascinating content. Their efforts have paid off in dividends — with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, global impact, and a legacy that will remain in some form or another.

But it was the continued effort, and more importantly — GETTING STARTED — that made their success possible. Seth Godin started with one blog post, Gary with one video.

Making a switch from consumer to creator, is both very simple and remarkably hard.

The Creator’s War Chest

There is a movement afoot.

The technology needed to craft and share ideas digitally is more democratized every day. Cheap. Accessible. With any kind of internet connection, you have the ability to reach billions of people and make your own dent in the universe. With only a minimal investment, you have the ability to create amazing photos, your own video show, or start a podcast.

The tools are here. It’s no longer a question of whether CAN YOU create something, but rather WILL YOU?

About a year ago, a friend of mine had an epiphany, and what he calls an “out of body” experience. One morning, he woke up feeling the need to get out into nature. A short drive later, he ended up in the woods having an eye-opening visceral experience.

Seeing nature with different eyes — he wanted to capture that moment, and share it. He started taking photos with a cell phone. HTC One, to be specific.

This became his passion project, which has now led him to collaborate with international brands like Ford, Travel Channel, and the Matador Network. He inspires people all over the world to get out and explore nature. This is all within about a year of starting… and starting with a phone.

Here is a MiniDoc I shot with Dax as he was getting started on his journey.

Naked and Vulnerable

One of the most menacing hurdles we face when switching to creator mode is the fear of friction. What if nobody reads this article? What if no-one likes our videos? What if the idea fails?

When you share your work and your ideas, you expose them to the world. With or without a loyal audience, every thing you create and share is a risk. Even as I write this article, I know it will turn some readers off. So why do it?

Because this is what I love. Because this is how I feel I can make a contribution at this time. Because it may help one person overcome the inertia of doing nothing, and turn their unwritten novel or business idea into reality. Or turn their entrepreneurial anxiety into a creative force. I don’t know.

You know, EVERY TIME I send a newsletter I lose subscribers. Sometimes it’s just a couple, other times it’s 10 or 12. And it hurts — like a throatchop to my ego.

But then again, every once in a while, an e-mail will come back from someone who was inspired to take action. The message just happened to reach them at the right time. So, when I hear that someone was inspired to shoot an indie documentary, or launch a side business, or even start a reading habit — the impact of those far outweighs the downside.

And to really put things into perspective, an idea from the late Steve Jobs may strike a chord with you:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.”

The Creator Ethos

Without creators, innovators, and risk-takers there would be no Apple, no Pride and Prejudice, no Civil Rights Movement. There wouldn’t be tens of thousands of videos meant to empower young girls. There wouldn’t be heartbreaking stories like this (have a look – it’s really worth it) to remind us to love, and live fully.

We need you.

We need your ideas, your art, and your work.

My ask is that you don’t waste your limited time slipping into a consumer coma — but rather challenge yourself to create something worth sharing. It may just change someone’s life.

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