I was reading one of those interesting facts posts on past accomplished writers, artists, etc. and one of them read “Stephen King has written at least 65 full-length books and about 200 short stories.”
The number is astounding. The time commitment unfathomable for most. Now, for me, the time for writing this post feels somewhat significant. It took actual convincing in my mind to sit down and do it. And I’m on a plane with virtually nothing else to do. With some basic math, it’s clear my perspective is severely altered:
We’ve all been given the same 24 hours a day since the beginning of time.
24 hours in the day — 8 hours for sleep = 16 straight hours of potential.
What am I doing with that 16 hours? How has our general output been so significantly reduced? How could I possibly be running out of time for comparatively short tasks with 16 whole hours when author Charles Hamilton wrote 100 MILLION words in a lifetime statistically shorter than mine?
The nature of how we spend that time and how we delegate our attention has completely changed.
We’ve become spread thin and our attention is sucked away secretly (or not so secretly) by new distractions we accept as normal and unavoidable to the point where a mere 3 hours of actual work out of a 16 hour day feels “productive” and “exhausting”.
When you run the numbers, that’s truly insane. The scariest part is the potential and ease to do work that we’ve been gifted by technology means this insanity is a very clear choice we’re making. The amount of information available at our fingertips is absolutely a double edge sword.
I just graduated from a relatively reputable business school, and honestly, despite a handful of students who had figured this out, no one was creating anything significant. Again with the math: 24 hours a day — 8 hours of sleep — 3 HOURS of class = 13 hours of nothing but TIME(barely any held jobs).
There’s been a significant and quick shift from creating to consuming. Very few of us are actually creating (even at work). We’ve delegated the larger part of our days on earth to consuming what someone else has created. And the smaller part creating for someone else to make money to continue to consumer what someone else is creating.
Why is this an issue?
As we know from classic psychology, self-esteem or “mattering” is the foundation beneath self-actualization. Every step below this on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid is virtually taken care of (for the population we’re talking about). Mattering is “contributing individually in a unique way.” When you take a look at how much less we’re uniquely creating and how much more we’re consuming, it’s obvious as to why 70% of people aren’t happy with their work and depression and “exhaustion” are rampant. It’s like we’re stuck on level three of the classic pyramid, unable to reach self-actualization, tricked by our own advances in communication.
Funny, but also terrifyingly true.
We’ve thrown away one of the keys to our fulfillment in lieu of simply watching someone else live it out via some digital platform that we’ve positioned to steal our attention at all times.
As depressing is this is, there is a huge potential for those who choose to take that key to happiness back.
With the rest of the population with internet access turning into constant, addicted consumers not creating anything, if you can train yourself to create like knowledge workers of the past, you can position yourself out of the circular race of “work, consumption, depression” and instead build a life that supports you psychologically and financially.
I had a conversation about this with my father, a serial entrepreneur. I told him my favorite example of those who “figure it out” are rappers who are criticized for being talentless but still rake in millions. Who cares if they’re talentless (by someone’s standards)? At least they are still CREATING something! Lil Wayne (Yes, I’m a millennial) has released 1,747 songs in his relatively short career. You may not like them, but they are tangible fruits of a labor of choice, they put him above Elvis on the most Billboard top 100 list, and in a financial position many will never know.
It requires honesty with yourself and an understanding of how to quite literally take time back.
Looking back at how much time I’ve wasted is horrifying, but looking at a life of continuous wasted creativity, time, and potential fulfillment for nothing is the most painful outcome of all.
You have to make a choice or you will live in the world of those who chose to create.