I hadn't seen Mystery in half a year or so. Lots to catch up on.
"How have you been?"
"Great. You have to see my iPad."
And so, for the next two hours I was guided through every last feature of the iPad. For the two day history of the iPad being in the hands of the public, Mystery had cloistered himself in his Hollywood Hills mansion and installed a lot of apps*.
I expected to hate the iPad. I think the iPod is pretty mediocre and truly hate MacBooks. How I felt about the iPad was different, though. It was an amazing triumph of technology. Everything was smooth, glossy, and polished. It felt like the future, and that's the problem. I resented what it tries to mold the future into.
Another friend, present for the enthusiastic demo, asked me if I was going to buy an iPad. I wasn't, but I took a minute to think about why not. Was it just my contempt for Apple? No, it was my aversion to consumption. The iPad is a consumption machine.
I'm not above the seduction of consumption. I enjoy computer games, I like movies, and I'm all too eager to find a new show I like, download every episode, and have a marathon. I actually watched the first season of 24 in less than 24 hours.
I've noticed that most people who "live by their own rules" actually don't live by their own rules; they live with no rules. I live by my own rules, and I have many of them. A great deal of them are focused around limiting consumption. I think most consumption (generally anything not expensive enough or not long enough in duration to force thoughtful consideration**) is toxic.
So I don't consume much, but I produce a lot. Not because I'm a natural producer, but because I force myself to be one. And if you aren't primarily a producer now, I'd encourage you to consider it.
What's interesting about production is that it fills the same role as consumption; a way of occupying time and receiving a reward for it. Watching a TV show fills an hour of time and provides the (fleeting and insignificant) reward of entertainment. Writing a blog post also fills an hour and provides the (less fleeting and hopefully significant) reward of impacting people and adding to one's body of work.
Preference for each type of reward has less to do with the intrinsic properties of the reward, and more to do with which reward you're used to. If I find myself stuck in a room with people watching a mediocre movie, I feel compelled to sneak off somewhere with my laptop and make something. On the other hand, most people in offices who aren't actually producing (but are simply cogs in the machine) are compelled to sneak over to YouTube and watch a dumb video of a cat.
Like everything, it's just habit.
The original title of this post was going to be "Heroes are Producers", but then I realized that made me sound like I'm trying to tout myself a hero, so I changed it. What I actually meant by the title were that MY heroes are all producers. And I'm probably not unique in that way.
Everyone I admire is a producer. They put out work. I'm a producer because I emulate those who I admire.
There's a magic in putting out work. It reflects your personality in a way that consumption doesn't. I know something about you if you tell me which music you like, but I know a lot more if I listen to music you make. Tell me what books you like and I can get an idea of your philosophies, but let me read a book you write and I might feel like I know you as a friend.
A person defined by his consumption can't ever make a living doing what he likes. His likes are defined by consumption, and no one pays for consumption
Production is a different story. When you shift your reward system to value production, you end up not really feeling like you work at all. Rather than divide your life between have-to-do and want-to-do, you find that most of it overlaps so much that it's indistinguishable. Work and life blend to the point of being the same thing, which sounds terrible to anyone who doesn't love what they do.
Everyone's a consumer, some more discriminating than others. Very few people are producers, because it's slightly harder than being a pure consumer. But, like many things that are slightly harder than the default, being a producer bestows disproportionately large rewards.
* Mystery is DEFINITELY a producer, by the way. His favorite parts of the iPad were production tools like mindmapping and remote desktop stuff. I think it's an obtuse way to get stuff done and expect that the novelty will wear off, but we work in different ways.
** The expensive or long metric isn't 100% accurate, but it's a good rule of thumb. You're not going to pay $70 for theater tickets unless the show looks REALLY good, but you'll probably pay $4 to rent a crappy movie. Books are long enough to actually have a meaningful impact on your life by exposing you to someone else's perspective for a while. Not all of them, but, again, this is a rule of thumb.
top of the range ipad $899 or £562 in US, £699 over in uk, there is no excuse for it, its a rip off, in short why be a producer or a consumer? we are just creating gadgets that we don't need continually replicating the same function, the only reason ipads are in demand is they look a bit sexy, eventually they will dominate our internal mind and imagination
I have two favourite works of fiction extolling the virtues and heroism of producers: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, both by Ayn Rand. My favourite poem that is somewhat related is "Why Not?" by Berton Braley, an early 20th century American poet. It provides me a quick shot of inspiration whenever I read it.
The ipad would of been very tempting for a student as a cheaper, lighter, very long lasting alternative to a tablet pc, and reduce disorganized binders and textbooks into one solid device but steve jobs doesn't think pen input is a good idea. For subjects such as mathetmatics that's totally unusable unfortunately.
That was a really inpiring post. It inspired me to stop watching Lost and get back to producing. Thanks!
I just wanted to say I'm loving the blog. This post was tough love. I'm way into the archives right now cracking up about the "Topanga report" among other things. I actually downloaded the Skinny Snob yesterday and gave it a read. [btw 29 bucks! are you kidding!!!] I coughed it up though, and I guess it was worth it. I want to write a book myself soon, and it made it seem more accessible. Anyway, keep producing!!
Insightful - thank you for an awesome article. What's the first step you took towards consciously producing more?
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
Think of someone who has had a positive impact on your life. Someone you admire and respect, but don't know personally.
Some of you will pick a renowned writer or businessman. Others will pick an artist, businessman, scientist or movie star. Some of you may even pick a hard-working blogger. At least I would. But do you know what all these people have in common?
They are all producers.
I bet you didn't think of a person who spends most of his time watching TV shows, browsing the web or playing computer games. Because that person is a consumer, not a producer.
Consumption can be a lot of fun. We're all consumers from time to time. We enjoy the time we spend watching TV shows or playing computer games. However, the moment we turn off the TV, all the happiness is gone. Until we turn the TV back on, that is.