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.