The Most Important Lesson for Men Who Aspire to Greatness

And then it hit me -- all of the men I respect are creators, first and foremost, as opposed to consumers. Everyone who is remembered -- for something, anything -- created more than they consumed.
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Lately I've been immersing myself in books and articles about entrepreneurship, startup companies and business development. Earlier this week I came across an article which was a real eye-opener for me, with major implications for my life going far beyond my business. In it, John Muldoon writes that if you want to build an "extremely successful" business, you must create more than you consume.

You have so many opportunities to consume... stuff. I don't know quite what to call it. Content? You have reality TV, Facebook, millions of blogs, games on your phone, 24-hour news networks and Reddit. You're consuming this post right now. Unfortunately, most consumption doesn't actually help you. Not in terms of your business being successful.

Creation is what matters.

All entrepreneurs know this instinctively. You have to make stuff. Whether it's software, or food, iPads, advice, gourmet spices, an electric car or even a blog post, entrepreneurs are defined by what we create.

And then it hit me -- all of the men I respect are creators, first and foremost, as opposed to consumers. Everyone who is remembered -- for something, anything -- created more than they consumed. If you really want to change things, you have to build things. The idea seemed so obvious, though I had never considered it in these terms.

It may be obvious, but in some ways it has never been more difficult to create more than you consume. As the author writes, each and every day we are subject to a barrage of information calling out for consumption, and it is often easier to give in and do what it wants us to rather than focus on our own creations. So we decide to read the article. Click the link. Check Facebook. Watch the new South Park. Read the text. Answer the phone. Read a book. Read a billboard. Get sucked into YouTube for three days. Etc. etc.

How much of this consumption provides value to our lives? How much of it matters? How much of it is essential information, and how much of it is sheer noise that we should ignore? How do we separate the noise from the important stuff?

I'm working through the answers to all of these questions and I have yet to arrive at satisfactory conclusions for any of them. In the meantime, I do know this, beyond a shadow of a doubt:

I feel really good about myself when I go to bed at night having created more than I consumed that day.

Without fail. The nights when I retire having been consuming for a solid chunk of the day, zoning out on YouTube or even reading for hours on end, I feel irritable, disappointed in myself and sometimes even a little depressed. I feel infinitely more happy, satisfied and confident about my life and where I'm going in life when I create more than I consume.

And I mean "create" in a broad sense. How many words did I write today? How did I add value to my friends' and family members' lives? How much music did I make? How much peace, love and happiness did I inspire in others? Did I spend some time creating a healthy body for myself? Did I work on a new product for my business? Did I cook my own meals? Did I inspire someone to do something great? What did I create?

Too many men fail to devote adequate time to creation, and ultimately this is the mark of our success in life. Life is to be lived, not observed. We evolved as a species to stand up and take action, not sit and watch it pass us by. We are meant to build things -- whether that is a new house, or a simple blog post -- and we get closer to realizing our personal freedom when we create that which we want to see in the world.

I've also been learning about public accountability this week. In short, many psychologists, authors, etc. contend that we are more motivated to achieve our goals if we make ourselves publicly accountable. I'm struggling a bit with the idea -- I believe that we should be internally motivated, rather than be motivated by fear of public embarrassment -- but, in the interest of straying out of my comfort zone, I thought I'd give it a try. So, without any further ado:

From this day on, I pledge to create more than I consume each and every day.

I might write. I might cook. I might build a website. I might work out. I might go out and talk to people. I might take a woman to bed. I might write a song. Whatever I'm doing, the emphasis in my life will be on creating what I want to see and experience in the world, because the fact remains that much of what I want to have in my life and see in the world, doesn't exist yet. So it's up to me to create it.

No, it's not a specific goal. However, I have achieved big things in life when I was guided by an overarching philosophical framework that gave me comfort, clarity, and motivation; some tenet or code or virtue to aspire to that really inspired me. So this is part of my new code; this is my pledge.

My life is my art. So, at the end of every day I'll ask myself: what did I create today that matters?

Many of the men I respect most are musicians and compulsive creators. Last night I was listening to Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, and I wept a little. Stevie wrote and recorded this masterpiece -- "Superstition," "I Believe" and all -- when he was 22. Twenty. Two. Van Morrison made Astral Weeks when he was 23. John Lennon wrote "Strawberry Fields Forever" when he was 26.

I'm 26. I have three fancy degrees on the wall, several articles and a book that I'm very proud of, and a network of people whose lives I've provided value to, but it's not enough. I want to do more.

I want to create. I want to inspire. I want to stand up and build things that I want to see in the world. I want more, for myself and for men and women everywhere. I want a legacy.

It will be hard work, but if there's one thing I know about myself it's that I'm happiest when I'm working hard on things that I believe in. And so I'm cheating myself out of peace, satisfaction, and happiness when I'm not working hard.

So that's what I've learned this week:

If you really want to be a game-changer, you have to create more than you consume.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do. I hope you'll join me.


What are your thoughts? What do you want to create, for yourself and others? How do you choose what information to consume, and what to ignore? Let me know in the comments section, or join me on Facebook. I'd really appreciate your insight.

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