I’m no fan of the “there are only two kinds of people” idea but in the realm of being a creator or a consumer, I do believe each one of us leans toward one side or the other. I’ve blogged about it before, but it’s been a while and I think I have a clearer view of what these poles suggest, and a much better understanding of how learning to live more as a creator and less as a consumer makes us more happy.
Creator: A person who leans toward being a creator is not necessarily creative; it only means he believes he has the power to create the kind of life he wants. Within reason.
Consumer: A person who leans towards being a consumer believes he has little power to create the life he wants and instead must shop for it in an endless sea of options being presented to him.
Here’s how it works in real life.
If a consumer longs for community he or she goes online looking for a place to plug in. He might look for a church, a sports league, a class he can take, whatever. And that’s all fine.
But when a creator longs for community he or she invites the neighbors over for dinner, he puts up a screen in his backyard and hosts a neighborhood movie night, he starts a frisbee-golf league, or he teaches a painting class.
See the difference? One person shopped to get his needs met and the other created something to meet his needs.
So the real problem with being a consumer is this:
Consumers believe their options are limited.
And if they’re really far on the consumer side, they might even get depressed because they can’t find something to fulfill them. Which is sad, because the whole time they likely could have just created something.
As people get more and more busy, they have less and less time to create solutions and so those who do create products, services and community become more and more influential. The only people who influence culture, after all, are the creators. Consumers only guide culture with their buying choices; they aren’t actually “making” culture at all, only voting for it.
So how do you know if you lean toward consumer or creator?
Here are four informal questions to ask yourself:
- Do you often find yourself meditating on your lack? If so, you’re likely leaning toward being a consumer. Creators meditate on what they can do and their imagination excites them.
- Do you look for the “right” way to do something? Creators tend to not think something is the “right” way and instead believe there are a myriad of options to get the job done.
- Do you look for security in the opinions of others? Consumers tend to go with the flow and feel more comfortable if large groups are affirming their choices. Creators look for options that haven’t been created yet and are okay looking odd to find them.
- Do you “moralize your preferences”—meaning do you believe there is a right way to clean the kitchen and mow the lawn and pursue faith and so on? Consumers tend to believe their way is the right way rather than realizing most issues are not moral at all, just practical and pragmatic. Consumers associate their security with following somebody else’s instructions rather than creating their own.
The reason creators are more likely to be happy than consumers is they get their needs met more often and rarely get stuck in fatalistic thinking.
What we lose when we lean toward consumer-thinking over creative-thought is our “selves.” As consumers, we wear the clothes, listen to the music, attend the church, vote for the candidate and so on that is presented to us on a menu. Because of this, we stop influencing the world and become a reviewer of it. And yet reviewing somebody else’s products and culture is not the same as having an impact on it.
What if what the world really needed was you?
What if your ideas mattered but they were getting lost because you forgot you were allowed and even created to create? What if God created you to shine, to speak, to influence, to help other consumers realize they could have a fulfilling life of their own making? What if, as Walt Whitman said, you could contribute a verse?
What if, this week you analyzed two things in your life you were dissatisfied with and brainstormed possible solutions you just hadn’t thought of yet.
Go off the menu.
What could you do to make money? What could you do to better organize your time? What could you do to build community? What could you do to express and pursue faith?
What if you yelled your contribution for the world to hear? Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Let’s be creators like the one who made us!