The Software Archæologist

Consume less, create more

What is the meaning of life?

In a hilarious address at the University of Western Australia, Tim Minchin humourously asserts that life is meaningless and offers advice on how to fill it with meaning:

And in my opinion (until I change it), life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic. And then there’s love, and travel, and wine, and sex, and art, and kids, and giving, and mountain climbing… but you know all that stuff already.

Reflecting on my own attempts to fill life with meaning, I noticed a theme: I have tended to consume more than I create. My excuse is that passively consuming content is far easier than the act of creating something new: Listening to a song on Spotify is easier than learning to play the piano. Binge watching a series on Netflix is easier than climbing a mountain. Doomscrolling on Twitter is easier than writing an essay.

We live in an attention economy that is increasingly optimised for passive consumption of ever-increasing amounts of information and entertainment. I am somewhat prone to perfectionism; putting my work out there feels scary and uncomfortable. Knowing this, creating anything new can seem futile; after all, what is the point of investing time and energy into something that will never see the light of day? I might as well go back to scrolling Twitter...

Recently, in doing just that, I chanced upon a brilliant essay, the first draft self, which inspired me to finally break that vicious cycle. If I spend the rest of my life predominantly ingesting information, will it have been a life worth living? For me, the answer is an emphatic No!, and the antidote is to create things. For example, writing essays about my thoughts and experiences and regularly publishing them here. Easier said than done, but the fact that you are reading this is proof that I have started to overcome that challenge!

For 2023, I have resolved to reduce the amount of time & energy I invest into consuming & being a follower, while increasing my focus on creating & learning to become a better leader. I predict that making this change will:

  • improve the quality of my creative output;
  • open up new opportunities for me; and
  • make me a happier, more fulfilled person.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. While I don't believe in hell, there is a real risk of me not following through on my commitment. To increase the probability of success, I am drawing inspiration from Atomic Habits:

Every good habit starts with a cue. This part was easy, I simply set up a weekly recurring time slot for writing. However, this cue alone is not enough; I also need to consistently respond to the cue by actually sitting down to write. My wife has generously volunteered act as my accountability partner in building this habit. Additionally, I've set up a daily 30 minute screen time limit for specific apps to free up more of my time for creation.

The last piece of the puzzle is the reward to ensure I stay motivated: this is where you come in, dear reader! No, I'm not asking you to buy me a coffee; instead, I would love to get your thoughts on this essay.

Have you faced similar challenges? How did you overcome them?

Let me know on Twitter.