A New Way to Live

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I want out of life. I find that at the moment, most of the discontent in my life is based on trying to figure out how to get paid for doing what I love… Writing,  photography, making videos, and generating media in any form I can. Currently I spend eight and a half hours a day at a day-job that is functional, but it’s not something that excites me. When I come home I have about six to seven hours before I should go to sleep in order to do the same thing again the next day.

Lately I’ve been experiencing a bit of a creative renaissance… in part, at least. I’ve had a lot of ideas. I want to make a podcast, a YouTube channel, continue writing this blog, write a novel, write a movie, get better at making soap and eventually sell it, and get better at photography and eventually teach others how to do it too. Also, I’d really like to learn how to play the violin.

I say that this is a creative renaissance in part because so far, the only state in which these things exist is as ideas in my brain. When it comes to actually producing them, I have only six to seven hours a week night to attempt it. And actually, that’s not even true. I still need to spend at least a few hours communicating and being with Leah. Cooking and eating supper takes time. Cleaning the house, various social obligations, and pretty much every other part of life has to come out of those six to seven hours as well. So, realistically, let’s say I’ve got on average 2-3 hours to spend toward creative endeavors every week night, and, say, double that on weekends. Let’s call it twenty hours a week.

Enter Malcom Gladwell. If you’ve never heard of this guy, you’re missing out. He collects interesting stories and interesting research then writes books about the places where they overlap. His third book, “Outliers“, examines the nature of success. In his research he discovered that with shocking consistency, the amount of time required for a human to reach “expert” level at anything is ten thousand hours. This means that for me, I’m looking at ten years from now before I get to that point… And that’s also assuming that I spend that twenty hours per week doing only one thing.

My problem as I see it, is that right now my life is split into three boxes: Work, Creative, and Everything Else. In a perfect world, the work box would sit squarely on top of the creative box. I can barely imagine what that kind of life would look like… Being paid to do something that creatively fulfills me? My gosh, I would come home and I would have the time to do anything I wanted.

And that’s the dream… but lately, I’ve been wondering if that’s how it’s going to pan out. The only work model I’ve ever known is clocking in, giving away hours of my life, clocking out, and receiving a paycheck. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. I’m not positive that there’s a single place in this city that pays their employees for their creativity and a genuine love of what they do.

So… tonight, I was digging through the closet in our office and happened across my old Message version of the Bible. I wantonly flipped through and stopped at a random page and was surprised to find that I had underlined a particular passage:

 “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” Luke 16:8-9

The words “creative survival” were underlined repeatedly.

Maybe a typical employer/employee job isn’t what God has in store for me. Success stories used to center on people getting a college degree and working their way up through the ranks of a company, but that’s not really the case anymore. It seems these days success is based on the merit of what you create and how consistently you’re able to do it.The trick to it, is that while living creatively would be so much more fulfilling, it would also be so much harder.

Right now, I just have to go to work and do my job to get paid. Under this new idea of trying to leverage my creativity for cash, it’s up to me to determine my level of success. And that’s scary. Because I have no clue what I’m doing, how to get started, or whether it’s anything I’d even be good at. Honestly, I’m still not completely sure I know what the “it” I’m referring to is or means.

But I just can’t shake this notion that maybe it’s time for me to stop living complacently and just getting by on good behavior. Maybe it’s time I start figuring out an entirely new way to live. Maybe you should too?

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2 responses to “A New Way to Live

  1. Having quit a job to pursue my passion, I won’t say, “No, don’t do it!” but I will say think long and hard. There have been times I really thought I should have stuck it out at my job. After all, on your way to expert status, you will pass mediocre, to kind of knows what he is doing, to competent, to pretty darn good. It might be nice if during some of those phases (such as mediocre and kind of knows what he is doing) something else is paying the bills. Could you maybe stick it out a while, develop some skills in your off-work hours and then transition to your new life full-time?

    Yes, I know it sounds like less than an exciting leap of faith. By nature, I am not one of those five-year plan people but now that I think about it, it really kind of makes sense. Once you know what you are committed to, it makes it easier to make a plan and stick to the sacrifices that can make it happen, whether those sacrifices are financial, time or otherwise. I think it is really cool that you and Leah are connected enough that you could sit down and plan like this as a couple.

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