The Only 3 Things That Matter
If you spend all your time and money feeding the bottom line of some faceless company, buying their throw-away products that do nothing but scratch the itch temporarily feel satisfied, you’re merely distracting yourself from the reality that you aren’t truly satisfied or fulfilled.
But let me be clear: I don’t say this with any judgment. I’ve been there before, and I’ll absolutely be there again. And thanks to the wonders of data-scraping technology that tracks everything from your favourite breakfast cereal to the guilty pleasure singer you pretend not to follow (what’s up, Katy Perry), breaking free of the consumption cycle is a never-ending effort.
So what’s the fix? How can I escape that cycle? And what can I do that will actually stick?
I’ve done the 30-day no-spend challenges and tried the budget-jar method to avoid wasteful spending. I’ve even cut the data from my phone and restricted access to social media on my computer to avoid mindlessly scrolling through ads for Kickstarter projects that will never see the light of day, and photos of weddings or babies from classmates I haven’t spoken to since graduating nearly a decade ago.
Despite the awareness that I’m wasting time and falling victim to the lure of instant gratification, or maybe even because of it, I’m pushing back even harder.
If we stand any chance at all at finding that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, there are three things we need. We need to learn, love, and create.
Those are the only things that matter.
First and foremost, I love to learn. I really fucking love it. Whether it’s discovering that soccer is actually a British term, a new trick in Illustrator, or how to solve a Rubik’s cube (still a work in progress), there’s little more satisfying than figuring something out.
There’s a good reason we’ve all found ourselves neck-deep in a Wikipedia rabbit hole at 3 in the morning when work starts at 8. The brain craves information, and it thrives when you feed it. And my favourite thing about learning is that it’s just for myself; I do it because I’m curious, it’s completely selfish.
If learning is a selfish endeavor that satisfies your brain, loving is a shared experience that satisfies the heart. Love comes in many forms; from the warm feeling when you see your best friends after a long time apart, a kind interaction between strangers on the street, or a nurse caring for a patient.
Knowing that you aren’t alone in the world is a miraculous sensation, and despite the fact that social media is making us feel lonely, technology also gives us endless opportunities to find new communities and connect with our loved ones.
Love also extends beyond direct interactions with others, into music, novels, and nature. It inspires us to do more, and we promise ourselves not to waste another dollar or day. That is love.
Last, but absolutely not least, we need to create. Creating is simply applying what we’ve learned to the things that we love. Learning feeds our brain, love warms our heart, and creating satisfies our idle hands. And while creating can be a completely selfish process, making something just to satisfy your own urges, it can also be something a sort of selfless act, giving your time and energy to benefit others.
Whether that’s painting a work of art, designing and sewing your own shirt, baking a pie from an old family recipe, or writing an article while desperately trying to not sound like a pretentious, self-righteous asshole, creating something out of nothing provides a sense of accomplishment that nothing compares to.
Yes, it’s incredibly difficult to see something through, powering through the limitations of time, ability, and resources, and we all have a million excuses to justify why we aren’t creating. You can make excuses, or you can make something. It’s up to you.
Similar to the way tech connects us all, it also allows you to create art without studying graphic design, to tell your story without a publishing deal, and make a movie without expensive cameras. You can create podcasts, videos, stories, music, visual art, and just about anything else with the device in your pocket.
If it inspires somebody to learn, love, or create, that’s amazing. But if not, who gives a shit? Do it because you love creating, and for the satisfaction that provides.
Anything that doesn’t empower you to learn, love, or create, is distracting you from going after what you really want, and it’s a waste of your time, money, and energy.
So chuck it. Because it just doesn’t matter.