How to Get Unstuck and Make Something Important

What does your garage look like? 

A garage used to be a metaphor for innovation. The two Steves started in a garage. The HP guys started in a garage. Walt and Roy started in Uncle Robert’s one-car garage. Here are ten amazing garage stories.

Now, most of us don’t even own a garage anymore. Instead, we own an attached storage shed. One study revealed that 75% of American garages are so filled with clutter that they have no room to store an automobile. Instead of metaphors for creativity and innovation, our garages have become final resting places for the artifacts of our consumerism.

The garage is a metaphor for what’s happened to us – America. Our organizations and churches. Ourselves.

Here’s what has happened. We became consumers. In the process, we forgot how to be creators, and it’s killing us.

 

Creativity is life. Consumption is death.

This is true economically, socially, and spiritually.

Creativity, not necessarily just being “artsy” but the broader act of making something, results in life. It’s worthy – of worth, to us and to others. It’s the means by which we direct our future. The growth fueled by creativity leads to educated minds, growing organizations, new revenue streams, and revitalized relationships.

That’s how it’s always been. When we make, things grow – our organizations and churches, our relationships, our societies.

Creativity is an act of giving. And it’s not easy. In fact, it’s quite difficult and draining. To create is to give a part of yourself away, and the more we create, the more we sacrifice. That it is so difficult is one of the reasons that we quit creating.

When we quit creating, we begin consuming.

 

Consumption, or the act of taking something with compulsion, results in death. It results in waste. It’s the means by which minds atrophy, organizations decline, revenue streams fade, and relationships fall apart.

America has been a consumption culture pretty much my entire life. I am 43. I don’t mean to overgeneralize, because there are pockets and places defined by innovation and the hard work of creativity. But it started at least somewhere around the time Boomers discovered Beamers. Probably before.

This is the basic problem with America and with our business and churches and relationships today.

I believe our national problems are not solved by once again collectively adhering to one of our two core political ideologies but by a third way where we once again learn how to create – to manufacture, to network, to launch, to research and learn, to pursue passions. More important that being a conservative or a liberal is being a maker. This is true for America and it’s true in our personal lives, too. This is how to get to where we want to be.

This isn’t a cry for harder work. We’re working plenty hard, but not the right way.

 

Consumption is different than rest.

There’s a difference between consumption and rest. Rest is defined by the idea of Sabbath – that, after six days of making, we burn one day resting. Once a week, we keep ourselves from straining forward, running toward our task lists, and that this act of discipline and self-restraint actually works because it keeps us rested and focused and passionate and productive. Sabbath, or weekly rest, is the counter-point that proves the point of creativity.

Consumption, on the other hand, is the pursuit of comfort and the avoidance of work.

Oddly, while our country is on an A train to work burnout, it’s for the wrong reason. We work too hard because we’re obsessed with retirement and the carrot of comfort and leisure time, and the idea that we should extend the one day of rest as much as possible. We believe we should minimize our six days into a “four hour week.” We still believe there’s a “good life” to be had and that this good life doesn’t involve making something.

These are lies.

The pursuit of leisure and an elusive “happiness” is a big lie of American culture. And it’s destructive, because it presents the constant allure to take our hand off the plow of life – often, just when we’re starting to make progress in our fields.

Counter-intuitively, it’s the making and resting cycle of the Sabbath that results in our happiness. The good life, as good as it gets at least, is in the six days. While it’s good to get away and to rest, life isn’t found on vacation. It’s found in the hard work of being creative.

This is why understanding creativity is so important.

 

Creativity is what’s supposed to happen in the six days.

If you want to know how to make things better, start with the six days. How do you resdicover your creativity and learn to use your six days better?

Consider Jesus’ strategy. When he summed up the entire wisdom of the Law, he used a single sentence first. He said that our life purpose is to love God. This is the meaning of life.

That sure seems esoteric. But we discover the hook in the follow up sentence. His approach is to find this meaning through the actions of heart, soul, mind, and strength. Here, Jesus gives four strategies for rediscovering creativity and making our six days matter.

 

1. Heart. Our passion. What really matters? What is hard coded into our DNA and stays there no matter what life circumstance we find ourselves in?

2. Soul. Our art. Godin says we each have an art. What is your unique art, the thing you’re so good at that it’s obvious you’re meant to do it? Art means more than craft, though – it’s also spirit: the thing that energizes you, even when it doesn’t pay you. The thing that brings you the most energy and fulfillment.

3. Mind. Our ideas. What is the thing that you used to always assume others understood, too, until you realized that what seems so obvious to you is so oblivious to others?

4. Strength. Our chops. What is the strategy, the skill, the plan, that others must become trained on but you just know how to do?

 

When we focus on these four strategies, we find the ways we’re meant to create. And when we engage in these strategies, the things we make are beautiful.

Of course that sounds so wonderful, but it’s not like that, is it. Even if we know our thing, we avoid it. Or we no longer do it – we quit.

Because, as I said, creativity is quite difficult and draining.

 

We get tired of creating. 

This always happens. Why? We get derailed, distracted, and defeated by the demons of creativity.

Stone, the demon that persuades us to avoid work, take the first thing we get and buy into a lesser story.

Rex, the demon that convinces us that we deserve every glory and even persuades us to focus on our own platform instead of making the new thing that in turn makes our platform for us.

Smith, the demon that cajoles us into believing that control is the concoction for creativity when it’s actually the toxin that destroys it.

When we get beat down by these lies, we retreat from the hard work of making something new. We decide it’s easier to just consume. And when this happens, we accelerate onto the highway to hell.

So how do we overcome the demons and learn to create using Jesus’ four strategies?

This is the journey I’ve been traveling over the last few years, and the subject of my upcoming book.

What is your take? Are you creating or are you consuming? What is happening in your life?

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).