Sitting on an airplane, in an airport, or a library seems the ultimate location to actually create. There’s a subtle depth to the turmoil that surrounds an individual in these locations – yet the stimulus allows one the ability to hone in deeper. Many people need utter silence in order to be productive. I would argue that the slight hum of nearby activity grants a deeper experience of getting into the flow state. It’s as if the barely perceptible slice of external life gives one the opportunity to shut down a section of the brain that is easily distracted. While I would challenge everyone creative out there to spend a touch of time in a busy space with some headphones in and their phone turned off, that is not the purpose of this article. Or this site.
My goal is simple: explore the learning process, create while doing so, and uncover how one can go through the evolution of casual observer, to critic, to beginner content creator, to amateur, to adept, to master. I am not fascinated with the top 5%, there are many people who study the best of us. My focus is on the rest of us.
I realized at 23 that I had learned nothing in college. I woke up to my first job hunt post school, and like many liberal arts majors was armed with a pleathora of soft skills I was unable to put onto a resume. I applied to jobs as a recruiter for health care, as a law clerk at a firm’s library, as a video game production intern, and landed a position as a procurement specialist at an industrial supply company. What the fuck? When I went into an interview, I could often nail it – I had learned how to present myself and talk about complex ideas. What I hadn’t learned was a real, tactile, practical skill. Writing? Yes, I could write a five page essay on the differences between Norse mythology and the ancient Hindu pantheon. I watched my friends with business degrees suffer through the same process. We all accepted “jobs” and unconsciously agreed to sign into google chat every day to talk about the Bears, that new bar on Division, and hopefully not work. We also all unconsciously agreed not to create anything. Sound like people you know? This was the first time I became envious of my father.
I think the typical model (in our imagination) looks like this: dad works some corporate job for 30 years, son comes along and creates something cool, fresh, hip, brags to friends and girls about it at parties, makes a little money, has some sex, goes broke several times, and “finds himself” in his early 30s when he takes a job at a medium sized firm doing PR, or marketing, or business consulting, or web development. In reality I believe most of us end up taking some corporate job after school, and focus on rising through the ranks. Even my friends with creative degrees such as fine arts, or music, tended to end up working in a more traditional business role. My father is a college professor, who loves to teach, but I was envious because he also loved to write, and creates books. I’ve never been envious of his audience, or his exposure, but purely that he could spend time creating something in the universe. Do you know someone like this? A friend? A relative? Your spouse? I will accept the argument that starting a business is being a creative. However, I believe human beings are wired to create, and that getting into a flow state is the core human drive.
Think about it this way, what is sex? Especially good sex? Flow. You lose yourself in it, your brain shuts off. High-intensity sports? Flow. Musicianship? Flow. Acting? Flow. You see the pattern – the things our society values, the people we pay the most are flow addicts. They are able to dive deep into this space and create from it. Here’s the catch, they aren’t necessarily the best! We will get to this in another article, but it would appear our core human nature drives to flow. Even eating a good meal puts one into a state of flow; how often have you devoured a whole plate at a meal like Thanksgiving and sat back to realize you somehow just put down more than you normally could in an entire weekend?
How does this all tie together? Regardless of your work, your real job, what pays you today, I believe that you, as a human, crave flow. We are all addicts in some form or another, and have stories that enable us or prohibit us from chasing the dragon. We numb ourselves to this via temporary or even pseudo-flow that comes through behaviors such as television, fast food, and internet masturbation. All activities that almost simulate flow, but artificially do so, ultimately cause some minor form of damage that builds over time.
My purpose here is to help, to guide, to hold hands with you on the journey to finding flow through learning. I challenge you to do so. If you want a website to help you make money, or to give you the shortcut to success, I can send you to several. If you cannot or will not challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, I would ask you to leave right now. I am going to make you uncomfortable, and I can promise you will grow. The following posts will detail my own journey into learning, creating, building things. I will focus on the process. I will focus more on what doesn’t work than what does, because I believe that what works will be different for everyone, but the core of what doesn’t work is universal to us all.
I want to challenge you to do the things that are difficult for you in your life as I do in mine. I will highlight resources that help me along the way, people who find better ways to do things or strategies that help me. But understand that this will not be easy, you will face demons, darkness, frustration, and discomfort. But also understand that you are not alone. Please join me on this journey.
Here’s the TED talk on flow (thanks Edgar!):