There’s an inherent tension at the very center of the creative, productive life.
On one side is “outputs”: the stuff you make, the stuff you build. Your words, your actions, your thoughts, and the products thereof.
On the other side are the “inputs”: the friends you keep, the environment you live in, the books you’re reading, the movies you’re seeing, the conversations you’re having, the parties you’re going to.
When you’re younger, inputs matter more. The world is still new to you, and you need to absorb as much as you can from the outside world so you can figure out exactly how you’re going to uniquely interface with it, be it as a creator, or a producer, or a citizen.
As you get older, the inputs get more narrow as your responsibilities increase. It’s hard to keep abreast of current French cinema when you’re living in Cleveland, working a 60-hour week selling roofing tiles, while trying to raise a family.
The thing is, as busy as you might be, you’re still going to need inputs. If all you are is a working stiff chasing the numbers, you’re never going to get the unique insights or experiences that will give you an edge on the competition.
As with everything else, there’s no one answer to this, no one magic formula. There’s just a lot of trial and error, a lot of blood, sweat, toil, and tears.
But just remember this tension is always with us. It never goes away.