People often search for a life/work balance — but the equation may be simpler than we once thought. As my husband pointed out in a conversation over lunch today, everybody is either producing something, or consuming something, all the time… and while some people we know spend most of their time consuming, he and I spend most of it producing, and then consume a little to balance it out.
In other words, let’s call people Creators and Consumers, with the understanding that most people are a combination of both.
If you work, make art or run a household, you’re being a Creator while you do that: whether you create a product or supply a service for a company, or you write music for an album, or you create sandwiches for a lunchbox, you’re giving value to somebody through that action.
If you purchase groceries, watch television, or get social assistance from the government, you’re being a Consumer while you do that. Essentially, you’re getting value from somebody else’s contribution.
It’s interesting that the internet is kind of like the perfect two-sided coin: it’s equally full of Creators offering content to read or watch, or things for sale; and Consumers reading and watching the content, and buying products.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting as far as balance is concerned: everybody who serves as a Creator is also a Consumer. You can’t just create, create, create (or work, work, work) without stopping now and then to consume some food, or some entertainment, or even the use of a bed to sleep in for a few hours.
But it seems that not everybody who’s a Consumer is also a Creator. For example, a retired grandmother who knits hats for her grandkids, bakes pies for the neighbors, or even plays chess with a neighbor to brighten his day is a Creator, because she’s giving value. But someone who’s unemployed and just sits on the couch all day watching TV, and then goes out to the bar for a few beers, is not creating anything; he’s a hardcore Consumer.
Sometimes the Creator/Consumer relationship can balance out over a lifetime, like when someone works 40 hours a week until the age of 70, and then retires and chooses to just relax or travel for the next 25 years. Someone else might take care of a family for 30 years, and then get injured and need her family to take care of her.
But I know a few people who spend all their energy trying to be in a position to be full-time Consumers; they don’t want to Create, and they take advantage of any opportunity to avoid it. I think that’s where things get a little skewed and unbalanced.
See, it’s a universal law that value exchange is an important part of life. Wallace D. Wattles talked about it in his classic 1910 self-help book, The Science of Getting Rich (since revamped by The Secret’s Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield and Michael Beckwith). The law is called by several names: the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Causation, the Law of Circulation, or the Law of Exchange. It’s the basis of Newton’s third law, and it’s one of the first things babies learn: doing one thing makes something else happen.
Wattles explains it this way: “It is a natural law that like causes always produce like effects, and, therefore, any man or woman who learns to do things in this certain way will infallibly get rich.” That’s because value out always results in value in, and it happens in a circulatory fashion — meaning that the person you Create for doesn’t necessarily provide what you Consume, but when you give someone value, you’ll get value from somebody else.
To keep this flow going, it’s important to be able to receive, whether that be gifts, compliments, or products, with confidence and appreciation. That allows the other person to give. And of course, it’s also important to give with confidence and appreciation, because that lets somebody else receive.
And that, in the end, is exactly what balance is about: giving and receiving, supplying and demanding, Creating and Consuming — equally and joyfully.
So now that I’ve finished Creating this article for you to Consume… I’m going to go Consume a magazine while you pass along value to someone else. Enjoy!
Cuban musicians entertaining passersby © Matt J Phipps
Money represents value © D Borman