✍️ 01a. Create or die
5 min read

✍️ 01a. Create or die

Do you spend more of your life creating, or consuming?

Many have written about this topic. James Clear gives one of my favourite perspectives in The Easiest Way to Live a Short, Unimportant Life.

Brutal, yes. Important, yes.

When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.
—Eleanor Roosevelt

So as the new year began, it was one of the top topics on my mind: How can I create and contribute more?

This is the first of a three part series exploring this question.

In this episode, I attempt to give my answer.

Part 2 explains the Creative Offset process I used, what makes it different, and why you should try it yourself.

Part 3 argues my unexpected conclusion that this process was so good and so versatile, that it should often replace top-down strategic planning.

Let's begin with the end. My answers.

I've decided to create a lot more

Reflecting on what's important to me, three themes emerged: creativity, freedom, and Helix. I want all three to grow in my life this quarter.

This represents a change of orientation in my life. I have worked hard, led teams, built businesses, raised capital, ..  I've done stuff .. But I have often treated the doing as a learning exercise, rather than something I independently chose to bring into the world.

Outside of work I've had a similar attitude and prioritised learning about myself. Yoga in Mexico, Ashtanga in Mysore, Vedic Meditation in Rishikesh, Ido Portal in Thailand, Ayahuasca in Peru,  Wim Hof in the Netherlands, lots more meditation in California, .. I've loved and learned from every experience.

I've stayed a full-time student for a long after my formal education.

In many ways this attitude was helpful. It encouraged me to listen and be open-minded to many diverse modalities on work and life. But it also has its drawbacks. A student mindset orients me externally, understanding and stepping within other people's paradigms to learn.

This year, I want to develop a new orientation. One that is deeply internal, listening carefully to a quiet voice inside. I want to create from this place, as unfiltered and inspired as I can manage.

I hope that I have learnt enough about myself and the world to not lead myself astray. I hope that I can remain a part-time student, balancing listening to others with being unwavering in my own direction. I hope I can hold sufficient clarity to create and contribute.

Creating here means two things to me.

First, I want to do things actively in the world that are bold, creative, and have impact. These are my projects, I have many, and I aspire for the clarity to choose the right path for the right projects at the right time.

But I don't want to create silently. My second aspiration is to share along the way. I want to build in public, reflect in public, and build community around themes that matter. I don't think this is necessary for everyone - avoiding the swirl of social media and external opinions can have many advantages to deep work - however, I feel drawn to a more open path.

If I can share openly yet maintain an internal orientation, ignore baseless commentary positive or negative, and still create from a depth within myself - then I believe sharing along the way will be a net positive, amplifying effect.

For all of these reasons, creativity is my top theme this year.

This quarter I don't aspire to create a masterpiece. I aspire to practice creating. To break down the walls of my student-orientation, and build a new stable internal creative position.

To do this, I want to focus on new projects at Helix, find a sense of unconstrained freedom in myself, and create frequently in small ways every day.

Here are my projects this quarter.

Grow creativity:

  1. Launch a personal website for my writing. Measurement: % complete until launched.
  2. Create and publish uncomfortably frequently. Measurement: # publishes to any platform / week.
  3. Implement MVP of my next clipping, research, and ideas system. Measurement: % complete until in daily use.
  4. Design my tattoo concepts and test with temporary ink. Measurement: % I'm happy with design.

Grow freedom:

  1. Make connections everywhere I go. Measurement: # connected moments with strangers / week.
  2. Create a personal financial plan. Measurement: % complete until finalised.
  3. Feel 100% ready to travel. Measurement: % feel ready to travel.
  4. Conquer a 30 minute ice bath. Measurement: # mins spent in ice bath / week.
  5. Get out the slackline and play. Measurement: YES if done.

Grow Helix:

  1. Complete the first half of our capital raise. Measurement: cumulative $k committed in returned docs.
  2. Get first investees to minimum NPS 10.0. Measurement: minimum NPS score from portfolio.
  3. Quantify Helix strategy. Measurement: % complete until communicatable draft complete.
  4. Partners self-assess "100% on top of financial information." Measurement: minimum self-assessment score from leaders.
  5. Partners feel 100% ready to invest in the Skill Tree. Measurement: minimum self-assessment score.

Do you agree this is a curious list?

I would not have come up with it by logically looking at what's important in my life. Yet it is the most coherent, right-feeling set of projects I've ever set for myself.

It's also exceptionally clear to me what each project means, thanks to my measurement definitions.

How did I get here? What made it different?

The magic of the Creative Offsite

Without explaining the full process, which is detailed in full in part two, here is the essence of what makes the process I used so powerful.

Reflection 1: I came to it bottom up. There was no intended plan. I didn't even force there to be Helix or work related goals. By not enforcing any category to be prioritised, it naturally reflects what I care about and buy into. There is no force, only choice. This is a powerful hack for bringing forward deeper levels of creativity, enjoyment, and performance.

Reflection 2: I kept massaging the plan until it felt like every piece had a place. To me, many of the projects support each other. Creating content and publishing will ultimately help Helix. Being ready to travel is a state of mind that feels free and able to create something fresh and interesting. The projects selected at Helix are about making the organisation more sustainable and effective, freeing up more capacity for new ventures.

Reflection 3: I went through this process with two close friends and partners at Helix. Not only is this process incredibly powerful for deepening relationships, but using partners in the right way can help open new levels of clarity.

Reflection 4: I structure the projects very crisply. By including how each would be measured, I force myself to see exactly what I want to focus on doing. This upfront thinking is helpful when you get busy weeks later. It is possible to click directly into the line you saw for yourself and act.

Reflection 5: I've become less rigid about my plans, but also better at integrating them into my day. I structure my to do lists through these projects. I look at it daily. But at the same time, I don't force myself to only work on these projects. I certainly don't formally measure these goals weekly, though I do check in on the progress. I've learnt it is far more important to follow flow when it's clear, if it aligns with the goals or not. But in times when no flow is obvious, its best to have a plan forged in high clarity to fall back on.

What now?

This feels more significant than my average set of reflections and priorities.

The more I looked at what was behind the pulls I felt this quarter, the more I realised the desire ran deep. It is less about what I do this quarter, and more about this free, unfiltered, internal orientation on creativity.

I aspire for the clarity and subtlety needed, the flexibility necessary to handle my limited imaginings of the future, and the boldness to openly create.

Let's begin.

Links to part two and part three of this series.