Modern Maturity: Create More, Consume Less

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 6, 2010 · 135 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

After doing the podcast on the “Making of Modern Immaturity” a few months ago, and reading the comments left on that post, I got to thinking about this question: “What makes a man mature anyway?”

Masculine maturity used to be easy to spot and define: a man got married, sired some progeny, and got a job to support his family. He knew he was a grown man and everybody else did too.

These days those kinds of markers are being put off more and more. There are a variety of reasons for this, some cultural, some economic. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this trend. While I’m a proponent of working hard at your job and getting hitched to the right woman once you know she’s the one, these things simply don’t happen at the same time for every man.

And while I personally believe that getting married and having kids is one of the most effective ways to grow and mature as a man, I’m not comfortable saying that men who don’t do these things aren’t mature men. Otherwise, you’re stuck with the position that men who are Catholic priests or Buddhist monks aren’t mature men. If you believe that, you need to go say ten Hail Mary’s and then rejoin this discussion.

The problem is, in the absence of these old markers of maturity, guys don’t know how to transition from boys to men. They may not find the marriage/kids/corporate job gig appealing, but they also aren’t keen on remaining a perpetual adolescent. They feel stuck between these two guideposts-no longer boys but not yet “settled down”-and don’t see any models on how to proceed. The gap has become a life stage wasteland for men, where guys are drifting along like amoebas.

So I’d like to suggest a definition of maturity for our modern age. And it’s embodied in this phrase:

Create More, Consume Less.

Boys are consumers. When they’re young, their parents set up their experiences for them; their only job is to sit back and enjoy it. They live in their parents’ house, eat their parents’ food, and use their parents’ stuff. Their free time in used in amusement. They consume their parents’ resources and are passive and taken care of. They make little to no impact on the world and have little ownership of their lives. They are dependent.

The problem is that men aren’t outgrowing this passive role. Instead of creating, they go on consuming. They may not depend on Mom and Dad anymore (although sadly, they often do), but they’re still dependent on stuff for their happiness. Consuming clothes, movies, video games, cars, parties, fast food, and even travel to make them happy. They live only for their own pleasures and amusements.

But it is boys that live only for themselves; men fully enjoy life’s pleasure but also live for a higher purpose. Boys try to find themselves in what they buy; men find themselves in what they do. Boys base their identity on what they consume; men base their identity on what they create.

The failure of men to transition from being shoppers and consumers to producers and creators has four profound implications for the vibrancy of manliness.

The Weakening of Man’s Free Agency

As we’ve mentioned many times, men desire to be the captains of their destiny, to feel in control of their life. We want to be free agents and be able to turn our ship in any direction at any moment.

Consumerism feeds directly into this desire, but offers a simulated and easier version of it. Consumption, being able to choose between many options, a myriad of different products and services, is sold as the ticket to true freedom and sovereignty.

In truth, this kind of “freedom” is only an illusion. Mathew B. Crawford, in Shop Class as Soulcraft, explains:

“The activity of giving form to things seems to be increasingly the business of a collectivized mind, and from the standpoint of any particular individual, it feels like this forming has already taken place, somewhere else. In picking out your [Build-a-Bear's] features, or the options for your Warrior or Scion, you choose among predetermined alternatives. Each of these alternatives offers itself as good. A judgment of its goodness has already been made by some dimly grasped others, otherwise it wouldn’t be offered as an option in the catalogue. The consumer is disburdened not only of fabrication, but of a basic evaluative activity…The consumer is left with mere decision. Since this decision takes place in a playground-safe field of options, the only concern it elicits is personal preference. The watchword here is easiness as opposed to heedfulness. But because the field of options generated by market forces maps a collective consciousness, the consumer’s vaunted freedom within it might be understood as a tyranny of the majority that he has internalized. The market ideal of Choice by an autonomous Self seems to act as a kind of narcotic that makes the displacing of embodied agency go smoothly, or precludes the development of such agency by providing easier satisfactions. The growing dependence of individuals in fact is accompanied by ever more shrill invocations of freedom in theory, that is, in the ideology of consumerism. Paradoxically, we are narcissistic but not proud enough.”

Consumerism offers so many choices that we fail to see that they all reside within a predetermined box. The great paradox in the struggle for modern manhood is that we simultaneously feel adrift because of anomie and cripplingly trapped because of consumerism.

The Suppression of the Urge to Create

Men have an inherent desire to be creators, to change the landscape, to turn wood into furniture, to transform a blank canvas into a work of art-to alter the world and leave a legacy. It’s the denial of this aspect of manliness that is perhaps most plaguing modern men. Young men are taught to think of life past 30 as a certain death, a time when they have to stop being selfish and live for others. The paradox that’s never talked about is that consuming is the real dead end when it comes to happiness. Your mind gets caught in an fruitless cycle-new experiences initially give you intense pleasure, but the more you consume of it, the more saturated your pleasure sensors become until you have to ratchet up the intensity and quantity of the experience to get the same “high” you used to. And the cycle endlessly continues.

But when you create instead of consume, your capacity for pleasure increases, as opposed to your need for it. Being a creator gives you a far more lasting and deeply satisfying happiness than consuming ever will.

The Weakening of Discipline and Commitment

The problem with consumerism is that it heavily emphasizes choice, to the complete exclusion of the idea of living with that choice. Choose, choose, choose. But what happens after your make that choice? Of course, this isn’t a concern of consumerism, because the answer would be to start thinking about the next choice. We are never asked to move on from consumption to commitment.

That might work with your toothpaste, but the most important things in life can’t be replaced on a whim. They require the discipline necessary to build something strong and valuable and special, the ability to stick with something through thick and thin. The shopping around mentality is devastating to true manhood.

The Distraction from What’s Truly Important

Consumers are driven by the desire to find products and experiences which will allow them to experience in reality the things that they has been dreaming about. Of course the new product or experience can never bring the level of pleasure that the person had imagined it would. The person then becomes briefly disillusioned before conjuring up a new and improved daydream about another item or consumable experience that they believe has a better chance of consummating that longing. Yet the imagination is always one step ahead of reality; no matter how fantastic the acquired good is, the imagination will have always been hoping for something even more perfect. Thus a cycle of longing-acquirement-dissatisfaction-longing, is perpetuated.

While the gap can never be closed, this does not discourage the consumer. The consumer actually derives more pleasure from the longing, from imagining and anticipating the next purchased product or experience, than acquiring the actual product. Pleasure is found in the tension between imagination and reality, anticipation and climax.

This “pleasurable discomfort” is not a bad thing; it’s the hunger that drives us towards all goals, from the shallow to the worthy. The discomfort comes from the gap between how you want your life to be and how it is; it’s a vital feeling that drives us forward. Studies have proven that we actually get more satisfaction from the striving towards a goal then we do from the attaining of it.

The problem with consumerism is that it satiates our discomfort with passing and superficial pleasures, distracting us from what that hunger is really calling out for. We should be seeking to alleviate our “discomfort” by improving ourselves, our virtues, and our strengths, forever trying to become more than we are.

Create More, Consume Less

I’ve taken some flack for being too hard on video gamers. In truth, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with playing an occasional video game. The reason I frequently mention video games in connection with the problem of arrested manhood, is not the games themselves, but what they symbolize.

Whereas men once fought as soldiers, they now pretend to be ones. Where men used to play baseball and football, they now control avatars who play for them. Where men used to play an instrument, they now press buttons on a plastic toy. Where we once created, we now consume.

Why play a plastic guitar for hours instead of learning how to play the real thing? The answer of course it that doing the real thing is harder. Struggling with something tangible, something without a reset button takes dedication and commitment. So why bother?

The labor one performs transforms something in the environment, which in turn transforms you. The act of creation shapes you as a man, refines your sensibilities, improves your strengths, hones your concentration, and builds your character. Passive consumption leaves you untouched and unchanged. Consumptions breeds indifference; creation begets empowerment.

Creating can take many forms. The traditional ones are still some of the best: creating in your job, creating a life of love with your spouse and friends, and creating children. But there are other ways to create as well. Service to your community. Hobbies like gardening, blacksmithing, art, and music. Inventing, writing, blogging, political participation. Creating experiences for other people. Creating a spiritual life. And simply creating your character every day.

Growing up doesn’t have to mean donning a gray flannel suit. It really means taking an active role in the world instead of a passive one. Making an impact. And creating your world instead of consuming it.

{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rob Sharpe April 6, 2010 at 7:16 pm

As a teacher I have noticed this desire to consume rather than create quite often. My math students want me to tell them what they need to know instead of creating their own knowledge. They are quite content to consume my knowledge instead of constructing their own.

I can’t get too upset because this is exactly how I was in high school in the mid 90′s.

2 Eddie April 6, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Wow. What an inspirational article, and an amazing concept of “maturity” I have never considered. Thank you for writing it- it is having a profound impact on me even now as I prepare to turn that corner from boy to man as my (new) wife and I prepare to move into our first home.

3 PaulW April 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Great post guys! Thanks. I think I’m generally creative, but I could definitely consume less and and create more in my own way…

4 Wyatt April 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Great post. I’ve never come at true masculinity from that angle. I’ve always felt true maturity was the ability to gauge a situation and bring the necessary emotion that the circumstance requires. Whether it be joy, grief, anger or humility. It was also interesting how you brought up the idea that marriage and kids are a great way to be able to grow up quickly. I’ve always thought men would become men faster if we had things to be responsible for other than just our own actions (though even that can be a challenge). And marriage and kids definitely fall into that category. Maybe we should ask ourselves what are boys being asked to take responsibility for? What responsibility can we give them that would require an evolving of their emotional maturity level?

5 Chris Mower April 6, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Yet another post filled with great insight. Thanks! I think that people who consume less are typically more in tune with themselves… they don’t require material possessions to define themselves… they would be just as much a man if they lived in a grass hut as they would in the largest mansion.

Oh man, this is a great, great post.

6 Cameron Plommer April 6, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I’ve blogged about this topic in various degrees as well. I call it being a Consumption Whore. A consumption whore consumes information, products, whatever, but never makes anything. They are passive people. Always taking in more and more, preparing for something, trying to catch up to the newest trend.

I’ve realized that once I became a producer (blogger) my mental and intellectual capacity exploded (for the good). I am now constantly thinking of things to create and bombarded by ideas. Its awesome.

If you aren’t creating you aren’t evolving and if you aren’t evolving are you even living?

7 David April 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Interesting article. I couple of years ago, I retired early (age 50) from nearly 30 years of constant and dedicated effort in the corporate world – simple because I could afford to do so. I imagined I would become much more of a consumer and less of a creator, not needing to go into work everyday. What I found is I’ve now become handy working around the house (my wife calls me Mr Fix It), I work more outside on landscaping (something I never had an interest in) and I am actively serving on our Town Council and as an Executive Board Member of our county Metropolitan Planning Organization. And now I understand why I have the urge to do all this in retirement – I think I may be a mature creator, not a immature consumer. Thanks for adding some perspective to my life I didn’t quite understand.

8 KRA April 6, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Here’s an interesting video on “the paradox of choice” which highlights another negative aspect of consumerism.

Basically when we have so many options available to us and we spend time picking which one would be the absolute best to suit our needs, then our expectations are higher than if there was only one product available, and since we’re now bombarded with so many different choices in our lives, our expectations have gone through the roof. So much so that reality can’t compete with our expectations and we get depressed. I think understanding this helps to focus on what’s really important.

9 Tucker April 6, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I just finished “Shop Class as Soulcraft” last week, actually, and have been thinking a lot about the lack of creation in my life. Many of our jobs are so nebulous in their accomplishments and perhaps that leads us to seek easily definable signs of achievement: beating our top score on the game console, pulling up to the mall in a new BMW.

I’m definitely brainstorming how I can be a creator, not just a consumer.

10 Scott K April 6, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I’ve been trying to figure out a definition of maturity that’s useful but could not find one until today. I’m now thinking of some ways to create more in my life.

11 Mike M. April 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

You’ve made good points, but I think it can be more simply expressed.


A man embraces Duty. A boy rejects it.

A man will do what must be done to discharge his duty. Whatever it may be, whether raising a family, doing his job, or defending his country. A man will work, fight, and if necessary, die. A boy does not even recognize that duty exists, much less take responsibility for doing it.

And that’s the difference.

12 Manny April 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

This has to be the best article I have ever read, on any site. It is so thought out, and really hit the nail on the head. Real men revel in challenge since it gives them the chance to expand themselves, and boys take the easier way out. It really is too bad that this way of thinking is not more popular in our society. Incredible article!

13 The G&S April 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm

What a great philosophy. Your life is too valuable to be passive. Create and give. That will be happiness enough.

It was mentioned in a previous comment, but it bears repeating, simply because it’s such an amazing talk– more choice can be less happiness.

Here’s to men who make!

14 Kreitsauce April 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm

This is by far one of the best articles on the subject I’ve read in a long time. I also noticed someone above mentioned this consumer trend in his students. I’m a teacher who also has noticed this trend in my students. They hate to be taught things they don’t see as very important, and they want to know just what is required to pass a test. Knowledge as an achievement worth being proud of has passed to the wayside, and it concerns me for our culture. Thank you for sharing this.

15 Jonathan Mahoney April 6, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I love the concept the post. I would have preferred more focus on creating and it’s benefits. It seemed that 85% of the post was about consuming. When you’re car’s spinning out, if you keep looking at the wall you don’t want to hit, you’ll probably hit it. Let’s look more at where we want to go.

16 Sean Stanek April 6, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Great stuff. This explains why I get excited when I think about writing and presenting my own seminars for the benefit of the community, why I feel so good when I make a meal special for my wife, and why I feel complete when I see my boy do well.

Being married and having a family has forced me to mature. I have had to man-up to my duty.

17 Mauricio April 6, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I am making the transition from consumer to creator as I write this post. There is little fulfillment for me in the material things that fill the void of a boy. Time to create…

18 Nick April 7, 2010 at 12:19 am

This was an excellent post and I couldn’t agree more that the consumer culture that we live in is part of the problem of maturity. Seeing that there are teachers who say that this is a problem in the classroom is a little disheartening. I am currently in school and intend to teach high school biology and it is depressing to think that I will have to face this. At the same time it solidifies my belief that we need more good teachers, partly to combat this. There are too many teachers who feel the same way as the students about what needs to be taught.

Anyway. The only problem I had with the article was at the end. I feel safe in assuming that you aren’t a gamer given what you said about video games. I am a gamer. I love playing video games. I am also a husband and a father, a student and an aspiring writer (just a hobby but one of the things on by bucket list is to write and publish a novel). For me games are a fun way to relax and pass the time. I play a soldier because I would not want to be a soldier, but shooting digital enemies or the digital avatars of other people is enjoyable. I can have fun “killing” people in the game, as an aside for most gamers this sort of thing is like digital tag not murder, but I definitely don’t want to kill real people. I have never enjoyed sports, but… well I don’t like sports games so this one doesn’t count. I have zero interest in playing guitar, but the game is just one type of rhythm game that happens to be based on the guitar.

For me, and I would guess most gamers, it isn’t about it being easier than real life. It is more like watching an interactive movie or reading a grown-up choose your own adventure game. A fun way to pass some time when you have nothing else you want to do. It has nothing to do with the “why bother?” attitude and more to do with being a fun leisure activity. For some it becomes something like an addiction, and that is a problem, but for most of us it is no different than enjoying a game of monopoly or poker every once in a while.

Okay, I’ll climb off my horse now.

19 Bert April 7, 2010 at 12:25 am

Deeper than I expected.

20 JamesBrett April 7, 2010 at 12:27 am

be careful what you wish for… you may lose readership. to create a blog about how to be a man is indeed creating — manly, even. but to read a blog about how to be a man is bordering consumership. what if your readers start making their own furniture and building treehouses for their kids instead of reading about how to be a man?

but for someone to complain and critique that an article about how to be a man was not good enough for them is the worst of all… that is, to be a thankless consumer. the worst kind.

21 Tyler Karaszewski April 7, 2010 at 12:31 am

We create *to* consume. Without creation, there is no consumption — someone raised the chicken in your sandwich so that you could eat it, someone built your BMW so that you could drive it, someone wrote that bog post so that you could read it.

The reason that we create things is to consume them, and the only way that people have been able to increase their levels of consumption as much as they have is because we’ve increased our levels of creation correspondingly.

In the absence of consumerism, why create? Why grow a garden if no one will eat your vegetables? Why write a blog if no one will read it? Why build a video game if no one will play it?

You really can’t have one without the other. Create more; consume more. Alternatively, consume less; create less.

22 Brew April 7, 2010 at 1:21 am

The changing concept of maturity has always been defined by current challenges. I think you’ve nailed it for many American men today. Thanks for the grand thoughts, Brett!

23 CL April 7, 2010 at 2:44 am

Great article.

It’s basically what I got from The Fountainhead. I urge parents to pass along this “Create More, Consume Less” philosophy to their maturing children as it helped me a great deal when I was aimlessly wandering as a young man.

I’d recommend the book but some people seem to get really angry when someone brings up Ayn Rand :D

Be seeing you.

24 Playstead April 7, 2010 at 4:03 am

I think of a huge part of maturity as stepping up and facing responsibility head on. That has to be mentioned. But I really like where you’re going with this post. The issue with consuming is that it can end up filling voids with crap — and draining your wallet. It can also weigh you down with debt and rob you of creativity. Men always need to be creating — whether it’s writing, in the shop, kids, around the house … and moving.

25 david karapetyan April 7, 2010 at 4:57 am

I don’t agree with some of the points you bring up but overall your message is spot on.

26 gus April 7, 2010 at 5:56 am

Real men know how to raise a boy to be a real man. My definition of that is one with respect, who is willing to let others go first, and will defend his own.

27 Steve April 7, 2010 at 6:02 am

This was one good article, much deeper than I expected from the headline. Like two posters above already said: Todays students (of which I am still one) often only want to acquire the knowledge necessary to pass a certain test, instead of “deeper” knowledge.

28 Jeff D April 7, 2010 at 6:15 am

The article resonated with me as I think you’ve hit upon another dimension of the transition to manhood, good one!

Personally, I would have enjoyed more authentic language and less mysticism:
“The market ideal of Choice by an autonomous Self seems to act as a kind of narcotic that makes the displacing of embodied agency go smoothly, or precludes the development of such agency by providing easier satisfactions.”

Are you serious? What happened to authentic, clear dialogue sans the mystery of pseudo-intellectualism?

29 Daniel Burns April 7, 2010 at 6:21 am

This concept of maturity dawned upon me personally some time ago. I felt that suddenly I needed to be doing more with myself and was no longer content with drifting through life. It’s important to say that change doesn’t happen overnight, but reflecting upon what you have done is the foundation of maintaining strong commitment to your current goals and also the pursuit of new endeavours.

30 Bob April 7, 2010 at 6:24 am

I really had to laugh when seeing this article…. for years, when I feel like I am in a rut I have stopped and challenged myself by saying ‘am I creating or consuming?’… sometimes I will just write it on my list of things to do today… ‘create or consume?’
most excellent post.

31 Simj April 7, 2010 at 7:46 am

Interesting. This said in my world consumerism has taken enough of a bashing. I LOVE products & services……..bring it on. Something that grates on me is this attitude of the journey being better than the destination………absolute crock otherwise why have a destination in the first place. I understand concerns where consumerism can usurp identity and potentially put a large ritualised wedge between peoples spiritual nature. This said if you see through this whats the deal. I LOVE money and spending it. When Jesus was alleged to have said ‘the love of money etc’ I believe either this is misquoted or if real, perhaps he was suggesting where monetary matters are prioritised ahead of human/relations. This said in my mind money is so intrinsic to quality of life its almost, if not, the same as flesh & blood.

32 Dave April 7, 2010 at 8:05 am

For me as an individual this has been the best article I’ve ever read on the site. Thank you Brett.

As a young man I definitely feel that the Art of Manliness has a positive influence in the way I think.

Great job!

33 Ashley Wollam April 7, 2010 at 8:13 am

Concerning the tail-end of your post: you scoff (rightly, I feel) at the practice of controlling an avatar vs performing the act yourself (how often I’ve wondered why people choose to play video game sports, rather than the sports themselves?!).

For obvious reasons, this caused me to think of the movie Avatar. It is interesting, is it not, that while the protagonist controlled an avatar of something else, he was looked down upon by both his own society and the society he was trying to join. Gradually, as he increasingly embraced the practices of that alien race he became more accepted by them. At the end of the film, the director seems to suggest that the ultimate prize is becoming that which you desire, rather than acting like it.

I’m not plumbing the depths for this kind of interpretation – I’m just amused by a theme in the movie that went largely unnoticed. I think most people picked up more on the colonial capitalist society vs spiritualist/hunter-gatherer natives. But did anyone notice that the protagonist was fighting for his soul, and ended up finding it in another body? How many of us are engaged in the same day-to-day struggle, choosing video game sports when we want to be an athlete, or watching netflix videos of Robin Hood, Merlin, and the like, because we want to be at the center of some great endeavor – a leader, rather than a follower?

I think this concerns our struggle for authenticity. Authenticity, of course, is key to becoming a fully deployed man.

34 _Mak April 7, 2010 at 8:18 am

Great post!
This guy talks something about this:

Keep the great work!

35 Chadd April 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

Fantastic article Brett. This really hit home with my not-so-unique struggles with gardening; the idea of becoming less reliant on conventional food sources, nurturing plants to fruition. What could have been a simple task of planting a few seeds in soil has exploded into a paralyzing exercise of choice: seeds, soils, gadgets, planting philosophies, etc. To the point, where reading your article refocused the end goal. Plant the damn seeds and stop striving for perfection!

36 thornad April 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

I agree with the post. I totally disagree with the guy saying “We create in order to consume”. This is utter immature bullshit. We create because we evolve by creating, and we help everything around evolve.
I’m not saying consumption is bad. Our society is just ridiculously out of balance.
Today very few create, and as a consequence everyone suffers, because whatever the potential of these consumer-ony people would bring about is lost for the society and everyone else.
The level of consumption did not increase because of the increase in creativity, quite the contrary. Mass production is everything but creativity. It’s putting the same mold on everything. Like this:

37 Joe D. April 7, 2010 at 9:59 am

I was/am fortunate enough to have a grandfather and father that were creators for the most part, rather than consumers. They were workers,builders, gardeners, and repairers, and my dad could call himself an artist and a chef as well as play a mean piano. Without those types of role models, subsequent generations will adopt the more popular ideal of consumption. I am lucky to have that creative gene, and to create is to give. Great post from you both.

38 Tayo April 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

Brett, my heart will always pray for you. You will never lose me as a reader. I love this article because it further boost and re-enforce my belief. I am from Nigeria, my ppl’s mentality is focused on materialism, few to none ppl create anything worthwhile in society. It’s so unfortunate that this kind of mentality has carried over to the Africans that move to the US. How can someone look at the America, see how great it is and be more concerned about materialism. It’s such a shame to see how the numbers of ppl especially balck ppl that have been reduced such a low in today’s modern society. Instead of men to focus on the acquisition of virtues and knowledge, they rather focus on how to make the next buck only to use it for non-beneficial gains.

Brett, your articles have really inspired me especially “The world belongd to those who hustle” article. God will bless you with more wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Thank you very much for this post.

39 Dan April 7, 2010 at 10:25 am

The best article I’ve read on here. I’ve had so many conversations about what separates men from boys and this is the most well-thought out explanation I’ve come across. Excellent and well-written.

40 Sylvester April 7, 2010 at 10:38 am

What about reading? is it a consumption or creation. by reading i mean, reading classic books. and as men, aren’t we supposed to consume higher and nobler material to exhibit more manly characterisitcs.

41 Ricardo April 7, 2010 at 10:55 am

Honestly, after reading this article, only one thing comes to mind: ‘This article is the s***!’. This is probably my second favorite article on this site – first article ‘The World Belongs to those Who Hustle’.

42 Ron April 7, 2010 at 11:02 am

You put into words thoughts that I’ve have floating in my head for a long time. Awesome post — I’m sending this to my friends.

43 Daniel April 7, 2010 at 11:06 am

Amen…and Amen!

44 Dennis April 7, 2010 at 11:07 am

I agree with Dan above. I think this is the best article you’ve written for this site, simple and saturated with truth. You’re not a blogger, you’re a prophet.

45 Lucas April 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

This resonated with me today. Thanks for the article.

46 Brett McKay April 7, 2010 at 11:57 am

@All-Thank you for the kind words about the post and for your really astute additional insights. I have really enjoyed reading through the comments and am always so proud of the level of mature discussion that happens on this site.

@Tyler Karaszewski-

Just because creation has increased, this doesn’t mean it has been equally distributed. We have outsourced most of our creation to others, making us almost entirely consumers. The “someone” making your car, sandwich and blog post is usually not you. Second, there are many things we can create that we don’t really “consume” in the traditional sense. You don’t consume a marriage and children. And people do create things simply for their enjoyment-they make tables, journals, art, and music simply for themselves.

@Jeff D-
My only criticism of “Shop Class as Soulcraft” is what you describe-the language is often unnecessarily high high-falutin and pretentious, But I thought Mr. Crawford’s point, if not his delivery, was quite solid.

Interesting take on Avatar. I hadn’t thought of that theme, but I definitely see it.

Right on.

Thank you for your support! It is very interesting to hear that the focus on materialism is even a problem in Nigeria, and not just something plaguing the Western world, which I think many assume to be the case.

Remember, it’s consume less, not don’t consume at all. Some consumption, especially good consumption like reading, is quite healthy and desirable.

47 Brucifer April 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I would indeed take considerable issue with you that merely getting married and siring progy and holding-down some sappy-happy job makes one mature. In my 60 years, I’ve met FAR too many men with those very qualifications who are little more than ‘full-growed’ children and/or else, are entirely cowed and ruled by those self-same wives and kids. Bah Humbug! This is the same falseness as telling a women she can’t “*really* be a woman” unless she has kids. Similarly, military, firefighters, et. al. are not, all of them, “Heroes” simply for doing their assigned duty.

But yes, far too many “men” these days would rather get their satisfaction, not by doing things directly themselves, but by say, identifying the deeds of various sports “heroes” as *somehow* their own. This baffles me to no end. Similarly, far too many younger men over-identify with computer game avatars. Sure, sure, get juiced-up with a video fighting game, ok, ok and fine. But then, how’s about taking that interest further, as I myself did, and going out and learning to use a *real* sword or *real* gun in real-time, real life? Just how bad-ass are you anyway .. once away from your computer?

That all said, far too men have bought-into the consumer culture. So much so, that women can now derisively talk about “boys with their toys” in the very same way in which men usta complain about female “shop-a-holics.” That type of equality of the sexes, we can perhaps do without. I’d like to see again, the day where men would once again want a few good-quality, classy and classic things that would last them a lifetime.

48 Brett McKay April 7, 2010 at 12:14 pm


I would never say that getting married and having kids automatically grants one maturity. There are plenty of immature husbands and fathers to prove that point wrong. I’m simply saying that it is an avenue, that when properly taken advantage of, can definitely help a man to man up. That being said, I also point out that having kids and getting married is decidedly not the only way to become a mature man.

49 L-wood April 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Brett-I echo the thoughts of a previous comment, as this article and “The World Belongs to Those Who Hustle” are genuine calls to manly action. Your insight is astute. Best sentence: “Consumption breeds indifference; creation begets empowerment.” Enough said. This article may be the “anomie antidote.”

50 Rod Homor April 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I have been a long-time reader and subscriber to your blog, but haven’t commented lately. This post, however, was JUST what I needed to hear, and am very grateful to you for your continued value and service to me and your other readers.

Great job! Thank you!

51 Scott April 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I enjoyed this post very much :-) I’m also glad to see that Shop Class as Soulcraft was included here. I’m currently reading it, and I highly recommend it to people who felt like the took something from this article.

Reading most of the comments here, I have noticed some criticisms in favor of consumerism. I don’t think attacking consumerism dogmatically is the right course… not that I see this happening here anyway. I think it is hard to deny the negative impact consumerism has had on humanity. Culture is only one facet. Those who argue that producers need consumers are looking at the issue with a limited perspective. It is not about balancing an equation. Consumerist products are created by systems, not people. To be a producer means to be more self sufficient and self reliant. It’s about doing your own stuff rather than being a dependent parasite. If for anything else, it is for sake of dignity and strength of character. Any idiot can buy well.

52 Will April 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Fantastic article! I think maturity is really about control of oneself – to become master of your domain: your body, your mind, your environment. Only when you have mastered yourself will you be able to fruitfully create. If you cannot master all the desires and distractions that pull you in opposite directions and concentrate on creating/learning/building, you will be unable to grow and mature.

I think part of the growing up process is seeing that things the media sells us aren’t quite what they’re cracked up to be. Unlike beer ads, they’re aren’t loads of gorgeous women in tight skirts dying to talk to you when you go to the bar; everyone isn’t constantly smiling, laughing, and bonding at a house party; most people don’t care that you’re driving a Lexus; etc. etc. True satisfaction in life and maturity is building yourself into something more than you were. Chasing products, women, drugs, parties – none of that will stir maturity and growth.

I think the hardest part about creating when you’re in your 20s is that you have to semi-disconnect from the world while you pursue a skill. It’s easy and fun to play video games with friends. To learn guitar, you have to be by yourself and play a lot of things that sound horrible and disjointed before you start making good music. To learn painting/photography/etc., you have to learn by yourself through practice, reading, etc.

I really think it’s this aspect of being by yourself and disconnecting from your friends and social life that makes growth and maturation activities challenging. It’s hard not to feel like you’re “missing out.” But as you grow older, you realize that you’re not missing out on much and I realized that by engaging in cliched 20-something activities, I was actually missing out on something more important – becoming a well-developed mature man.

53 Nokware April 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Nice. This site is always on point.

54 Magnus April 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

This article – “consume less, create more” – was one of the absolutely best I’ve ever read on this subject. You’re so right, and that is also what makes so many more people (not only men) more depressed in these times – people have lost their creativity, and it creates an vicious circle of the “need” of more and more consuming. It’s sad, but true…

55 The Counselor April 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Another “job well-done” to Brett and Kate. I would also agree that this is one of my favorite articles on the site.

Addressing the consumerism point Sylvester and a few others raised, I think it’s important to put the concept in perspective. Just as we all need to consume certain vitamins in order to grow properly, consuming certain types of activities or experiences can be a very positive thing (which seems to be a point the article implicitly recognizes). For some people this might involve reading seventeenth-century literature or learning how to waltz, while for others it could consist of learning how to carve a bed frame or how to properly sail a boat. Consuming experiences which make us better (whatever that means for you) can be very valuable indeed.

This is in contrast, however, to many of our modern cultural experiences which are the equivalent of consuming a heaping pile of grease served with a side order of cholesterol. As long as we’re consuming the “right” things (again, whatever they may be for you), consumption is not a bad thing. I particularly enjoy consuming the information this blog has to offer, and I would suggest that we are all better-served because Brett and Kate chose to create it.

56 Patrick April 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Awesome post!!!

I have a question – do I understand correctly that the more we create and the less we consume the better? Or is it a matter of finding a sweet spot?

I assume that the latter is true, in which case please tell me how to assess that I’ve become too much of a consumer and should focus more on creating.

57 Andy April 7, 2010 at 8:50 pm

As a young man studying for the Catholic Priesthood, I appreciate the shout out in this article!

Brett, I think you did us all a great service in writing this article. It really brings to focus a lot of issues with procrastination which were implicit in your observations. Since in consuming there is no ultimate satisfaction, it doesn’t matter too much what someone is consuming. This promotes laziness since goals become naught but short term and ultimately lack any real meaning. It is in the creative process that a man really is challenged and lives his live with a motivation beyond the fleeting satisfaction one might feel in consuming.

When we consume, it doesn’t last, when we create, it can last a lifetime.

58 Jason L. April 7, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Great insight, and a great topic. I work with college students, and maturity is really an issue in the male population during the college years today. I look forward to extending on some of the ideas in this article in my own blog, entitled “From Boy to Man.”

Thanks for writing!

59 Brett McKay April 8, 2010 at 12:45 am


I would say it’s about finding that sweet spot, that balance. Consumption is not a bad thing-otherwise we’d all be walking around naked and living in cardboard boxes. But there’s no way for me to tell you how to assess if you’ve found that balance-I think it’s something every man needs to figure out for himself. I think it’s something you intrinsically sense.

60 Gerhard April 8, 2010 at 3:32 am

I live in a country where military services was compulsory until fairly recently (South Africa). Unfortunately I just missed enrolment, but my personal view is that this is something that all young men could benefit from. Not just in my country, but everywhere.

61 Sir Lancelot April 8, 2010 at 4:29 am

“Unlike beer ads, they’re aren’t loads of gorgeous women in tight skirts dying to talk to you when you go to the bar”

Speak for yourself.

Seriously though, we shouldn’t mix consumption with consumerism. Consumerism is not the mere consumption of goods and services but the addiction to consumption as a substitute for the real thing.

Anyway, big thumbs up from this consumer, Brett. You’ve nailed it again.

62 Rahul April 8, 2010 at 6:14 am

Hi Brett/Kate,

Wonderful article and I must say wonderful comments from your readers….I agree with it and disagree with some things as well, but probably don’t have the time to properly outline everything now. Anyhow, it gives me great joy to read your thoughts and everyone’s comments.

I just wanted to suggest that you pace out your postings. What I mean is when you have a great article like this one which generates a lot of interest and comments, then delay posting other articles till the discussion and interest on this one levels off. This will make sure that people visiting your site after a couple of days don’t miss this great post accidentally. It will also give you breathing space so you can stock up on writing other great articles to post. Conversely, if you find some post has not got too much response just dig into this stock and put up another article immediately.

Just a suggestion. :-)


63 Matt Krachunis April 8, 2010 at 10:53 am

Thanks for the sweet post. It changed our life. I wrote a blog about it here-

We ditched cable yesterday after reading this post. Thanks.

64 Brett McKay April 8, 2010 at 11:34 am


We do space out our posts-just in a different way. We like to offer a variety of different kinds of posts during the week-usually one more serious one and a couple lighter ones. Some of our readers like the serious stuff and some like the lighter stuff, and all have various interests. So hopefully there is something for everyone during the week.

65 Wade April 8, 2010 at 11:42 am

Consumerism is especially prevalent in the US because the economy has shifted from production to consumption over the last century. It may be hard for men to “create” these days because of cumbersome regulation and taxes, and it has been far too tempting just to consume cheap foreign products with a high American Dollar. America has borrowed and spent its way into this recession and the only way out is to save and produce.

Hard work and decreased consumption will be forced upon many men in the coming years, so Brett, don’t be surprised to see these changes taking place, just not for the reasons you may expect.

Great Article!

66 Chris April 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Great food for thought, and I agree on all counts… except for the last comment about passive gaming. It takes cognitive engagement, learning, and persistence in the face of failure to engage in the act of virtual play. Certainly it may take ‘less skill’ to push a button than to really learn sword techniques, who really wants to engage in mortal combat with another human, at the risk of their life? It would be foolish to throw away your life in such a manner.

Games are about immersing yourself in a fantastical experience that you can’t practically experience in real life, yet gaming should certainly be balanced with the ability to contribute in the collective reality. I understand your sentiments about games, because there are in fact a lot of stupid games out there that don’t challenge someone to create cognitive schemas for accomplishing complex tasks. However, when you generalize negative comments about games, you discredit both intelligent gamers who strive to learn from their mistakes, as well as the creative game designers who made those games.

And there are in fact several games out there that are trying to make changes in how people think about the real world (see below).

67 Sir Lancelot April 8, 2010 at 1:24 pm

“Thanks for the sweet post. It changed our life. ”

Well, Brett, you must feel mighty proud after reading this.

68 D.C. April 8, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Can I do all this *and* don a grey flannel suit?

I say; ‘attempt’ to make/build for yourself anything you ‘can’ if the self-made object functions better and/or is cheaper that the ‘bought’ alternative… and wear a flannel suit.

69 Zach W. April 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Well done sir! I very interesting and thought-provoking article.

70 Adam O April 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

hmm. great article. i can relate. i’m living with my father with no motivation to change or grow. with luck my mom will pass away soon so i can quickly kill myself.

71 Mike April 8, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Consumerism is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I wake up everyday wanting to work hard to make pockets full of money so I can experience all the things life has to offer. It’s the people that steal, borrow with no means to repay, & count their chickens (or dead presidents) before they hatch. Enjoy the finest, but stay within your means. You’re not going to live forever. You deserve the finest my friends!

72 Megan April 8, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Incredible article. I will marry any man who agrees with this as I’ve wasted too much time on consumers!

73 D Sylvester April 8, 2010 at 11:33 pm

This is a perception altering article.

74 Boysen H. April 9, 2010 at 1:01 am

I love this article. Very well said. I go along with many who offered a counter-point to your assertion about video games – Check out this TED talk to hear an outrageous idea about video gamers – (an idea which I actually buy into)

I am really in agreement about the creative (productive) as a counter-point to a consumption driven way of life. And I also believe it will become more and more necessary for us to RE-learn how to make and create for ourselves as localization becomes imperative in our world.

And for me, one of the most valuable tools I have had to engage with MY creativity and generativity is having a mission (a purpose and vision for my life, driven by action in the world) – I got that crystal clear on that through my experience with the ManKind Project. One of the single most powerful experiences of my life.

75 Leigh April 9, 2010 at 4:03 am

Hi Brett & Kate,

You certainly have a talent for putting the pieces together. Like a lot of others have said above, you have helped me step through the looking glass. For a fair while now I’ve been unhappy with exactly how my life is going, and making little steps to change it for the better. Your posts like this one certainly help me to gain some perspective; it feels like completing the edges of a jigsaw puzzle – a meaningful victory and a milestone! I’d been trying to define this gut feeling and you hit the nail on the head. In the past year or so I started taking some courses at my local college to recapture and build upon skills that I learned years ago at school, skills that will allow me to create and pursue a better life. Not surprisingly, I’ve found that doing this has helped me create a better life in other ways, enjoy life more and generally be more at ease with my place in the world at the ripe old age of 31 :)

Keep up the good work! And thanks to everyone else for your various comments, shared experiences and comic relief :)

76 Diego Zacarias April 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Ironically enough, I’ve been “shopping” around for an answer like this; I’ve created several in my head and even managed to get some down on paper, but I like what I’ve found better. I’m not going to let me limit myself. I’m going to progress.

77 Julian April 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Who is that photo of? (the sculptor)

I thought this was a very relevant article.
I strongly agree with the idea of creating more and consuming less. I find there is a lack of creativity in a lot of industries.

As a fan of film, I try my hand at making short films and video projects every once in a while. Watching movies is a good source of inspiration, but only watching and not creating can turn into an endlessly draining cycle. A few years back, I read an interview with an actress who worked with French writer/director Luc Besson. She said that he doesn’t watch movies. He just makes them. That really blew my mind. It made sense because his style is unique and storytelling is very focused. He simply makes his craft personal.

78 Laetitia in Australia April 9, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Sorry – don’t have time to read all the comments so I don’t know if this has already been said but I think this (create rather than consume) is one sign of maturity for both men and women.


79 JC April 10, 2010 at 7:24 am

Great article.
Have you read “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi?
One of the best books I’ve ever read, which deals precisely with this topic.

I recommend it to all.


80 Gary Olson April 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

The tools for creating are suffering from the concept of consumerism. Rather than designing and providing tools which allow for effective creative effort, many tools these days are designed for consuming multiple single use attachments — instead of providing functionality which requires real thought for effective use. Sears lifetime warranty for tools has also morphed from a statement of providing quality tools for building to a consumerism method of providing cheaper tools to drive more frequent visits to their store. This can also be seen in the demise of the hardware store with an effective selection of hardware; and the rise of the warehouse “home improvement” super-consumption warehouse with large volume and minimum choice.

If you can’t tell, I have been a creator all my life. As a boy, I spent more time creating with spare whatever-was-laying-around than consuming. Now, my creative tasks require some serious financing. I have chosen a career, which some might say has not rewarded me financially, with a career where I can build each and every day. HIghly recommended.

81 Jay April 10, 2010 at 9:31 am

Great article, but I take issue with this line:

“Consumption, being able to choose between many options, a myriad of different products and services, is sold as the ticket to true freedom and sovereignty.”

Not exactly sure what this means, but in a truly capitalist economic system (which America isn’t), this proposition is inverted. The freedom of the individual to act from his or her own creative capacities results in more choices for consumers — this is going under the assumption that people generally prefer an easier life where they are free to pursue interests without having to drudge for necessities to just stay alive.

It’s the apparatus of the state that restricts freedom, either inadvertently or maliciously, and thus restricts the market from offering what is best.

82 Richard | April 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm

What a great post. You had me at the title :). I’ve turned Raw Vegan recently so am consuming less and creation is natural for me although I have to let it flow sometimes instead of forcing it. Nice post guys!

83 Derek W April 10, 2010 at 7:13 pm

A thoughtful, compelling observation. This is the kind of big idea that lights fires under movements.

84 Vuk B April 11, 2010 at 1:50 am

This is incredibly insightful and beautifully written. You really gave me something to think about here. I think I am in the middle ground on this matter. I’m a 19 year old university student so I cant call myself a “man” just yet, but I am quite anti-consumerist in the context you are speaking about. For example I almost never play video games, I have some high tech electronics (Ipod, laptop etc), but I derive utility from them rather than happiness. However after giving it thought I cant call myself mature yet; even though I am not a big consumer, im not a big creator either and that is an aspect I am still developing as im figuring out who i am and who i want to become.

85 Steve April 12, 2010 at 4:17 am

Hey Brett and Kate,

Great article!! I had let this sit in my RSS queue for the past week or so (as I’m just getting to it now), but it almost perfectly encompasses my thoughts on this very subject. I was in a rut for the past year or so, and not sure why. Then, just a couple of days ago it hit me, I wasn’t CREATING anything anymore, so I decided to take up piano. I just went to the store and bought a keyboard, almost on a whim. Now, four days later, I find myself feeling great as I strive to learn how to make music again (I used to play bass clarinet when I was in middle school). I couldn’t put my finger on it, but your article sums it up perfectly. I was in desperate need to create something instead of just consuming.

Thanks again for your great website and all of the work that you do to restore balance to the world.


86 TRAVIS B. April 13, 2010 at 11:16 am

LOVE IT! Great points of interest!

87 Dana Floris April 13, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Really the act of creating is something wider than just consuming vs. producing… creation is something we can do in many aspects of our lives like how we make a living.

We all need money for certain things to survive, but how you make that money is an important indicator of your maturity.

Are you the kind that puts endless mental energy into how to extract money or do you think about what you can create that is valuable to the world. Edison created film, but then he went around trying to make as much money from it as possible instead of going on to create the next thing: color film, pictures with sound.

Too often we think it’s all been done and are resigned to getting creative only in how we can get ours instead of what can we contribute to the world first.

88 Chad April 15, 2010 at 1:53 am

Excellent article, Sir. Now I’m really fired up to start creating. Think I’ll go practice on my writing now!

89 Jeremy James April 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Brett, I came across an article by Mark Twight recently. here: To go along with what you said, Twight has some bright points in his article that I think are worth repeating. His article may offend some, but in general I like the tone that he conveys.

“Live with commitment. With emotional content. Live whatever life you choose honestly. Give up this renaissance man, dilettante bullshit of doing a lot of different things (and none of them very well by real standards). Get to the guts of one thing; accept, without reservation or rationalization, the responsibility of making a choice. When you live honestly, you can not separate your mind from your body, or your thoughts from your actions.”

90 Nataraj April 17, 2010 at 11:43 am

Great article. I found it resonated with me in interesting ways. I have long groused about most of the men I worked with because they seemed to live in some stifling vacuum of passivity. Now I think I have a clearer understanding of the root of my disenchantment. I’m 47, and about 13 years ago I changed my name as a perpetual catalyst for personal growth and change; a reminder to not get stuck in ruts. It has worked in ways I could never have imagined! I changed careers (logistics to photography), became an aerial dancer in an established troupe, and became a teacher in an improvisational dance form (contact improv). My life is swimming in creativity. I have no time for television (though I enjoy watching movies on my timetable-it sometimes takes 3 days to get through a movie!). For the first time in more than a decade I am planting a veggie garden (rather than just flowers) and I intend to learn to can the harvest. And, I am deep in the throes of love with my wife of 23 years.

This article is a great motivator. Give yourself a raise.

91 Chris Nelson April 24, 2010 at 5:22 am

Your capacity for articulating exactly what I’m thinking before I have the chance to is going from admirable to mildly irritating….you’re on notice, McKay!

92 Andrew Lorquet April 24, 2010 at 7:09 am

Great blog post!! Great to see it resonates with so many people!! Viva the revolution, viva the menassaince!! :P

Saw a documentary on channel 4 (UK) about a week ago titled “Make a man of me” and thought the AOM community would appreciate it :

93 Mac April 24, 2010 at 10:14 pm

That evil “consumption” is actually what drives our economy.

94 Conway April 25, 2010 at 3:07 am

This article has just changed my life. Thank you very much.

95 Derek Sullivan April 25, 2010 at 11:52 am

You’re preaching to the choir here. I’m 17, and recently I decided to go minimalist – I haven’t purchased anything new in months, especially clothes. I started a vegetable garden, I made a resolution to build a chair this summer, and I’ve been writing music and poetry nonstop.

This really is a great website, and it’s helped me a lot. My father partakes in “man” activities, but rarely does he teach me such things.

96 Derek Sullivan April 25, 2010 at 11:56 am

Oh, and @ Mac –
It doesn’t have to be that way. Society conforms to the population, not the other way around. Do you really feel safe in a world where corporations own our welfare and well-being? We’re such slaves to consumerism that if we stop, our economy will collapse. Doesn’t that scare you?

97 Alex Kriz April 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

It does seem true that consumerism is both necessary and poisonous for our society at this time. However, aren’t consumerism and creativity related i.e. if there was no consumerism – would there be any reason to create anything?

Perhaps what we need is to balance our own creations with a conscious appreciation for the creations of others which an be expressed through consumerism.

98 Curran Leeds April 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for a little bit now, checking out articles that speak to me because I grew up without a strong dad model in my life, so these articles are helping to shed some light on areas that need growing, and this article was a whopper of a help. thank you so much for doing this, there are so many “lost boys” out there in the world and your blog is a good start for them to find their footing in this crazy world. thank you :)

99 Nico April 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

In the beginning of the article you talked about how you’re a big proponent of men finding the right woman and settling down. What about gay men? Can they not be manly and mature? They can’t get married, but even if they could, would you not consider a same-sex marriage a milestone in male maturity?

100 deezona May 2, 2010 at 1:52 am

A very intelligent article– echoes my thoughts.

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