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Creativity's Worst Enemy

Creativity's Worst Enemy

Complaining is like a rash—too easy to catch, and tough to get rid of. I speak from experience. I’m a recovering “complain-a-holic” who’s still trying to find the cure.

And I don’t think it’s just me. It seems that complaining, with a heavy dose of cynicism, has become our national pastime. It only takes three minutes on Facebook, Twitter, talk radio, or the news stations to know that if you’re not complaining about something, you’re a bit of an outsider.

Complaining has become our social currency, our shared language used to form a mutual—if somewhat bitter—understanding of the world we live in.

We complain about our crappy jobs, the slow Wi-Fi, our leaders in the office and around the world and the waiter who brought only one basket of bread the entire night.

This kind of criticism has become signature to our society—as culturally cool as deep v-necks and neon sunglasses. But can we really be blamed?

For twentysomethings who walked off the graduation stage into a dark, deep, pit called the Great Recession, how can we not lament our great injustice? For many, life has been harder than it has been sweet. How do we not sing woes when trying to reap from fields ravaged with locusts and wildfire? Isn’t lament a biblical concept?

Perhaps the better question is to ask where our cynicism is leading us. If we let our complaint guide the way, dragging us through the mud, what is the outcome?

The outlook may be bleak, but there are some who are choosing not to wallow but to walk confidently forward—a band of people who have chosen to follow another word, forcing cynicism on a raft and shove it out to sea.

That word? Create.

Complaining and creating have a direct correlation. The more you create, the less you complain. The more you complain, the less you create. It’s a pretty simple formula.

Instead of standing by the problem pointing out everything that’s wrong, create a solution. Instead of ingraining an attitude of discontent, start working toward a new way forward. Create a movement, a relationship, a tool or a conversation.

By now, you may have heard of Bob Goff—lawyer, Ugandan consulate and New York Times best-selling author, who is known for his whimsical and passionate enthusiasm for life and faith. His core value is summed up in the title of his new book: Love Does.

Goff leaks doing and creativity with every story—like his response to 9/11. Instead of complaining about the world after the attacks, he and his kids created hundreds of letters to send to world leaders asking if they would come to San Diego for a sleepover—or at least visit to talk about what those leaders hoped for in a world so full of unnecessary violence.

While it would have been easy to sit back and do nothing, Goff chose to look forward in hope and cultivate relationships with world leaders that might result in meaningful change. Goff didn’t have an official title or global reputation at that point, but his invitation ultimately led him to Bulgaria, Israel, Switzerland and other countries, and then Uganda officially signed him on as their country’s consulate.

Do it big. Do it small. Just do something. Because as Bob Goff wrote, Love Does.

Another key difference between complainers and creators is empathy. Complainers are more like consumers—they consume an unfortunate event or situation. But creators empathize, and then they do something.

Creators are empathic because they know how hard it is to put something out into the world for the swarm of critics to rip apart. Creators carry with them the scars from cynic’s attacks, wounds that are healed because of grace. And that grace empowers them to continue moving forward, creating life-bringing solutions in a world in need.

What if we simply replaced moments where we had every right to complain, and created something instead? What would the world look like?

Instead of complaining about our boss to co-workers, what if we wrote a thank-you note instead and left it on his desk?

Instead of complaining about the company we hate, what if we created our own?

Instead of jumping onto Facebook, Twitter or our blog to complain about the lack of opportunities, what if we created opportunities and invited people to join us?

People naturally gravitate toward passionate pursuers. On the other hand, people run like the plague from complacent complainers. It’s up to us to create opportunity—instead of whining and waiting for one to float by.

The lyrics of a song by Gungor echo God’s incredible creative capacity, that He has graciously also given to us: “You make beautiful things out of the dust.” And for the hundreds of thousands of young people rising up today, the potential is astounding to do the same—to pick up the torch of the Creator and make beautiful things in a broken world.

Love someone. Share wisdom. Get passionate about something. Promote others. Bring an idea to life. Create, make, do. Rinse, repeat. And watch the world change.

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