Near the end, he starts talking about living intentionally, though he doesn't really use that word. He does talk about decision fatigue and a cognitive bank (though I'm not sure if that's the exact term he uses). What he means is that we have a limited ability to make decisions or think about things. If we wake up and have to decide what to wear, what to have for breakfast, what time to leave for work (even what time to actually get out of bed), etc., then that leaves us less cognitive ability to make important decisions (you can read about the same idea in Willpower by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister). Anyone who knows me understands that I largely try to live my life this way.
This idea led into his next one, which was about consuming. He quoted a friend of his who said that we spend 95% of our time consuming, consuming, consuming, and only 5% of our lives reflecting on what we're consuming. He talked about how the internet and Netflix are designed to lead us to click to the next article or blog post or show rather than stopping and reflecting on what we've read or seen. His argument is that, if we stopped and reflected on whatever we've consumed for even thirty minutes, our lives wouldn't be the same.
I like this idea a good deal. Even the lists I make (movies I've seen and books I've read) can lead me to do the same thing, as it can become about numbers, not about thinking about or digesting what I'm watching or reading. Our society encourages such an approach to life, as everything focuses on consumption. If Thoreau wrote that "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," our society needs to hear that most people lead lives of quiet obliviousness (they might even lead lives of loud obliviousness, given all of the noise in our world, but quiet refers more to the quality of our lives, I would argue). We consume emails and texts and (ahem) blog posts and videos and pictures and on and on through our supposedly smart phones, and we ignore the world around us. The only way to be able to create art is to be aware. For all of the argument that our technology connects us, I tend to see it distract people from what is really important more than anything else (and, yes, I'm fine to sound like a crotchety old man here).
All of this leads him to envy. He quoted Theodore Roosevelt on envy (I would put it here, but I can't find the quote, unfortunately), where he effectively says that envy hurts both ourselves and the other person. The host of the show, Debbie Millman, tries to argue that social media forces us to envy people more (or create more envy), but Zimmer disagrees. He responds that nothing forces us to envy people, and I agree. We have choice in the matter, and we need to choose wisely.
He doesn't directly relate this idea to art, but it's clearly implied. He talks about how we believe we'll only be happy once we get x or y in our lives (connecting to consumption, of course), and that's true about creating art. We believe that we'll be happy when we get a poem published in that journal or a novel accepted by this publisher. The truth is we won't be happy then, even if our book becomes a best seller or we begin receiving invitations to speak all over, maybe even give a TED talk. The art itself needs to make us satisfied, not because it is perfect, but because we love the act of creation itself.
If you have thirty minutes or so, you should listen to the podcast. Then, you should take thirty more minutes and think about what he has to say. It might just inspire you, too.