The 120 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge

Continuous Creation Challenge

If you like this, don’t miss the related Community Craziness, Experience, and Insight article and the revealing recap article.

Well here we are again.

Looking for inspiration, motivation, education, or experimentation that will forever change our actions and behavior.

My personal renaissance demands a tremendous amount of evolution.

And to feed that evolution, I need diverse sources of inspiration, movitation, education, and experimentation. Fortunately, I’ve found it in some amazing places.

Places like:

  • Blog posts, magazine articles, TEDTalks, books, and podcasts
  • Invigorating new friendships with people who bring a perspective totally different than my own
  • Engaged in a riveting conversation with a cousin while walking down a dirt road in rural Minnesota
  • In a weightless sensory deprivation tank free of sight, smell, sound, and feeling temperature

But there’s just something about creating your own challenge – with your own rules or the lack of them – that provides meaning and impact unlike anything else.

I experienced that with the 72 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge in April and need you to help me take it to the next level.

Starting at 7:00 pm CST on September 9th, I’ll be entering uncharted waters with the 120 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge.

I’m challenging you to join me for up to 120 hours in your own version of a Continuous Creation Challenge!

I have a ridiculously ambitious goal to have 100,000 people do this challenge by the end of 2014. So I need your help.

Why am I doing this and why would you want to join everyone else doing this?

Read on.

Taking It from the Top

Remember when you were little and all you wanted to do was create? You were obsessed with creating.

Building sand castles. Creating a tower of blocks. Art projects with squiggly lines or blobs of paint. A fort made out of snow.

But now you’re obsessed with consuming.

And most days you don’t even realize it. Yeah, it happens to me too. Modern life gives us many more opportunities to consume than create.

In April, I learned the power of spending every waking moment for 72 consecutive hours just creating.

What I created didn’t change the world. But it filled me with a mission and purpose so much bigger than what the results were. It went well beyond handmade cards, website and book reviews, and planting the seeds for what you see now – Value of Simple.

To achieve all this, I went to extremes (according to most people I told about my experience).

The short version is I didn’t eat, read, watch, listen, browse, modify, run errands, or have any nonessential communication for three days.

As you read that, you might be thinking:

  • I could never intentionally fast for 72 hours
  • I would never want to purposefully give up reading emails, texts, books, blogs, magazines, the news, and social media for three days
  • I should never deliberately stop listening to music, podcasts, and the radio
  • I cringe at the thought of tenaciously keeping off the TV, video player and video game system, YouTube, or anything that requires electricity to watch
  • I could never plan well enough to avoid needing a grocery store trip or jaunt to the mall for so long

Those are legitimate thoughts. But keep in mind I’m not being unyielding about the framework for your version of this. I have lots of suggestions for how you can personalize it to make this work for your unique needs and goals.

It’s hard at first. But as the hours pass of passionately diving into projects and goals that have been idle for months or years, excitement and a sense of accomplishment build upon each other.

Excitement about starting – and finishing – one goal leads to swelling pride. That pride leads to a feeling that you can accomplish even more…so you attempt something bigger. Something more meaningful to you, the people you love, or the legacy you want to leave the world.

Continuous Creation Challenge

And before you know it, the challenge is over. Then, you look back in awe of not just what you’ve achieved, but how the experience has revealed what’s possible.

What’s possible for you.

What’s possible for others if they experienced this too.

What’s possible when you channel that dormant energy away from passively consuming and into actively creating. I mean, straight up, hard-core creation.

Your Framework

I’m going to give you my framework for the 120 hours but you should liberally modify this for your unique needs. If you need to tweak the length, types of consumption eliminated, the start date, or anything else, do it.

  • Can’t imagine 120 hours straight? Try 24 first.
  • Can’t see yourself creating effectively while fasting? Don’t fast.
  • Want to skip some hours of sleep so you can create even more? Do what you think is best.

Besides, challenges are always more fun when you get to customize them.

Remember though: The overarching rule is no consumption – as you define it – for the length of the challenge.

With that said, here’s your template.

Not Allowed for Joel

  1. Food: Yep, it’s a total fast.
  2. Reading: Newspapers, books, magazines, RSS feeds, social media, incoming emails, general Internet sites, texts, etc.
  3. Watching: Online videos, movies, TV, or anything else that requires electricity
  4. Listening: Music, the radio, podcasts, etc.
  5. Browsing: Google, YouTube, or searching in general
  6. Modifying: No tweaking something that has already been created like an article or a sweater. Fixing things around the house is also off limits.
  7. Errands: Going to the library, grocery store, etc.
  8. Communication: Nonessential interaction with friends and family in any format. Exceptions will be made for Melinda and Grant because I live with them and need to interact with them.

Allowed for Joel

  1. Value of Simple Content: I have a ton of to-be written articles, podcasts, videos, future freebies for the newsletter community, and more that need to go from nothing to finished
  2. Products: Most of the content for my upcoming product should be done in this time period
  3. Handmade Cards: I love making handmade cards for friends and family. Bring on the birthday, anniversary, holiday, and “just because I can” cards!
  4. Peace and Quiet: Walks with the dogs and yoga are fair game because they create peace and quiet
  5. Sleep: Normal levels of sleep are encouraged as this isn’t about productivity or “getting things done.” Plus, the quality of my creations will be crap unless some sleep is involved.
  6. New Relationships: With cool people in the neighborhood or online.
  7. TBA: There’s more I have in mind and time is allowed for spontaneous acts of creativity

Gotta Do

The realities of life require me to create some things that are outside the core of the challenge.

  1. Meals for the Family: Creating meals for Melinda and Grant are permitted so their basic needs can be met. Since I’m not spending 120 hours by myself in a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere, I’d like to stay married and avoid being a deadbeat dad.
  2. Drinking Water: For safety reasons. This is the only physical thing I will consume.
  3. Sending Emails: I won’t be reading incoming emails but I will occasionally send one

A Little More Context

The biggest thing people get hung up on or grill me about is the fasting.

This isn’t about how much weight I can lose or body image. It’s just that everything that goes into consuming food (buying, prepping, eating, and cleaning up) takes a frickin’ ton of time. Time that could be used to create. I’m primally adapted for intermittent fasting which helps enormously.

I’m also doing this simply because I can. Fortunately, I have life and work flexibility to attempt this without too many complications.

If you’re already getting curious, excited, or angry, don’t worry. You might just need to think about and write down the powerful reason(s) you have accepting this kind of challenge.

Note: I’ll be recapping my experiences and a few others in a follow up article shortly after my challenge ends. Get your suggestions in now for what you want me to create from Sept 9th to Sept 14th (for you or in general) by typing up a comment to this article!

Join Us!

Starting planning what your personal Continuous Creation Challenge will be. Like, right now.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the projects I burn to create but never find the time or motivation?
  • When will I start and how long will I go?
  • What powerful reasons do I have on why this could be a challenge to help liberate my talents?
  • Should I add or subtract forms of consumption from Joel’s framework?
  • What arrangements do I need to make ahead of time so this can be a success?
  • What are the things I gotta do or my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend will divorce/break up with me?
  • What feelings of accomplishment, pride, and self-worth will come from this experiment?
  • How much joy and confidence will I get from sharing everything I’ve created with the Value of Simple community?
  • For Community Connectors: How many new relationships could I start with this spark?

And now get going on your plans and set that start and end date!

Hell, if you want to show me up with your awesomeness and start your personal Continuous Creation Challenge before mine, I’d be elated!

I’ll be creating a separate page on Value of Simple for people to share their Continuous Creation Challenge experiences and read about everyone else’s. You can also use the Twitter hashtag “#ContCreChal” to share and see what everyone else is up to.

Be someone who can state with pride, “I was one of the first of 100,000 to do the Continuous Creation Challenge! It felt and still feels awesome!”

Start consuming less and creating more. What are you waiting for?

Photo Credit: Chris JL

35 Responses to The 120 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge

  1. Shanna Mann says:

    I feel like the fasting is a bit too far to go. I could see no consuming any pre-packaged or processed foods, but a five day fast is probably going to trigger a detox, and I don’t see how that would be creative or enjoyable. Do you have any experience with longer fasts?

    • Hey Shanna,

      Your response is pretty typical and that’s why I specifically addressed the fasting component of this in the announcement. I’ve completed a 72 hour fast with ease (see the recap here) and expect a 120 hour fast to certainly be at least somewhat difficult. That extra 48 hours is not trivial.

      But I’ve studied up heavily on how to fast effectively for extended periods of time and my diet is also optimal for this. I can’t say I’m not worried about it, but I’m more concerned about how hard not reading for 5 days will be. That was by far the hardest part of the challenge when it was only 72 hours.

      I can’t tell you not to be concerned about my health because that’s a natural feeling to have when exposed to something a bit out there like this. But I can assure you the 72 hour one I did was both creative and enjoyable.

      Beyond the fasting part – which people can eliminate when they personalize this – was there anything else that jumped out at you when reading this?

      • Shanna Mann says:

        If you have experience with fasting, I’m not too worried. Some people just go at it w/out research, assuming it’s just a matter of willpower, and those are the ones who land in the hospital.

        I agree with Bobbi’s characterization; binging on creation. I think *because* I have so much unrestricted freedom in my day to day life, I’m much more interested in how to moderate my life, and improve things in incremental, but reliable and sustainable steps. I’ve always been inspired by the quote “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be wild and original in your work.” So although I’ll be happy to hear how things turned out, I have no interest in it myself. Don’t you think you’ll empty the well?

        • I’m not concerned about emptying my figurative and literal wells (a.k.a. energy storage). They run deep and tend to expand over time as I challenge myself (and others) in bigger, better ways.

  2. Denise says:

    I can’t see how fasting and creating could go hand in hand. Fasting seems like a personal thing. Something you do alone, in conjunction with meditation or prayer. I see it as a cleanse of some sort, so that you can start fresh creating with a clear mind, maybe? I’m totally guessing, mind you. I’ve never fasted. Not really, except for a medical procedure. But, I’m open-minded to learn how this ends up working out. And I’d be happy to participate without the fasting, but I would definitely go very light and healthy / very small portions – because I know that would keep my energy up while creating. Heavy, starchy, or greasy junk food would just drag me down.

    • Hi Denise,

      I’m sure fasting and creating don’t go hand in hand for most people. I thought that way before my first experiment for 72 hours, but that time period turned out to be an amazing one in expressing my creativity.

      It’s clear to me, especially after hearing the reservations of my wife Melinda, that everyone else’s biggest challenge with my challenge is the fasting part. So to that I say, if fasting and creating don’t jive with you, then adopt the rest of the guidelines and eat as much as you like. Or adopt only half of the guidelines and tweak them to make this an experience unique to you. That’s what I want after all.

      So when are you going to start this and how long are you planning to go?

  3. Bobbi Emel says:

    Joel, you wild man, there you go again on your creative, fasting, non-consumption binge. I always enjoy reading about your exploits! I’m not sure if I’ll join you or not, but as always, I love your enthusiasm and drive!

  4. Erin says:

    Wow, Joel, this is such an intriguing concept. It’s really interesting to me to see what you’ve chosen to allow vs. not allow during your challenge. I don’t think you’re crazy, especially if this approach works so well for you!

    For me, I’m not sure this kind of approach would work. I need down time from creating. I’ve actually been working on structuring my days based on when I have higher energy vs. lower and then suiting each kind of activity to its appropriate energy level. It’s worked really well for me to have a balance of creating, consuming, and communicating/connecting, plus some unstructured time as well. I think having to constantly create would wear me out. And I definitely couldn’t do it without food — my stomach is touchy enough as it is!

    I really liked the Puttython, when I was able to give myself a day to completely do whatever I wanted, nothing scheduled or determined in advance. I’ve also wanted to try an unplugged day, when I don’t turn on my computer or look at my cell phone. Those might be things I could do along with you, if they’d count. I have some scheduling things up in the air right now that will have to come down before I can pick days, but you can count me, perhaps, a bit won over :)

    • Hey Erin,

      If you’re intrigued and want to join us then take my loose framework and modify it heavily. The important part is that people understand why they’re doing this or why they’d want to attempt it in the first place. Without understanding and agreeing with the context and the reasons why, this would be a terrible idea for anyone.

      As much as I want to see other people create some things they’ve been waiting years to start (or finish), it’s more about the spirit than what’s accomplished. I’m only asking people to buy into the “why”. If they do, then they can create their own how, what, when, and where.

  5. Sarah says:

    I’m with Shanna – for me personally, the fasts would be too much. Creating on low blood sugar isn’t the best place for me to work from. That being said, I think this is a really cool idea… 120 seems long, but I’m very curious to see how it goes for you. I may try a short version of 12-24 hours although not on that day as I’ll be at rally (rally!) I can see how this could really help you get into a flow state though… Can’t wait to hear the results!

    • Don’t worry about trying to time your version of a Continuous Creation Challenge to synch up with mine. How you do it, when you do it, and what kinds of consumption you eliminate is up to you. The important part is that you do it. Assuming, that is, you want to do it and agree with the reasons why it could be a great way to learn your own boundaries and challenge the status quo.

      You like to challenge the status quo, right? :)

  6. Amit Amin says:

    I will join you, Joel! I consume way to frikking much. Music, books, TV, books, etc, etc… Too much consumption! AHHHHHHHHH!

    Do you have a specific date in mind?

    • Amit Amin says:

      Ah, I just remembered, I can’t fast for 120 hours. I’m trying to gain wait :(

      • Hey Amit,

        Two things for you.

        1) You can show solidarity and start when I start (Sunday evening, Sept 9th). Or you can start earlier, or later, or go longer…or go much shorter. It’s totally up to you. I’m just giving you the inspiration and blueprint and you get to actually build the sucker.

        2) And on the topic of fasting, don’t do it for part of the time or the whole time if you can’t or don’t want to pull that aspect off. It’s way more important that you adapt this to your needs and goals than follow some orthodox prescription handed down by “the creator” (of the challenge).

        That’s some atheist humor for ya if you didn’t catch it. :)

  7. awesome! I just got back from a backwoods vacation where everything except eating was off the menu. (no power, no internet makes it easy) I do practice intermittent fasting quite a bit these days usually for 24 to 36 hours it makes the tummy happy.

    I won’t join you guys this time as my schedule doesn’t have the flexibility right now, but I will be cheering you on!

    • Hey Lori,

      I had a feeling you’d be a good candidate to give this a try with my original framework (or at least something close to it).

      I’m not concerned with you doing this immediately. If you think it’s cool and right for you, do it two months from now when the timing is better. Or do it for just a couple of days if you don’t have the flexibility to do it for five days.

      Customization is the name of the game here so don’t let any one aspect of the challenge derail the whole thing.

  8. Ani says:


    Really cool, I admire your determination. I am absolutely sure you will do everything as planned and as a result we will get plenty of fresh and creative content on your site.

    Can’t join you but will cheer you and Amit for sure :)

  9. Ethan says:

    The closest thing I’ve ever come to doing something like this was I participated in the RPM challenge two years in a row. It’s a world-wide challenge to write and record an album during the month of February. I completed it twice! Before participating the first time, I had only written about 3 songs and each took months. Suddenly I had written and recorded 8 of them in a relatively short period of time! I have no doubt that you’ll be able to achieve a lot of great things in your 120 hour creation marathon.

    I’m trying to keep an open mind about your fasting. My own experience is that I cannot function well if my blood sugar gets low / I am really really hungry. For me, this would take away from my productivity during an event. I can understand how spending time to eat could take away from your focus, but I wonder if you’re creating more of a barrier than your taking away?

    • Hey Ethan,

      When you did the RPM challenge, did you follow the guidelines 100% or did you customize them a bit to suit your needs? I’m guessing you took a few liberties with a couple of the suggested parameters, right? That’s what I’m advocating for everyone who’s taking the Continuous Creation Challenge.

      I’m fine if I’m the only one out of 100,000 who fasts through this. I just know that for me, thinking about when my next meal will be, what it will be, prepping it, cooking it, eating it, and cleaning up after it takes an enormous chunk out of my day. If I hadn’t already done this for 72 hours, I’d be worried that incorporating fasting would make the challenge less fun and less rewarding. But since I have experience with this, I doubt it will be the case for the 120 hour period.

      Our bodies show amazing resiliency when necessary…as long as we treat them well before and after it’s necessary.

  10. Jane says:

    Joel – I’ll join you! I will begin with a 36 hour creative challenge. I also will fast with you becasue I do believe I am more creative when feeling so clear headed. I might be able to begin on September 9th – but will try. I will keep you posted.

    • Awesome Jane! 36 hours is a great starting point and it would be really cool to have people doing it at the same time as I am. Keep me posted and let me know if I can give you any insight or context around making this a fun and rewarding experience for you. And after it’s done, please share your experiences with us on the page I’m going to create for people to recap their own Continuous Creation Challenge.

  11. Kaylee says:

    I was intrigued by this the last time you did it, but never tried myself. But I just so happen to have a weekend with the house all to myself in September…hm…

    Perhaps I’ll replace my planned veg fest with your idea. I imagine it’d be a killer creativity boost and shift me right into flow.

    • Give it a whirl Kaylee. If it turns out it’s not right for you, transition into your previously planned veg fest. All I want is for people is to shift away from consuming so much for a period of time so they realize how much they spend doing it. Time that could be spent in other ways, like creating.

      You, Jane, and many others can share your experiences and I’m excited to hear about them!

  12. Hi Joel:
    This is a great idea and I imagine it is very productive. I would need to modify it since I work full time and my job involves being on the phone, online and sending emails. I can take a break from all non work related activity.

    Fasting for a day is too much for me as well :)
    – Wendy

    • Hi Wendy,

      No doubt, this isn’t for everyone. If you want to catch the spirit then modify it as heavily as you need to while keeping with the reasons why I created it. And if you did it for a while but continued to eat, you’d be with the vast majority of people doing the challenge but not “indulging” in that one aspect. I think I need a “da dum ching!” with that last sentence. :)

  13. Hey Joel!
    I just responded to your comment on my blog. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE what you’re doing!!!

    I may not be able to join you right now as you’re in the middle of it, but I think I’m going to add it in as one of my dares/challenges in the next 2 weeks thanks to you! Thanks for the inspiration Joel!

    – LAUR :)

    • Hey Laur,

      Awesome! I’m excited to have you joining the daring folks willing to give up their comforts and routine for a chance at something truly great. Whenever you do this, please pass along your recap in whatever way works best for you. Knowing what you’re capable of, I think some really groovy stuff could come out of your own Continuous Creation Challenge.

  14. Brian Fradet says:

    Joel–Forgeting about all the particulars of this concept of what you can and cannot do (I understand the power of fasting, not reading crap,TV, etc) but what screams out is WHAT ARE YOU DOING? “Creating”? Creating what and how? Are you contemplating your navel? Are you writing down your life’s goals, revising your bucket list, bonding with god, sniffing flowers, throwing old photo’s away, visiting cemetary’s, inventing something–I know what you’re not doing, so kindly tell me what you will be doing, or are doing. I really don’t think it’s a big deal to find the 72 hours (3 days I guess) at least for me, but I would need to know how to occupy those hours. Thanks in advance for reading this. And, I admire you for even getting off your ass and at least declaring that you’re doing something besides going through the motions of life like the masses. I look forward to your kind compassionate reply! Thanks, Brian

    • Hi Brian,

      Has anyone told you that you ask a lot of questions? I kid, I kid. :)

      Was my sneak peek into my activities and priorities not detailed enough? I wasn’t trying to intentionally build the drama about what I was planning to do because I don’t want this to be about me. I want this to be about our community and what we can collectively achieve when we accept challenges that freak us out (or freak others out).

      I assure you I didn’t contemplate my navel or pick any lint out of it though. But filing the 120 hours was not tough at all. If anything, the hard part was not being able to get to all the things I would have liked to create. My legacy will be built on what I create in this world. So with that backdrop, I have a lot of work left to do.

      You’ll get to see some of what I was up to in my recap next week and experience it in the coming months. Wouldn’t ya know it, but much of what I did was directly related to content on Value of Simple.

  15. Janet says:

    Just catching up! Yeah, fasting would be too far for me, for sure. So much of my content creation/productivity has to do with being sufficiently fed or I get grumpy and can’t concentrate!! i could see maaaaybe a juice/coconut water fast might work. Coconut is a super food and I’ve known others who’ve done this type of fast. Or, I could also see just being completely lazy and have people bring food to me while I literally just eat in front of my computer and keep working 😀 Love this idea though… reminds me of Puttytribe’s 24 hour puttython!

    • Hey Janet,

      Don’t focus too much on adopting the blueprint exactly as I’ve set it. My intention is to have people alter it significantly to work for their goals, their habits, and their lifestyle. Depending on how long a Continuous Creation Challenge lasts, it could be more or less intense than a Puttython. I guess I won’t know until I try a Puttython soon!

  16. Rosalyn says:

    this is an amazing idea! i have to try it soon!

    • Hi Rosalyn,

      I have a Continuous Creation Challenge resource kit coming out on April 15th. Check back here in a couple of weeks and use it to plan (and rock) your own CCC!

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