Do, don’t think.

Eric Martin
Apr 26 · 2 min read

How too much research and planning can be counterproductive.

When I want to do something new or improve certain skills, I have a nasty habit that disguises itself as productive but is quite the opposite.

When I wanted to learn how to play the guitar (I was 18, my mom bought me the guitar when I was 16), I did a bunch of research on free learning tools. I downloaded apps. I joined free online courses. I bought a guitar tuner. But I never learned how to play the guitar.

I was too preoccupied with figuring out how to learn to actually learn. After doing all the preparation work, I was too bored to actually get down to business.

Why do I do this? I’ve had a similar pattern with all sorts of endeavours. With exercise, studies, job searches, you name it. After some introspection, I’ve figured out that this is due to a lack of commitment stemming from fear of failure.

Let’s stick with the guitar example. Say I want to play the guitar. Subconsciously, I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it. So all of this so-called research is basically just beating around the bush. It’s procrastination. It’s a way of postponing the confrontation with myself. I tell myself I’m trying, but I’m really not. All I’m doing is doing the bare minimum to stay in my comfort zone while being convinced I’m being productive.

My latest battle with this issue has been writing. I spend a lot of time reading articles on writing, reading books, and writing courses. But I almost never write. Which is preposterous. It’s like wanting to become a basketball player but never setting foot on a court.

Theory can only take you so far. Research shows that the best way to learn is through practice. This is why a good math teacher doesn’t just spend 50 minutes reading theory to the class, he/she makes the students apply it for themselves.

Make mistakes. Force yourself out of that comfort zone. The only way to swim is to jump in the pool.

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