Stop Thinking, Start Doing
You’re a filthy liar. You know it and I know it.
You claim you’re content with life. “I have a decent job, a home, and a family who loves me, what more could I ask for?” The answer is…a hell of a lot.
I don’t write about personal development because I believe in being holier than thou. I write about it, because deep down, we all want better for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that.
You want more for your life, have a dream you’d like to pursue, or at minimum an inkling of wanting to change.
There is only one method for achieving…well…anything. You have to become a doer.
Thinking is For Suckers
You’ve heard the saying “God laughs at your meticulous plans for the future.”
Life almost never works out the way you picture it in your mind. Thinking long and hard about what you’re going to do won’t help you actually do it. In fact, overthinking will keep you from doing anything.
I’m not saying to follow every impulse you have or make no plans for your future whatsoever. I do, however, encourage you to realize the thinking part of the equation covers ten percent of the process. The doing makes up the other 90.
I’ll use my own experience as an example. I thought about writing for years. I read blog post after blog post on starting a writing career. Before I’d pull the trigger, I weighed the pros and cons in my mind. For a while, the cons won out.
“Nobody knows who you are. How will you stand out?”
“Writers don’t make any money.”
“Quit kidding yourself.”
A friend asked me to write on his website. The minute I acted on my thoughts and wrote something, my life changed. In the process of actually writing, actually learning how to grow a blog, and actually doing, I learned nuance techniques I never could’ve by “studying” writing.
Why You Have Problems Doing
I vividly remember an experience in college I’ll never forget. In my sales class, the teachers gave us an open-ended assignment. No rubrics, no guidelines, just a subject and license to create any form of a presentation we wanted.
Many of the students damn near lost their minds. They barraged him with questions.
“Should we do powerpoint?”
“How many points will the assignment be worth?”
“What chapter can we read for assistance?”
The teacher refused to provide any overt answers on purpose. He was trying to teach us a true life lesson — there is no rubric in real life, no grades, no guidelines. There’s no formula for standing out and being remarkable.
You grew up in a system where the answers were clearly spelled out.
You were trained to take tests and lack creativity. Society trained you to become a thinker. But the world belongs to the doers.
Thinkers work for companies doers own. Doers have freedom. Thinkers are restrained. Doers don’t need the answers beforehand because they know they’ll find them through experience. Thinkers think until they die.
Do you want your dreams to die in the graveyard? No, but they will unless youdo something about it.
The Framework I Use to Stop Thinking and Start Doing
Ever since my friend gave me the opportunity to write, I developed a bias toward action, which means I have a tendency to act instead of ruminating.
Last year, I applied to be a TEDx speaker. I’d been in a Toastmasters club for six months, meaning I was unqualified to be on stage. Alas, they chose me to speak at the conference.
If I notice a publication I want to write for, I try to find my way in, either through the front door or the back, and I haven’t failed yet.
Here’s the three-step process I use.
Okay, you do have to do a moderate amount of thinking before you attempt something new. But once you have enough information, you must move onto the next phase.
A few techniques you can use when following a new path or trying something new are:
Whether it’s books or blog posts. Take some time to learn a bit about said path or industry to see if it’s appealing. Pay attention to actual people’s stories, as they can provide great insights.
Consider the downside
Most people never truly consider the downside to their actions. Spelling out the worse possible scenario makes the decision you’re about to make crystal clear. In many cases, you don’t have anything more to lose than a dent in your ego or someone saying no to you. Although neither are pleasant, they won’t kill you.
The cases you may want to avoid are those that have a considerable financial downside and/or the potential for extreme duress in your relationships. Often the two come in a package.
Fortunately, most opportunities today are affordable and have low barriers to entry. Look for things with a lot of upside and low downside. In my case, when I wrote a book I realized I couldn’t sell negative books.
The financial downside was known and I was willing to risk the investment.
Adopt the Why Not Attitude
Even after you’ve done your due diligence and something looks promising, you’ll experience the moment of hesitation — the one that kills 99percent of dreams.
I could attempt to give a concrete answer for overcoming it — the ten step bulletproof recipe — but it doesn’t exist. Ironically, all self-help material can’t account for the tiny gap between the thought and the action.
In my case, when I’m doubtful or afraid, I ask myself “why not?” I’ve developed a conversation in my head where I realize there are no good reasons for not doing what I want to do with my life. I remember how short life is, how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of it, and how much regret I’ll feel if I don’t do what I want to do.
After I finish the investigation, I execute the idea.
How to Become a Mad Scientist
Many of the world’s greatest discoveries are accidents. Penicillin, Pacemakers, and to round off the top 3 most important ones, Instagram.
They’re all a result of people who were doing, trying, and testing.
From now on, consider yourself a scientist. There is no success or failure. Life is your laboratory and your goal is to experiment and see what happens.
Just like a scientist, you develop a theory and test it.
The key to succeeding is simply taking the first, simple, and most obvious step.
Take my speaking at the TEDx conference for example. I started with just filling out the application.
They invited me to join a pitch night where I competed against 23 other speakers for a limited number of spots at the conference.
So then I focused on coming up with the required 3-minute pitch — not an entire talk. They invited me to speak, so I prepared my speech and worked with their coaching team.
Every step was done without too much thought of the future. I doubted I’d get chosen, but I figured why not. By that point, I learned to “throw my hat in the ring” whenever possible.
With an experimental mindset, I don’t take success or failure as a definition of who I am but rather feedback as to what I should do next.
A good experiment has the following:
- A hypothesis
- Parameters and timelines
- No marriage to positions
Let’s use a random example.
You want to sell handmade jewelry on Etsy. You read a few blog posts on the subject and find the top selling Etsy retailers use content marketing and social media well.
Your hypothesis could be — “If I create an Esty store and market it well on blogs and social media, I can begin to make a side income.”
Next, define the parameters. You’re not going to get rich overnight, right? You have to give yourself enough time to see if your strategy works. You could set parameters with manageable expectations — make your first $500 in sales in six months from now.
Run the experiment. Put your heart and soul into building your store for six months without judgment of the results. Apply the methods you studied online.
Once the trial period ends, view your results. Here’s where most people mess up. They’ll conclude the experiment was a failure and they should stop because the process was difficult.
You should never quit doing something because it’s hard. Nothing worth having comes easy. Judge your results based on how you feel about the path or process itself. If you enjoy what you’re doing, yet things haven’t clicked yet, it means you have to refine your strategy.
If, however, you discover your heart isn’t in it and it’s truly not worth your time, quit. I’ve toyed around with other ideas besides building a career around my writing, but the passion just wasn’t there. I don’t want to get rich doing something I hate.
If you truly love hawking those handmade earrings, keep trying new methods, accepting feedback from the market, and repeat the process until it works out for you.
That’s what doers do.