“To know and not to do is not yet to know.”
The typical advice you’re gonna get from me, and from the world at large is: just shut up and do something.
And this advice is good. I totally stand by it. I was there. I ordered the airstrike. I approve this message.
But what if you’re in the situation where you’ve read it all, seen it all, you could practically recite the advice from memory, but you’re still not living it, you just can’t seem to act on it, to move? Like, let’s say you’ve read all the pointless drivel, the quasi-self-helpy pablum that fills that website, but you still can’t “get yourself” to implement it and go get used to a language — what then?
Conventional wisdom would say: start beating yourself up for being a talker and not a doer. Start hating yourself. Stop all the theory! Get practical!
Insofar as that’s what it’d tell you, conventional wisdom is well-intentioned but misguided. It means well, but (as usual) it doesn’t help and it doesn’t work.
A lot of people will say: “it doesn’t matter how much you read, if you don’t start doin’ somethin’ etc. etc.”, well no ####, Sherlock! We know. OK? We know. And when it rains, water comes down. Thanks. Cool story, bro.
Allow me to present to you a counterpoint to that advice.
If you feel you’ve read it all, and you know it all, yet you just can’t seem to “get your act together”…
…then you haven’t read it all. And you don’t know it all.
You’ve read a lot? Read more. You know a lot? Know more. That’s why we made books. Keep reading. Especially if you think you’ve read it all and know it all, because you haven’t and you don’t.
There will come a point when it “clicks”. The Clicking Point, if you will. And you will know exactly what to do and you’ll drop that book or browser tab and go straight to acting; you won’t have to push yourself — it’ll be a struggle for anyone to hold you back. You think you know it by heart? You don’t. If you did, it’d have clicked already; you’d have hit the (well, a) Clicking Point already.
And yes, my usual advice is just “stop reading this and just go try something out; jus’ dew it!”, and that’s good advice if you already have a clear idea or two what to do. But if you feel lost, directionless, overwhelmed, confused then you do need to read some more. You do need to go see the sensei for advice. Often the sensei is too dead or too far away or too lazy for you to see you personally, but she left her advice in books and recordings that outlive her, and you can access that advice and that’s good enough.
“Just do it” definitely has its place. But occasionally it may need to yield to “just read more”. Or maybe reading is just another kind of doing — a kind that, arguably, doesn’t get enough respect outside of forced (i.e. school coursework) situations, and that isn’t always allowed to run its natural course.
So do read more. Do absorb more. Do seek more information, at least until you get to a clicking point. And then go do something. And if you get lost again, come back and read again 😀 .
Information is weird like that. It is its own ailment, its own deficiency, its own excess, its own cure. You flush out bad information with more (different) information. You fill a gap in information with more information. Programmers (and geneticists?) know: you could be just one character, one punctuation mark away from heaven 1.
Today, rather than leave you high, dry and abstract 2, I’ll actually share a relatively recent real-life episode (and I mean that word in all its senses) with you…prepare to see me with my pants down:
So, late last year I was procrastinating about something and I was starting to really freak out (I told ya — “episode”). I was really freaking out…almost fetal position freaking out. Watching the same TV show for double digit hours on end to numb myself (same show, not the same episode — I wasn’t catatonic, bro 😉 3 ), freaking out.
And I’m like: WTF?! — I read Piers Steel’s work before it was a book; I’ve written about it; AJATT has been on the front page of Google for timeboxing; Neil Fiore himself left a comment on this blog, but here I am procrastinating?! I felt like a total schmuck. A Schmuckmeister. Founder, Chairman and CEO of Schmucks Incorporated with 100% market share, a total monopoly, in the schmuck-manufacturing industry.
I knew everything there was to know about procrastination, right? 4
So this must just be a flaw in my character, a…I must just be a hypocrite, a bad person, right? A talker not a porker. A wooer not a doer. A…an anti-gay evangelical priest banging handsome rent boys.
Wrong. Well-intentioned but wrong.
I obviously didn’t know enough.
In a moment of calm, that is the conclusion I came to.
Because if I knew all there was to know, I wouldn’t be having such an ignan’t problem.
They say if you can’t explain it to a five-year-old, you don’t understand it yet.
I say, if it’s not as easy for you as making a cup of Milo 5, then you could still stand to read a book about it.
And even if it is as easy as making a cuppa Milo…
So, armed with calm, I went online and bought 10 books — count ’em, 10 — about procrastination, plus a handful of digital audiobooks.
Took a couple of days (36 hours?) to chill and read and listen and reflect and somewhere in there was an idea, a drop of knowledge, that helped me “debug” the situation. An offhand comment in one of the recordings of a live presentation…maybe even a video…the exact medium escapes me now. The author/speaker who brought me to the clicking point was Rita Emmett, a matronly 6 Midwestern lady with a thick, endearing Michigan accent; her genial manner made me feel like it wasn’t my fault, moving the focus away from blame and onto action.
Anyway, I found a solution to the problem and the thing I was procrastinating about got done in half no time. And even before it got done, I started liking myself and stopped the blame, which was nice 😀 .
In fact, the solution was so good that I don’t even remember exactly what the problem was! I kid you not. I just remember how far out I was freaking and how terrible it felt. I mean, I don’t like telling you about my actual personal life and flaws; I do desperately want you think I’m perfect but I’d…yeah…I’d tell you if I could remember.
End of episode 😛 .
“Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.” ~ George Iles
You don’t know so much that you can’t learn more. You haven’t read so much that you can’t have an(other) epiphany.
- or…what’s the opposite of heaven? Oh — a Roppongi nightclub 😀 ↩
- and as if to add evidentiary weight to the aphorism that all philosophy is autobiography ↩
- What does watching the same episode over and over again have to do with catatonia? I dunno…I just…it just “feels” like a catatonic thing to do, doesn’t it? No? ↩
- I once claimed to have the procrastination equation memorized. I did at the time. I don’t any more. Perhaps that says something…make of it what you will, haha. ↩
- the thinking man’s hot chocolate 😛 ↩
- No, really…when she speaks, you always feel like, at any moment, she could stop mid-sentence, bake you cookies and then tell you to get your stuff ready so she can drive you and your friends to “hackey practice” 😛 ↩