Thinking is overrated.
Or at least, overthinking, which is what most of us spend time doing, is overrated.
For some insane reason, we place an absurd premium on thinking. We wrestle with ideas - argue in our mind’s eye about what should be done, what the right way looks like, and what steps we need to take to get there, but most of us rarely get any farther than that.
I’ve wasted so much time thinking - lying to myself that I am actually doing work or making any kind of progress. But thinking, in fact, is only valuable if it leads to action. Without that discipline, it’s an exercise in futility that feels like work - feels like action - but actually acts as an impediment to action.
Thinking about how you’re going to get into shape doesn’t get you in the gym. Thinking about writing the next great American novel doesn’t put pen to paper. Imagining your dream career doesn’t get you closer to achieving it. Pining after the girl or guy you like doesn’t get you closer to dating them. Believing you are something you haven’t made yourself into doesn’t get you closer to sculpting your future.
In fact, the only way you can waste more of your time than sitting around thinking without purpose is by devoting your valuable time to critiquing those that are out there doing. Critique is the lowest form of analysis. The critic doesn’t have to do the work, doesn’t have to take the risk, doesn’t have to withstand the trials and tribulations of effort, and then pretends he is superior than the doer for having explained how “if he had done it, it would have been better.” The critic should never be taken seriously. He should be mocked and eyes should roll at him, or better yet, he should be ignored entirely.
The reason he is so worthless is the same reason that our investment in thinking for the sake of thinking is worthless - there is nothing risked or accomplished as a result of the endeavor.
Some academics hold the idea of thinking for the sake of thinking at a premium. They will point to Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Thomas Edison, George Washington, or Albert Einstein and point to them as the great thinkers of their day, which is of course true, but those men were not simply sitting around pontificating. They were putting in work.
They served in the military. They ran businesses. They created inventions. They devoted most of their lives to testing the ideas they came up with, whether they were about character, freedom, science, or government. They lived their ideas. They fell on their faces. They basked in failure and in victory. They were doers.
Doers work. And actual work is always better than theoretical work. Do you know how many people claim to have come up with the idea for Facebook? For Star Wars? For any number of things that are now staples of our society? Thinking about it first is meaningless. Thinking about it for months is self-flagellation. Thinking about it for years is a downright waste of life and opportunity.
I originally wrote this as a note for myself. The first decade of my entrepreneurial life was spent doing things with reckless abandon, and they were phenomenal years where I grew businesses, made movies, and learned a ton. I then spent four years, I won’t say wasting time, but overindulging myself in what could be, might be, or should be, rather than simply trying to make things happen. I wanted to make the right decisions to get to the next level, whatever that means, and figure out the right path forward. And in those years, I really didn’t get anything done. The business existed. I existed.
And then in 2020, when I left Ranger Up, I suddenly had to build something again. I didn’t have time to indulge myself. I had to work. I had to build a business. That meant my thinking had to be focused. How do I get our first customer at Diesel Jack Media? How do I train account managers? How do I ensure our work is excellent? How do I get the interest of larger clients? How do I grow our current clients? How do I get better at video production?
For every question, I mapped out pathways to achieve success. Every day, I worked towards those goals. Every day, I checked at least one tiny thing off the list. I recreated a habit of doing, and I reminded myself that there are no levels, that I would fail again and often, and that by continuing to iterate, I would get a little better every day. By the end of the first year, my team at Diesel Jack Media and I had built my third business to crest seven figures. Then, I had to write a book. That had it’s own checklist. Then, I had to build a non-profit that could help those in need around the world, with some of my best friends. That had a checklist.
Action. Every. Single. Day.
Sometimes the days result in big wins. Sometimes the days work is barely perceptible. But every day, a box is ticked, a thing is accomplished, and I grow closer to the next accomplishment.
The last 2.5 years have been some amazing years. I think I’m more proud of them than I am of the first ten I spent as an entreprenur. And the only way I’m going to keep it going - to continue making good use of the time I have left and to help those around me, is to think with purpose towards deliberate and relentless action.
This is now a daily reminder for me. I hope it helps you too.