Stop reading and start doing

March 27, 2021
5 min read

I have a good friend who is an avid reader. Every time we meet up for a cup of coffee he's already sitting there, his nose buried in books (mostly non-fiction). I – a 25-year-old college graduate who reads at most two books a year – can't help but envy this endless fascination for all those black words on white pages and the industrious attitude towards learning. I've always wondered if I was weird for not ever being into one of humanity's greatest methods of acquiring knowledge.

If anything I was glued to the computer screen through most of my adolescent years and even through college (arguably reasonable for an IT major...) and just learned things a different way – through trial and error. While this can be practical and is encouraged in programming, it's a surefire way to lose your temper while putting together IKEA furniture without actually reading the manual. And while I don't want to argue that my method is better or worse, I seem to have at least somewhat acquired many skills over the years this way.

How we learn

Essentially there are four major learning styles. Reading/writing learners (such as my "human Wikipedia"-friend), visual learners (pictures and charts), auditory learners (no Audible plug here), and kinesthetic learners ("doers", such as myself). Contrary to popular belief these learning styles are not exclusive, but rather are all of us a combination of all four styles – with one majority learning type working best for us. My friend can eat up a book like a bag of Cheetos, but put him in the woods, give him some tools and he'd be paralyzed.

There is no singular "best" learning style as acquiring ability in a particular area differs from one skill to the next. Music theory may be important, but playing piano can't be learned solely by reading sheet music. Experienced painters can probably profit from looking at other artists' paintings, but if you're a beginner in that field you better just get going and practice your brush stroke. Even authors just start out by drafting and rewriting constantly until they are comfortable with what they wrote. You get what I'm saying.

The idea here is that too much consumption of knowledge (which I will call frontloading here) can hinder your progress, especially if you're just starting out.

Falling down the rabbit hole

Now we'll go away from the science and determination of what's most efficient, towards the pragmatic. The title sounds like a travel ad campaign slogan or – if you ask me – a rather bold prompt. I'm not trying to hate on reading or saying it's bad. But in the worst case, it can stop you from doing, and that's deadly.

"The path to success is to take massive, determined actions" Tony Robbins

Chances are you are an entrepreneur in the making and have come across communities such as IndieHackers or /r/entrepreneur. While these places are undoubtedly great, one of the most time-consuming things is getting lost in reading article after article ("Growth marketing hacks", "How I made $1000 in 24h with this pdf", "Top 5 programming languages for 2021", et cetera). If you're like me in the past year, you've collected bites and marketing hacks in a "little" notion page that has grown to probably over 200 subpages.

Do you really need to know right now how to boost your SaaS sales before you've written a single line of code?

All in due time

Tai Lopez has that infamous YouTube ad where he attributes his success to reading an abundance of books. But do you really think this guys' seven bookshelves is the secret to driving around the hills in a Lamborghini? He quotes Warren Buffett saying "The more you learn, the more you earn.” – which is hard to argue against considering the guys' net worth – but Buffett wouldn't be one of the wealthiest people if he didn't take action and actively engaged in business activities after reading the morning newspaper. All the knowledge in the world isn't going to make you a successful entrepreneur, it's taking action that does.

Consumption of knowledge has its place in time: when you need it. Once you've built that product, read up on marketing, growth hacking, landing page building, and whatever you need at that moment. Just don't frontload your brain and waste your time collecting methods that may be obsolete by the time you need them in the future.

Conclusion

Don't mistake the prompt in the title for blindly taking action. You should be mindful about what you're doing and sometimes reading a "How to"-guide is putting you on the right path. Just don't spend hours, days, months reading, in denial of what you should be doing – taking action.

Credits

Photo by Blake Wheeler

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