Learning is Overrated, Practicing is All That Matters
September 4, 2022
We always assume that the gap between where we are now and where we want to be in the future is caused by a lack of knowledge.
This is why we buy courses on how to start a business or how to lose weight fast. We assume that if we knew about a better strategy, then we would get better results. We believe that a new result requires new knowledge.
What I’ve realized through the years, however, is that new knowledge does not necessarily drive new results.
In fact, learning something new can actually be a waste of time if your goal is to make progress and not simply gain additional knowledge.
It all comes down to the difference between learning and practicing.
Learning something new and practicing something new may seem very similar. But they are two methods that can have profoundly different results.
Let’s say your goal is to get stronger and more fit. You can research the best instructions on bench press technique, but the only way to build strength is to practice lifting weights.
Let’s say your goal is to grow your startup. You can learn about the best way to make a sales pitch, but the only way to actually land customers is to practice making sales calls.
Passive learning creates knowledge. Active practice creates skill.
In many cases, learning is actually a way to avoid taking action on the goals and interests that we say are important to us.
Reading a book on how to learn a foreign language makes you feel like you are making progress. But you’re not actually practicing the action that would deliver your desired outcome (speaking the foreign language).
“I’m preparing or researching the best method,” I hear you scream.
But this is just a rationalization allowing us to feel like we are moving forward when we are just spinning our wheels. We mistake being in motion with taking action.
Learning is valuable until it becomes a form of procrastination.
Have a bias for action.
Passive learning is not a form of practice. Though you gain new knowledge, you are not discovering how to apply that knowledge.
Active practice, on the other hand, is one of the best forms of learning because the mistakes you make while practicing reveal important insights.
Even more important, practice is the only way to make a meaningful contribution with your knowledge. You can watch an online course about how to build a business, but that knowledge is unproductive unless you actually launch your business. Learning by itself can be valuable for you, but if you want to be valuable to others, then you have to apply your knowledge in some way.
“Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything.”
– Thomas Sterner, The Practicing Mind
The state of your life right now is a result of the habits and beliefs that you have been practicing each day.
What you DO is what matters, not what you know.
When you realize this and begin to direct your focus toward practicing better habits every day, continual progress will be the logical outcome.
It is not the things we learn nor the dreams we envision that determine our results. But rather the habits that we practice each day.
Fall in love with boredom and focus your energy on the process, not the product.
Learning for the sake of learning can be a beautiful thing. But it is basically entertainment.
We often hide behind information and use learning as an excuse to delay the more difficult and more important choice of actually doing something.
But learning by itself does not lead to progress.
So, spend less time passively learning and more time actively practicing.
Stop thinking and start doing.
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