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Learning the Art of Do

How do you move from learning to doing?

One simple question has been bugging me for a while:

How do you move from learning to doing?

The problem started in elementary school. Go to class learn the numbers. Learn the letters. Take in all that information. Consume that knowledge, Kid.

We moved to middle school then high school and we experienced more of the same. Learn the dates. Learn the word structures. Learn the formulas. Now, “show” what you’ve learned by regurgitating it back onto that scantron. And make sure you bubble it in darkly with a #2 pencil.

We spent over 12 years of our lives training in the art of consumption.

Fast forward to your adult[1] life. Email, Twitter streams, and news feeds, throw thousands of words at us every day. But we’ve been conditioned well for it. Consume that knowledge, Adult.

We get tricked into feeling productive by sitting back and taking it all in. We claim that were learning or growing or improving ourselves. So what.

All the world’s education is useless unless you do something with it.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for learning. But when that time has passed, how do you start doing?

Every day of your childhood education taught you the art of consumption. Take in. Absorb knowledge. Every day of your adult life applies pressure to keep you in that mold. Read those emails. Watch that video Buy that 10-step guide. If that’s all we know, it’s hard to blame us for consuming. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: those that do run the world.

Take a Break

It’s counter-intuitive. To do, you have to stop. Take a break from your consumer lifestyle, and let it rest. When you rest, you’ll free up those precious brain cycles for making something. It’s amazing how many creative ideas your mind will generate if you’ll stop drowning them in input.


If you’re going to change you have to commit. I don’t mean this wishy-washy, people pleasing version of commit either. This isn’t just a “good idea”. This isn’t something that “you’d like to be a part of.” This is something that you make happen.

Stop the Excuses

You’ve spent a lot of time training to consume, so if you give yourself a way out of doing, you will take it. Don’t trust yourself. You’re not reliable enough. Not yet. This is the “setting goals and deadlines” part. If I’m honest, something deep inside of me hates this part. The consumer in me cringes at the idea of being forced into action, and that surfaces in my mind as terror. Yes, I too am terrified of schedules.

The key to success is for you to make a habit throughout your life of doing the things you fear.” — Vincent Van Gogh

If pain is weakness leaving the body, deadlines are the death of the consumer mindset. Deadlines are your strongest weapon in the fight against your own static inertia.

Make it Easy

You’ll have to fight to overcome your inertia, so make it easy on yourself. Build a system of deadlines and focus on it. Do something every day. Make is specific and start small. Absurdly small. Workout for 3 minutes. Write for 7 minutes. Draw for 11 minutes.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Chinese Proverb

If I challenged you to walk a thousand miles, you’d probably laugh in my face, but a good friend of mine actually did it. He hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. It’s actually 2663 miles and he did it one step at a time. 2663 miles is a crazy amazing distance to walk, but if you focus on the simple steps — the system — you can do crazy amazing things that you never thought possible.

In the same way that the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon grain by grain, your system will carve away your consumerism.

Do it

Your system is your river and it washes away all of the soft stuff. In the end, it leaves only what you’ve really become: a doer.

 Image by Christopher Ryerson

  1. Here’s a secret. We don’t feel any more adult, we just have more responsibility. Inside we’re just as scared as we’ve ever been.  

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