Think less and start

Written on January 17, 2021

During Christmas my family was gifted a new kitchen appliance which my wife and I were both really excited about—a toaster oven and air fryer. We’ve had a toaster and an air fryer before, but this thing did both and more.

After unpacking it what we did next was I sat down on our couch and opened up the manual and my wife grabbed a piece of toast and began pushing buttons.

This is an example of what happens every time my wife and I bring home a new appliance.

This speaks loudly to how my wife and I learn about things and build new habits. My wife tends to jump right in and learn by doing, while I will usually sit and try to learn about something first and try to anticipate different scenarios to achieve my goals.

What I’m learning from my wife and recently from my friends is that sometimes doing is more valuable than thinking first.

Just start

For a while I had become obsessed about sleep schedules of successful people.

Bob Iger, former CEO of Disney, in his book, The Ride of a Lifetime, shares that he wakes up at 4 AM to have time for creativity to start the day.

The Rock, also wakes up around 4 AM to start his day with exercising before his family rises.

Casey Neistat, of YouTube fame, starts his days at 5 AM and sleeps on average of 4 hours of sleep a night.

Recently in November, my friend, Nick Ang, took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) to work on a personal goal of his—to work on a novel. During the month he shared tweets about getting up early to spend time writing his novel.

It was inspiring.

As a response to a tweet about creative and productive times during the day, Nick of course shared that for him it was early mornings.

I then asked if he had some advice for making the habit of waking up early stick and to my surprise and delight, he shared this response,

How to get started with flossing

I really love Nick’s response of the story of his trip to his dentist and their advice on starting first and then worrying about technique later.

I can definitely learn from this.

As an engineer, I easily fall into a place where I try to look at something and analyze as many outcomes or prepare myself—by reading manuals—before diving in.

While it’s helpful in scenarios where time spent up-front has proven to help mitigate issues that might arise. What’s also important is how you solve for issues that arise along the way.

Your mileage may vary, so start

Going back to our new toaster, while reading the manual definitely told me how to set the appliance in toaster mode. What it failed to teach me was what setting to put it on to get the desired browning of my toast. In other words, what a manual and thinking up-front failed to teach me is how to solve for, “your mileage may vary”. Toasting in this appliance varies based on what kind of toast, quantity and preference of toast level—things the manual can’t teach me.

In the same way that reading a book on how to play baseball won’t make you a baseball player adept to playing in a major league game. Perhaps the quicker way to achieving your goal may be instead is to get started and build first the muscle for the habit you’re trying to create. And then once the muscle is built, seeking for help to improve your technique to go further in your habit.

A book can only take you so far and while your mind can go further, often the reality of how things play out will be fairly different because our mileage will vary. But what doing allows us to do is learn and adapt as we move closer along the path of realizing our goals instead of on a couch—stationary—in the hypotheticals of our mind.

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