The Difference Between Learning & Doing

Minute Read

All too often I am asked the question, "How do I become an entrepreneur?" There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. There are a number of books I've read or courses I've taken I could recommend, but to be honest these would probably be meaningless without the advice I’m about to give you.

When I was just shy of my 15th birthday, my friend Calvin and I came together to start a business because his mom grounded him and he wanted to get the new Xbox 360, which had just come out at the time. Not surprisingly, between his bi-polar and my Aspergers, it only took a few days before things fell apart, but the idea of owning a business struck a chord in me.

I set out on eBay, signing up for a reseller account so I could sell hosting services to anyone that wanted a website.  I was just a kid, and  I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t code and thought being in a terminal was like being a hacker you see in the movies.

Not having a complete understanding of what it was that I was doing didn’t stop me from trying.

On one hand you can let the fear of not knowing stop you from ever trying, or you can make the effort to try even knowing what you don’t know and not knowing what you don’t know. There are successful people in every field that chose to follow the slow, traditional route towards success, but then there are, the underdogs.

  • I had no idea how to design a website, so I bought a template, pirated Dreamweaver and put together something that resembled a website.
  • I had no idea how to advertise, but I found other hosting companies posting ads in forums like WebHostingTalk, so I did the same.
  • I didn’t know how to write a press release, so I looked at the format and layout of press releases from other companies and wrote my own.

Now certainly I never mastered the skill set to consider myself a full-on Web Designer or Marketing Expert, but by wearing many different hats I could effectively call myself an Entrepreneur. There are certainly times when you should prioritize learning critical knowledge you will need, but it all depends on your goals and time.

A degree in Computer Science will certainly give you a level of foundational knowledge that you just wouldn’t get from going to a coding boot camp. Programmers with CS majors can architect and build a program from scratch, while those who merely went to a 6-month coding camp are more likely to haphazardly put something together that doesn’t work nearly as well.

However, imagine your name is Bob (hi Bob!). You're in your mid-30's, and you are in the middle of an existential crisis over the office job you've been working for the last 10 years. You come up with an idea for an app that you think would be great, but you have no programming knowledge. Now, should you go back to school and earn a CS degree, or should you take an online coding class or boot camp?

In this particular case, the answer is obvious that Bob should take a coding class or consider a bootcamp. Bob’s underlying intentions is that he wants to have a greater sense of meaning by leaving the career he feels stuck in and develop his new App.

Bob’s first version of the app might be a little buggy, after all, he is new to programming, but if he can get some user traction to demonstrate it’s a viable idea, he could get accepted into an Accelerator or Incubator, which would give him additional resources to develop the app further.

In this case, Bob’s intentions aren’t to become a master at programming, but rather to become a master at creating money for himself. I  run into many “Bob’s” who haven’t taken action towards pursuing the goals but tend to think they have.

James Clear describes the importance of momentum in his book on atomic habits.  “When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome. If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action. If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion. If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action.”

Motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress towards a goal without running the risk of failure. This cognitive dissonance becomes a form of procrastination that can hamper your progress, despite you feeling like you are progressing.

Having an awareness of what mode you are operating in will ultimately allow you to lead a happier and more productive life filled with less disappointment.