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The challenge of turning knowledge into action

The Challenge of Turning Your Knowledge into Action

Do you read to learn how to do things? Take courses? Do you watch videos and listen to podcasts to learn more about various strategies and tactics? Hell, you are reading this, so I know you do. Me, too.

Do you implement what you learn right away? Or do you feel like, well, maybe there is still more I need to know before I implement?  Yeah, me too. 

As content creators we also produce these forms of content others find and consume to help them take action. I wonder how many of them are putting that knowledge to work vs stalling and looking for yet more information.

We humans are such curious creatures…

There is a huge difference between knowing and doing.

Success comes from the doing. Why, then, do we fail to implement what we learn especially when the ability to execute is 100% in our power?  All we need to do is align our daily actions with our vision and goals, yet, still we seek more learning instead of implementing what we have already learned.  

We read another book, take another course, watch just one more webinar because there is always more we can learn.  The thing is, there will ALWAYS be more to learn. And as humans, learning comes from doing. Sure we need to gather some knowledge first, but the act of then implementing is when the real learning happens. And not only did we learn, we actually accomplished something and created some momentum.

I’m all about learning new things and leveling up my knowledge time and again, but it is all useless if I’m not taking action with it. And unfortunately, when we do NOT use it, we literally lose it. We do not remember things we do not put into practice. I sure hope at the very least we enjoyed consuming the information as entertainment because if we didn’t, and then didn’t execute on it, it was a complete waste of time.

I see this behavior in myself, my clients, colleagues, and friends — we all do it.  I was so curious about why we do this that I researched it a bit so that I could better understand how to combat it.

Never feeling ready

As soon as we learn something, we discover there is more that we don’t know. So we go looking for more. And more. And more. Where do we draw the line? We can never learn it all. This results in a form of procrastination — As soon as I know xxxx, then I will xxxx. It is a trap. You will never feel ready. The finish line keeps moving. 

You will never be ready. Start now. 

When you learn something new — from reading, watching, listening — take action as soon as possible and put it into practice. Block time on your calendar and make sure to execute.

If you do this, some very important things happen. 1) The act of “doing” commits the learning to long-term memory. 2) The act of doing actually leads to progress towards your goals. 3) You waste far less time — time you probably are not even aware you have been wasting.

Use it or lose it

There is a concept known as The Learning Pyramid and apparently learners retain approximately:

  • 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.
  • 75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
  • 50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
  • 30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration.
  • 20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
  • 10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
  • 5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture

So how do you avoid losing 90% of what you’ve learned? 


Fear & Resistance

Then there is fear, resistance, self sabotage, imposter syndrome, doubt, etc which is all mindset.

Author Steven Pressfield (The War of Art, Do the Work, Turning Pro, The Artist’s Journey, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*T) talks a lot about our old friends fear and resistance…

Fear stops us from beginning our work. Or carrying it forward in the face of adversity. Or completing it when we’re so, so close.

Fear of success.
Fear of failure.
Fear of exposure.

Fear of venturing from the known (our conscious mind, our state as it currently exists) to the unknown (our unconscious mind, our work as we could make it if we had the courage.)

What does this mean for us?

Implementation!  All the time spent on webinars and live streams and courses and reading and podcasts and on and on is meaningless if you are not implementing. You won’t remember!

Just in time learning — find what you need to know at the moment you need it — it is easily found… stop wasting time-consuming info for someday, for later, for whenever (unless it is for entertainment), and put time and energy into implementing things that matter — things that get you closer to your goal.

In an attempt to break this habit for myself, I have tried to flip the 80/20 rule on its head: 20% consuming/learning and 80% implementing/creating.

How?  I stopped watching webinars and stopped paying attention to offers for courses and other training. Reality is, I’m not missing out on anything. If I need some information to help me with a task, I can find it when I need it. Just in time learning. vs learning learning learning learning just in case. I won’t remember the details anyway and if it is not helping me with the urgent and important right now, I can schedule it for later.

My challenge for you

When you learn something new — webinar, book, podcast — put it to use. Not someday, not next week, not tomorrow. If it was important enough to spend time valuable time and head space-consuming, it should be in support of your urgent/important or important not urgent (do next/schedule).  Apply it now, implement what you learned.

I see so many clients, colleagues, friends, and customers struggling to achieve their dreams, their goals. A common behavior I see (in myself as well) is to wait, let me read or watch or take this one more course — I need to know more… when reality is, we just need to do the work.  The work is hard, or scary, and I think this is a thought distortion — the need for more intel — not always, but often.

I read a lot, I do listen to podcasts, I do watch tv to chill out… but I have really put myself on an information diet and the result is that I am getting sh*t done. You should try it.

If you need to research or learn something, that’s fine, but steer clear of the rabbit hole. Find it, learn it, implement it.

I think it comes down to discipline and doing the work. A little bit every day. Not a big huge all-encompassing swath of effort. That is not sustainable

Final thoughts

What do YOU need to stop learning about and start taking action on?

Having a great idea doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything with it.

We often want the result but are not willing to pay up — time, money, effort… you have to pay one way or another.

I think you have to want to do the work. Push through it. Do what others are not willing to do.

Make a simple plan. List the steps. Do the work slow and steady, bit by bit.

You can do it!

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