“For studying courage in textbooks doesn’t make you any more courageous than eating cow meat makes you bovine. By some mysterious mental mechanism, people fail to realize that the principal thing you can learn from a professor is how to be a professor — and the chief thing you can learn from, say, a life coach or inspirational speaker is how to become a life coach or inspirational speaker. So remember that the heroes of history were not classicists and library rats, those people who live vicariously in their texts. They were people of deeds and had to be endowed with the spirit of risk taking.”
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Skin in the Game
One of my big personal shortcomings is my inability to turn knowledge into action. A few weeks back, I talked about how I tend to read a lot in the area of personal development, to the point of feeling over-saturated in the field. However, for all the books I’ve read in the past two years in this area, I can’t really point to a lot of areas where I’ve successfully translated what I read into meaningful action.
This isn’t to say that I haven’t personally developed myself since 2016; I would say I’ve come a long way in two years to improving my life and myself. Yet, in a pure comparison of books to identifiable changes, I can’t really say that a lot of specific changes have been made. This seems somewhat at odds with the nature of the “advice” these books give, where you can deploy specific hacks, tips, and protocols, and everything will be better.
I don’t have a good explanation for why this is the case. I feel it goes beyond just being lazy (though I am quite a lazy person). I think the closest explanation that I can offer is something akin to a lack of confidence meeting decision paralysis. I lack confidence in my ability to make decisions, so I research and read to see what others have done. But there comes a point where I have too many options available, and I fail to cross the threshold from knowing to doing. Rationally, I know that seeking more knowledge does not necessarily mean I’ll be more likely to act (there’s a quip that if knowing more was the solution, no one would need to diet and everyone would be healthy). The gap between knowledge and action, where the will lies, stubbornly refuses to shrink for me. This could be my fixed reality, but I’d like to think that I haven’t found the right combination of motivations yet that would bring me to where I want to go (setting aside the problems with the notion that I have to wait around for a muse to motivate me).
This could also be a problem because I have too many things on the go (the old “I’m too busy” rebuke). With too many balls in the air, I’m worn down with just managing how things are going in the present, and I have little cognitive bandwidth left to steer me in a direction I want to go for the future. This, too, is a personal shortcoming for me, but I think it’s a separate concern from the action-gap.
Truthfully, I don’t have a meaningful, satisfying way to close off this post. I don’t have a magic bullet that will fix the problem for me. I can’t say that I’ve found a solution to the problem, and that this post is building towards a resolution. It’s an ongoing problem for me, and I hope that by bringing it to the surface, I can at least be aware of the problem and try to work around it until the gap can be plugged.