My first bicycle was a tricycle. I grew up at the end of a dead end street. In front of our house, the road opened wider, almost into a circle so cars could turn around, and this is where the neighbourhood kids gathered almost every day to play. And one of our favourite things was our bicycles.
The tricycle was not a great challenge to learn to ride - just get on, start pedalling and off you go. The back of the tricycle, where the two wheels were, had a place where someone could stand and hold on to the driver's shoulders. Great fun, but of course we wanted to "upgrade" to two wheels as soon as we saw one of the other kids on the block with a shiny new set of wheels.
But a 2-wheel bicycle is of course a lot more difficult to ride. So we started with training wheels - those little wheels attached to the rear wheel of the bicycle that would keep you from falling over. And as we grew familiar with that, the training wheels would eventually come off. Another period of learning, and pretty soon we would be really good at it.
You can't build a business by studying the theory - you have to get in and do it. But too often we get stuck in the eternal cycle of learning, and we never get to actually doing.
The problem with always learning
You can't learn to ride a bicycle by watching the other kids do it. As scary as that first bicycle ride seemed when you started out, doing was the quickest way to actually learn how to do it. You would wobble a bit, fall a couple of times, but pretty soon you would have a lot of confidence and give your mother heart palpitations.
It's the same with business. We can learn, and learn, and attend workshops and seminars, watch YouTube videos, webinars, read endless books and sign up for courses.
But all the time we're doing this, we're not actually building a business. We're standing on the sidelines, learning just one more thing, jumping on one more promise of a quicker way to build a subscriber list or increase your online following.
And then, when we actually start doing, we find out that we didn't really understand what we learnt - we only get to really understand stuff when we actually do it.
We only get to really understand stuff when we actually do it
All that theory is great, but you won't actually learn how to ride a bicycle until you actually start doing it. And in the same way, you won't actually know how to run a business until you start doing it.
So at some point we need to stop learning and start doing.
Why are we always learning?
Don't get me wrong - learning is necessary, good and one of the things no one can every take away from you. I love learning.
But if your ambition is to build a business - and you're stuck in an endless loop of learning - you have a problem. Learning is fine, but at some point you have to knuckle down and start doing. Except if you have to learn just one more thing…
There are a number of reasons we're stuck in a learning-and-not-doing loop:
We love learning
We all love learning - at least if it's fun and it's something we're interested in. And this is great and I would never want to take this away from anyone - in fact I believe we should be learning all our lives. So if you're learning because you're curious - great. Keep going.
But there are other reasons we're stuck in that loop and not getting to building our businesses. These reasons are not that great.
We're looking for a better mousetrap
There's a lot of promises out there. A sure-fire way to get 10,000 subscribers in 3 months or less. A never-fail marketing strategy. A new tool that's going to make your life just so much easier.
And we hope that we're going to find a better way of building a business faster, so we learn about these new tools, courses and methodologies. And when there's another promise we jump on that one as well.
But at the heart of this learning is fear. Not bad fear - just the fear of the unknown. We're afraid to actually start doing, to committing. So we think that we're going to find a better mousetrap and we keep putting off doing. We have just one more thing we want to learn before we start doing.
We're not sure what we need to do
Ultimately, we're stuck in a learning-and-not-doing loop because we're not sure what we need to do next. If we were sure, we would be out there doing it. But we're not sure, so we think we need to learn some more.
So we're stuck in this loop, we're always learning and we're not actually doing. Or we've started, but progress is slow.
How to stop learning and start doing
You never learnt to ride a bicycle by watching the other kids. You learnt by doing it.
And it's the same with building a business. You won't actually learn what works and what doesn't (for you) until you start doing it. Here are some ways to get out of the learning loop:
Understand that there is no certainty
The first thing you need to realise - and internalise - is that there is no sure-fire way of marketing, or lead nurturing, or building a brand everyone will love. There are no guarantees, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for you.
So make peace with the fact that you're going to have to start without being 100% sure that this is going to work. You will have to get in there and do it so you can learn what really works - for you - in practice.
Learn, do and learn some more
The best way to learn is to:
- learn the theory;
- put it into practice, learning what works and what doesn't; and then
- decide if you need to learn some more.
You're going to learn by doing, and then you're going to decide if you need to know. Doing stuff will actually teach you what works based on what you know now. Sometimes you're going to decide you need to know more, and you're going to enrol in a course, buy a book or get someone to help you.
But the principle remains the same - you learn the theory, put it into practice where you learn some more, and then decide if you need to get better at it.
Is what you're doing right moving your business forward?
Always ask yourself if what you're doing right now is actually helping you move your business forward.
There is so much content out there, and so many attractive webinars, seminars and free courses that we can easily spend all our time learning. If you find yourself signing up for yet another webinar or course, ask yourself if this is going to help you solve the problem you're dealing with right now.
The principle at work here is that right now, there's only one thing holding you back from moving your business forward. You need to solve that problem before you can move on to the next thing. Any time you're spending not devoted to solving that problem is time spent on something you should be doing later (or not at all).
So, in summary:
- Learning is a good thing. A really good thing. We should all be learning all the time.
- If you find yourself stuck in a learning-but-not-doing loop, you need to stop learning and start doing.
- You only really learn when you're doing.
- Always ask yourself if what you're doing right now is actually helping you move your business forward.
Learn to ride a bicycle (or build a business) by doing it
We all need to learn before we can do, but ultimately the best way of learning is by doing. I ran a consultancy in the broadcast TV technology space where our claim to fame was that we had gotten it wrong more times than anyone else.
we had gotten it wrong more times than anyone else
And isn't that what expertise is about? Learning what doesn't work by doing it?
We get to be really good at riding a bicycle by falling off a couple of times. Hopefully, we suffer no serious damage when we do fall - but every fall is a new learning and next time we get on we'll be just a little better.
So get back on your bicycle. Get back into building and moving your business forward. It's the best way to learn.