Death By 1,000 Business Books
Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with reading, but unlike most people I get little to no enjoyment from reading fiction. My preferred genre of escapism? Nonfiction business books. I know, I know - yawn-fest. But not for me. As I type this, I can see out of the corner of my eye a bookcase full of, roughly, 30 business/marketing books, written by various "experts" in those fields. I love learning and absorbing knowledge that pertains to my field of work, and I think that any person who embarks on starting their own business should, in some form or fashion, become obsessed with learning...
To an extent.
I was listening to a podcast the other day (Rework - by the guys who founded Basecamp), and they touched on an idea that I ponder often. When does learning and planning get in the way of doing? We live in a world where an enormous amount of information is at our fingertips - if you have ever fallen down the Google/YouTube rabbit hole, you know what I am talking about. You do a simple search for a topic you want to learn more about, and before you know it 5 hours has passed and you have read about 97 different articles and perspectives on one topic. You may feel slightly more knowledgeable, but likely more confused. At some point, you have to decide what you believe to be true, not what others are telling you is the truth. The same goes for planning. You can spend hours, weeks, years coming up with the most perfect business plan (or life plan, for that matter), but that's exactly what it is - a plan. And a plan is basically a guess. Now, this is not meant to discount the importance of planning, but simply to encourage the idea of taking the process of planning with a grain of salt.
The guys on the Rework podcast proposed the following (and I am paraphrasing here) - we need to get out of the paralyzing cycle of researching and planning the answers to problems we don't have yet. In other words, get started actually doing, and then when you hit a road block or a problem that will be your cue to do research on how to solve that problem. What this strategy does is keep the momentum going, and eliminates any paralysis that is a results of excessive information or planning.
They go on to reference the analogy of putting a desk together. For the purpose of this blog post, let's assume it's an IKEA desk - something we can all painfully relate to. They argue that the more efficient way to put a desk together is to just start, and then when you hit a barrier (say, an "extra part" that has seemingly no home) you take a look at the instruction manual to give you some insight. Now, I know plenty of people that may cringe at this idea ("Why wouldn't you just review the directions first to avoid any mistakes in the future?"), but it's certainly something worth reflecting on.