Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Learn by Doing

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We are always making excuses for ourselves.

We rationalize not pursuing our dreams, and one of our most common excuses is ignorance.

  • I don’t know how to do that.
  • I could never become that person.
  • That seems too complicated and too hard.

Does this sound familiar? We fail to begin because we feel that we simply don’t know how.

When we say that we don’t know how to do something, we are really saying that we are unwilling to learn..

Or even worse, that we are afraid to learn.

We purchase “how to” manuals and attend seminars and develop elaborate plans, all intended to help us become knowledgeable before we try.

And we use our ignorance as a an excuse to stall.

Pablo Picasso once said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

photo by iStockphoto

It was necessary for Picasso to learn the basics of painting. He probably took art classes. Certainly he learned about oil-based versus water-based paints. He likely had mentors to help him get started.

But nobody taught him how to paint the way that he didThe Idiot’s Guide to Painting Cubsim had not been written yet.

He became one of the greatest painters of the world learning by doing.

Did he make mistakes? Yes. Probably every day.

Did he make discoveries? Yes. And every discovery made every failure worth it.

Football teams study film and learn plays, but then they practice. Chefs read cookbooks and discover new ingredients, but then they cook. Writers study grammar and learn about voice, but then they write.

One of the best ways to learn is to do.

Here are 5 advantages of doing.

1. Practice. The only way to get better is to practice. Malcolm Gladwell refers to this as the 10,000 hour rule. Before we can become an expert, we have to practice for 10,000 hours. Reading “how to” books or watching videos on a topic is not the same. We have to get our hands dirty to learn our craft.

2. Overcoming fear. Most fears are irrational. The fear of learning how to do something can be the same. The best way to overcome our fears is to face them. To do what we are afraid of. As skill increases, fear decreases.

3. Memorable Lessons. A common fear is of making a mistake, but some of the best lessons come through our failures. Mistakes can cost us time, money, and pride. When a mistake results in a difficult result, we will never forget it, and become even better at what we do.

4. Ingenuity. There are ideas and techniques which have yet to be developed. You won’t find these ideas in a book or a class. They are waiting for you to figure them out. When we learn by doing, we can do more than learn. We can discover something new.

5. Production. Our main goal is to do something worthwhile. Even when we are trying to learn, we can be productive. Is it our best work? Probably not. Hopefully we get better. But having something to show for our efforts is an important step. Resumes are part of the past. Today we show what we can do by what we have done.

Regardless of what we learn, it will never matter, unless we start doing.

Stop making excuses. Get started.


Tell us what you are starting. Share what you have learned by doing in the comments.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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4 Replies

  1. This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. We want to turn into people of character, but we often assume that that happens and then we start producing. Rather, we are continually being turned into people of character while we are acting. This mindset allows us to dive in without fear! Good stuff.

  2. Thanks, Loren. Learning is a process, especially learning about character. And the process is never easy, clean, or complete. Keep learning!

  3. Anonymous

    We need to move past fear and worry and just start doing the things we are called to do. Living a life of purpose is all about doing. Great posts.

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