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Action precedes understanding

In this video Craig trashes the myth that we need to fully understand something before acting on it. Instead, it’s through action that understanding emerges.

Related to this video Craig has written one-page Tips called Take a stepAct as if, and Failure.



Here’s what Craig says in the video:

Hey everybody, it’s Craig Freshley here.

Many of us are stuck.

We want to write that essay or start that project or launch that website, but we don’t have it all worked out. We want to start doing things in new ways, or doing new things, but we don’t fully understand all the consequences. So we put off acting until we have complete understanding.

Some of us even, before taking a big step, will go on a retreat. Go on some soul-searching sort of mission, sit on the top of a mountain in a wool blanket and try to develop complete understanding before taking that action.

But I’m here to remind us of that oftentimes action precedes understanding. It is through acting that understanding develops, and it’s ridiculous to expect that we’re going to get complete understanding without taking any action. In fact, it is through action that we get better and that our understanding certainly becomes more complete. “Act” is the root word of the word “practice” and it’s through practice that we get better.

This is especially true for groups. When groups make decisions, they want to have it all worked out first. They want to have complete understanding before pulling the trigger on that project or on that website. But with groups too, practice works. Fail fast and fail cheap before failing big. Make use of pilot projects, demonstration projects, trial and error.

Now, with a lot of groups the stakes are high and you don’t want to launch that public website until you’re sure you’ve got it all worked out. All right, I get that. But you can do a variation of practice – you can read about what other groups have done.

There’s this thing called “best practices”. We have the benefit of other groups having written up their experience with launching a website, with starting a project. And so before doing our own, if we’re too nervous to actually pull the trigger on a big thing like a new website, we can learn best practices from other groups.

But you know what? Even so, it’s all about practice. You can’t just read stuff and expect to have complete understanding. You got to do stuff. Do stuff small before you do stuff big, but don’t expect understanding without doing stuff.

Action precedes understanding.

Thanks for listening everybody. I hope you do good out there!

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