Why it's getting harder to take action
Table of Contents
Success isn’t a secret – you set a goal, and the distance between where you are now and your goal is a certain amount of action that you need to complete.
And we all have a rough idea of the sort of things we should be doing to be successful – work hard, build good habits, take care of our health.
We’ve read lots of books and watched lots of YouTube ‘how-to’ videos, yet why is it that some people are able to effortlessly apply the information that they consume, while others end up in an endless loop of consumption?
There’s actually something really sinister going on in the world that prevents the majority of people from taking necessary action – which I’m going to uncover for you in this article.
I’ll also give you 4 easy to implement steps that are designed to not only make taking action effortless – they’re designed to turn ‘taking action’ into a default state.
A quick warning before we begin, this will require you to keep an open mind as I’ll be asking you to destroy old programming and adapt new programming.
Is This The Weakest Generation Ever?
This generation is constantly critiqued as being the weakest in the history of humanity. From what I’ve been able to gather from history, I tend to agree – and I think the primary reason for this is what I like to describe as ‘external first’ mindset – I’ll explain.
Not that long ago, if we wanted to use information as a tool, we had to literally get into a car and go to a library… which was only open during certain hours….
Before there were libraries, if we really wanted to solve a difficult problem, we might have had to dedicate our entire life to solving that problem.
To put that into perspective, those same problems we can now solve with a 5 second google search.
So in the past, if we wanted to ‘build good habits’ or ‘start a business’ , we had no choice but to first consider these questions internally, and it’s precisely here that we arrive at the core problem behind why most people seem crippled to take action… it’s because they have no internal.
Having no internal, they can’t possibly trust themselves to take action, so they reflexively cast the nets of their consciousness out into the external world hoping to find some magical knowledge that will give them the confidence to take action.
However, having no internal, they’re also not capable of understanding what true knowledge is, and so they waste their lives searching for knowledge that they’re doomed to never find.
By contrast, if you take any successful person and ask them how they became successful, chances are they’re not going to respond with “I learned from a YouTube course” or “I’m successful because of this book that I read”
Now that’s not to say that they won’t reference those information sources as potentially key pieces in their overall development… but at the end of the day, information sources are just that… information “sources”.
Successful people use information to sharpen the blade… but they ARE the blade. By contrast, most of us are just READING about the blade – imagining what it’s like to be the blade – and we rust and become dull in the process.
So how do we make the shift from the modern default state of ‘external first’ mindset, back to ‘internal first’ mindset – how to actually be the blade instead of just fucking theorizing about it?
Here are the 4 steps.
Step 1. Reprogram our understanding of ‘knowledge’
Books are not knowledge, books are just information in a raw state – good information as well as bad information – and frankly, most modern books actually make us WEAKER by reading them.
Mel Robbins “5 second rule” is a perfect example of this – it’s a great ‘idea’ that can be explained in about 15 seconds – here’s the explanation taken directly from her website:
“The 5 Second Rule is simple. If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule. When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.”
Ok great, thank you Mel Robbins. Oh wait, can you explain one more thing? Can you explain WHY THE FUCK we need a 240 page book to explain this? Are you fucking kidding me?
Anyone who reads all 240 pages of this book, is WEAKER by the end of it, because they will have wasted… how long does it take to read 240 pages? … about 7 hours? They will have wasted 7 hours reading about the THEORY of something that can be applied INSTANTLY.
Watching informational YouTube videos is no different – the bottom line here is any information that we consume is not KNOWLEDGE until we’ve directly applied it. Before application, information exists only as theory.
And even after applying it once, in most cases it’s still not quite knowledge – it’s imitation.
Knowledge is only achieved when we APPLY what we consume enough to be able to formulate our own critical thoughts on it by observing our own direct experiences with it.
Developing an ‘internal first’ mindset really isn’t REMOTELY possible until we reprogram ourselves to see knowledge in this way.
To know the path is not to walk the path, to walk the path IS to know the path.
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Step 2. Never Read More Than 1 Chapter (or watch more than 1 video)
Now that we’ve defined knowledge, let’s put it to the test in real life.
Books are separated into chapters for a reason – as nownovel.com describes: “They give the reader space to pause and digest the plot developments and complications of the preceding chapter”
When it comes to self-help or business type books, chapters generally start by outlining a specific problem or concept, then they go on to solve the problem, usually with relatable examples, and almost always wrap-up with some sort of important takeaway or a set of actionable steps to follow.
Chapters are literally designed for us to be able to consume information in manageable chunks that we can then review and apply.
When someone with an ‘internal first’ mindset reads a chapter of a book – let’s say they’re reading a chapter dealing with the development of good habits.
As they’re reading, they’ll simultaneously be considering how they can apply this information within their own lives. What sort of experiences do they already have developing good habits (success, failures and everything else) and how does that compare to what they’re reading? And perhaps the most important question: is the author making a compelling enough case for them to actually try implementing what’s being taught?
To start to ask lots of questions and reflect against our own experiences while we consume information is how we go from ‘mindless consumption’ to ‘critical consumption’ – which is a key characteristic of ‘internal first’ mindset.
The same applies to YouTube videos. I know even videos like the one you’re watching now can ‘feel’ enlightening – but how much of what you’re consuming now will you just forget a few hours later?
YouTube, like all social media platforms, is designed to keep us consuming, and if we watch 5 videos before we even have the faintest impulse to think “oh wait, I’m wasting time”, that’s a hallmark of the ‘external first’ mindset that we’re working right now to reprogram.
Step 3: Consume information only when we can ‘quickly’ apply it
If we like to start our mornings at the gym, and we’re going to work on our business afterwards – then our warmup on the treadmill at the gym is a perfectly good time to consume information about fitness or business.
Before I work on these videos I usually like to spend an hour or so studying philosophy – so that when I start writing I look for ways to apply what I’m studying.
But what about if you’re sitting on your couch, watching a video about how to improve your discipline, when you know you’re going to spend the next few hours playing video games? Not a good time.
Eating breakfast and watching a video about how to be more creative, when you won’t be doing anything creative any time soon? Useless..
If you can’t immediately apply, don’t consume.
Sitting on the couch may be a good time for you to just… rest, or meditate. Breakfast is a great time for you to think about the day in front of you, or maybe do a quick review of messages or emails so you can figure out how the first part of your day needs to be organized.
Shifting to an ‘internal first’ mindset means not only knowing ‘how’ to consume information, but also ‘when’ to consume it.
Step 4: Never consume any information without thinking about it ourselves first
This is the final and most important step – the culmination of this whole video and the last 3 steps we talked about.
Imagine what our lives would be like if we internalized whatever question we have FIRST – BEFORE searching externally for the answers.
How do I start a business? How do I learn how to dance? How do I work out? … when we consider these questions ourselves FIRST, BEFORE we look to external information sources, we may be blown away by the results.
Here’s a personal example: When I first started dancing salsa, after a few months I got to a point where I was no longer enjoying the classes… I just hated the music.
Instead of going online to search externally, for a solution, I thought about the question internally first.
After a bit of introspection, I figured that, to ‘enjoy’ the music, that perhaps I should study the flow of the music and understand how different instruments and harmonies work together.
Study the origins – understand how ‘cuban’ and ‘puerto rican’ salsa’ evolved into their own unique styles – the tragic story of Hector Lavoe and how that translated into his music.
I called my mom, who loves salsa, to ask her a few questions – and she told me stories about how she and her cousins would go to Central Park to watch the Fania Allstars during the early 70’s – I learned that the short, friendly chubby guy that came to my house for Christmas that one year was actually Willie Colon – one of the pioneers of salsa.
By doing all of that, not only did I come to appreciate Salsa music, I came to absolutely fall in love with it.
Now I listen to salsa music all the time. When a great song comes on I’ll instinctively move my body or feel the urge to get up and dance. When any of the Fania Allstars are on, I imagine my mother listening to the same music all those years ago in Central Park- and I feel… bliss.
My point here is that – I ‘wanted’ to love salsa, because I saw it as a beautiful vehicle for me to express myself through movement – and when I started ‘failing’, instead of looking to the external – I went ‘internal’ first, and there I was able to figure out and discover what I had ought to do to succeed.
Now imagine if we considered every one of our challenges or goals with an ‘internal first’ mindset.
If we’re trying to develop a habit, we can first use OUR OWN experiences trying to build habits – successes AND failures – before looking externally.
If we want to start our own business, what sort of observations have we made about previous jobs we’ve had within different types of industries, what made those businesses successful, unsuccessful, and how could we have improved them?
I started my career as a freelance website designer having never read a book or studied anything about design – I just started by designing template websites and went from there.
Today I’ve got a thriving business with over 50 employees and thousands of clients – and I’ve never just ‘sat down to read a business book’ although I have occasionally picked up books and read chapters that were relevant to a specific objective I had, like when I hired a team of ISA’s to do outbound calling.
To date, I have never even so much as clicked onto a YouTube video pertaining to any aspect of how to start or grow a business, although I will occasionally listen to podcasts featuring business people that I respect.
I’m not saying books and YouTube videos are bad – I just think they’re overrated. Building a business is mostly just common sense – figure out how to solve a problem for someone and then figure out how to solve that problem at scale. Internal-first.
This generation is probably the weakest generation because – at least in my opinion – we’ve been programmed to look externally for things that we should first consider internally.
To reprogram ourselves to take action by default, we should implement these 4 steps
Step 1: Reprogram our understanding of ‘knowledge’
By understanding that information does not equal knowledge. Information only becomes knowledge only once we apply enough to formulate our own critical thoughts about it.
Step 2: Never read more than 1 chapter (or watch more than 1 video)
Apply what we’ve learned to ACTUALLY learn it before consuming anything else.
Step 3: Consume information only when we can ‘quickly’ apply it
Step 4: Never consume any information without thinking about it ourselves first
BE the blade – always – and use information sources only to make ourselves sharper.
Alright guys – well if you enjoyed the article and can appreciate how hard I work on these, can I ask you to please take a single second out of your day to click the ‘like’ button on the YouTube video? And maybe consider sharing the video with a friend who you know is struggling with taking action?
In the comments – be honest – let me know how many YouTube videos you consumed mindlessly before you got to this one, or how many you’re going to consume after this one.
If you enjoy exploring the darker side of personal development and want to read some of my deeper insights, make sure to follow me on Instagram @nelsonquest and sign up for my newsletter at nelsonquest.com
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Unless of course you’re currently on page 157 of ‘The 5 Second Rule’ and find yourself thinking ‘damn this is a good book’…. For crying out loud have some fucking self respect.
This is the path.
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