You Want Progress In Life? Stop Learning… Start Implementing

Your success in life is directly proportionate to your ability to take action and get stuff done.


That is most likely the opposite of what you’ve been brought up to believe. Chances are you’ve been putting more emphasis on the thing that does not necessarily lead to great results – learning.

It is time to stop learning and stat implementing:

We all have goals.

It is normal to assume that the gap between where you are and where you want to be can be closed (or at least minimized) by acquiring more knowledge on a particular subject

You’ve been led to believe that from a very early age. You went from kindergarten to school, from middle school to high school, then to college and the acquisition of knowledge or, good old fashioned “learning”, gets embedded you as a requirement for success.

But there is a problem.

It is not how much you know, it is what you do with it.

Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking
~ Albert Einstein

According to science, people forget 40% of what they learned in 20 minutes, 77% in six days and up to 90% in 30 days. This is also known as the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, or just the Forgetting Curve.

It looks something like this:


All of this is meant to illustrate a simple truth: if you want to be productive and successful, you need to stop learning and start implementing.

Active practice beats passive learning on any day of the week.

Here’s why:

Too Much Learning Supports Procrastination

Yes,  you can actually learn too much.

The problem with passive learning (when it comes to productivity) is that there is always the next level. As soon as you learn something, you discover that there is so much more that you don’t know. So you go learn it. But there is yet another level.

Where do you draw the line?

Unless your expectation is the become the world’s leading expert in that field, you can never learn it all. There is always more.

That is how procrastination gets created.

You never feel ready. You never feel like you see the whole picture. You always think that if you just learn a little more, it will make it easier to take action… but it never is. The more you know, the more you tend to want to know more (try saying that fast 3 times) before you make the first step. That is a slippery slope that leads to procrastination.

Practice Is Learning

One of the best ways to learn something is to apply it. The insights that you get from your active practice (and from your mistakes) often trump what you can learn just from passive learning.

This story from “Art & Fear” will make it easier to understand the above point:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

The group that applied active practice produced better results than the group who “sat theorizing about perfection” (a.k.a passive learning).


Enough learning about practice and its benefits. It will be quite ironic if you continued to learn the downfalls of learning. Let’s see how you can actually apply the idea of active practice to see meaningful results in your productivity and success.

active practice passive learning

1. Make The First Step… Immediately

You are online and you came across a magnificent blog post (maybe from this blog :)) that showed you a new and exciting way of doing things. It doesn’t matter if it is about nutrition, sports, finances, cat health or how to fold napkins in the shape of swans for your next party.

Apply what you learned immediately. Make the first step, even if it is a small one.

  • If you learned how to read faster, grab the first book next to you and speed read one paragraph.
  • If you learned about a new way to filter your incoming emails so you get less spam, go put it to use.
  • If you learned about a new way to organize your Evernote notes, go organize’em.

At the very least, take out your calendar and block off a time when you are going to put what you just learned to practice.

Making the first step as soon as you can completely changes your mindset. Even the smallest action will take you out of the realm of theory and into practice.

“If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real.”
~ Tony Robbins

2. Do Not Learn More Until You’ve Practiced What Your Already Know

You just learned a cool new technique. For some reason, you could not make the first step immediately (it happens), but you scheduled to do it in 2 days time.

Until you actually apply your new knowledge, restrain yourself from learning more on that topic.

Until you’ve at least tested that new concept and have dipped your toe into the pool of execution, do not add more to your theoretical plate.

This is oftentimes hard to do because you are constantly bombarded with new information, but it is quite possible. If you know that every time you go through your Feedly feed you learn something new about whatever interest you, stay away from it until you’ve tested what you already know. The information is not going to go away. You are not going to miss out. Apply what you know, or at least test it out, and only then move on to the next concept.

This simple concept provides a much needed structure to your passive learning to active practice transition.

You learn one thing, you apply it. You learn a second thing, you apply it. No new knowledge is allowed if you haven’t applied the last concept. Turn this into a habit and you’ll start progressing at a much faster rate.

Easy. Effective.

Your Turn Now

Active practice beats passive learning when it comes to progress, success and productivity. It is not about what you know, it is about what you do with it and how fast you apply it.

Think of any person you admire and you might realize that what you admire then for is what they’ve achieved, not how much they know. There are people that know a ton more about product design than Steve Jobs, but you probably own at least one Apple product. There are people that know a ton more about how to make a great jumpshot or a dunk, but Michael Jordan is a legend.

Learn, apply, that is how you get to see progress in your life.

Question: what is one thing in your life that you know you need to stop learning about and start taking action on? Share in the comment section below: