Stop Talking and Start Doing

Nike's winning logo.

Nike’s winning logo.

Nike’s marketing slogan, “Just Do It” might be the greatest pitch tagline of all time. Those three words capture everything that their ad campaign sought to convey. The cash registers haven’t stopped ringing since Nike launched that line back in 1988. It helped them double their already healthy market share in the decade afterwards. And the profits just keep coming.

In thinking about why some people do, and most others just make excuses why they can’t, I thought back over my own experiences. What changed in my own life 10 years ago that helped me to move from procrastination to production? How come some people are able to take something from an idea and prototype, and see it through to finished product? In all honesty, I wasn’t very good at seeing things through to shipment at one time. What’s the difference now? I know I’m no longer just talking about my ideas.

There is a belief that some people have that sharing an idea and even a goal will provide the impetus and create the accountability to make that goal become a reality. Others believe this might actually result in the opposite, and there’s data to prove that point.

Think about it. When you tell someone that you are going to do something, doesn’t it make you feel good? The person you tell might even add additional positive affirmation by saying, “Wow, ______, that’s great!” Now you’re feeling really good about talking about your idea. And at this point, good feelings or not, it’s still just words.

This concept isn’t new. Psychologist Kurt Lewin, in the early 20th century, identified three stages of change that still form the basis of much of what we know today, nearly 100 years later, about approaches to change and reinvention. More germane to today’s topic is what Lewin defined as, “substitution.” That is, when we tell someone about our goal and it’s acknowledged, the acknowledgement creates a “substitutional reality.” Basically, we receive satisfaction in disclosing our goal to others and receiving their acknowledgement, which we then substitute for the pain we often feel from our lack of accomplishment. It actually makes it seem real in our mind.

NYU Psychologist, Peter Gollwitzer, followed up on this idea and conducted a number of tests. Talking often made subjects feel like they had accomplished their goal, or at least gave them that “substitute” feeling that was similar to that of attainment.

Derek Sivers, an entrepreneur and founder of music site, CD Baby, has a 3 minute video clip from TED summarizing this very well.

Pain can drive us forward. Talking can lessen that pain, which keeps us from doing the necessary work in moving our goals from mere talk, to reality.

Stop talking and start doing. Just do it!

4 thoughts on “Stop Talking and Start Doing

  1. I was watching the Derek Sivers video about 6 months ago and then couldn’t remember where I saw it. It was TED! Thanks for putting this up on your site.

    To much talking going on and not enough doing.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Pilgrim. Glad I helped you locate the TED video that you’ve been looking for.

    I agree that moving from talk to action is a good thing.

  3. It’s really hard not to want to talk about ideas, in the brainstorming period. But the more I think about this, the more I agree that the stealth approach to achieving a goal is probably helpful once it’s gone from being a vague idea into a somewhat concrete plan. Interesting.

  4. Julie-Ann,

    I’m like you in that I often want to talk about an idea right out of the gate.

    There are probably times when talking about an issue and a new idea is important. Because I process through talking (and writing), I have a tendency to talk about an issue in its early stages. However, I can see where many ideas that I was sure were going to be “the next big thing,” lie abandoned along my pathway I’ve been journeying towards success.

    A case in point for talking about an idea; “When Towns Had Teams” was actually hatched during a number of Sunday morning walks with Miss Mary and our dog, Bernie (RIP). Talking didn’t cause it to crash and burn.

    On the flipside, I can see those times (and ideas) that never made it past the talking stage.

    I was intrigued by this idea and I’m going to have to gauge my need to talk about an idea with the realities of eventually shipping it.

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