If you've been schooled for most of your life, you're probably suffering from the preparation mindset. The idea that you can only start doing when you have finished the stage of preparing.

You have dreams, but you're not trying to live them right now. There is no way. One day, though, you will.

One day, you'll show everyone your skill.

One day.

But not right now. Right now, you're just preparing. You're still a student.

  • You want to be a writer, but instead of writing everyday, you're going to spend 4 years getting a bachelor's degree in English literature.
  • You want to be a coder, but instead of starting a simple project, you're sinking a few grand into a Java certification course.
  • You want to be a marketer, but instead of doing marketing, you're doing an 'online marketing strategies' course on EdX, to get your certificate.

One day, though, when you have acquired all the necessary permissions, qualifications, certifications and whatnot, then you will come out of hiding. On that day, you'll have all the knowledge and courage; and you'll showcase your newly acquired mastery in all its glory.

You will steal the show and everyone will admire you and wonder how you acquired such awesome skills, so suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere. Like magic.

Except, that never happens.

Because that's not how the world works.

The only way to build real world skill and confidence is by going outside of your comfort zone and actually doing the thing you can't do yet.

Nobody ever became a great public speaker by practicing in front of a mirror for 10,000 hours. You become a great public speaker by doing a lot of public speaking.

There is no other way.

In fact, when you spend years preparing for something in isolation, and then you finally do the real thing, you almost always realize that the real thing is nothing like your preparation. And that, in fact, there was never really any way to prepare for the real thing, other than by actually doing the real thing.

Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.
- Mike Tyson

Learning by doing is learning in real life.

Extensive preparation is not at all natural. It's a symptom of a schooled mind. A mind that's used to extensive periods spent in splendid isolation, preparing for predictable situations where your skill will be put to the test.

This is not at at all what natural learning in the real world looks like.

If you want to know what natural learning looks like, you need to look at kids before they're forced into the school system. You know what you'll find?

baby trying to get out of his crib

Kids never prepare.

As John Holt describes so beautifully in his book "How children learn", children don't learn by preparation.

They don't learn to talk by practicing different letters and sounds until they can say a word.

Instead, they just start talking.

Of course, that talking consists of sounds that are unintelligible, at first. But to be fair, the sounds that we make are just as meaningless to them, as their sounds are to us.

So the kid is just participating; joining the fun of making (seemingly) random sounds. In their mind, they're not learning how to talk. They are talking.

And in the process of making those sounds, they will eventually learn words by recognizing patterns and noticing how the adults respond when they make certain sounds. This is learning by doing.

Kids don't sit down to study bikes before they start riding. They just climb on and go.  

Kids don't wait to learn how mommy's phone works. They just start pressing the buttons and find out that way (often quicker than their parents).

Preparation is not entirely useless, of course. It certainly has its place; but it's easy to overrate preparing if you have a schooled mind.

The next time you find yourself preparing for something in solitude; ask yourself if you're studying the mechanics of the bike, before ever having ridden one.

Ask yourself if you're trying to learn the alphabet, before you've even babbled a few words.

Ask yourself if you're reading the manual to your smartphone, before you've tried playing around with it a little bit.

Deschool yourself. Stop preparing. Get in the arena and start doing.