Be a Doer, Not a Thinker

Dalat, 2016 / Photo by Cindy Nguyen
Dalat, 2016 / Photo by Cindy Nguyen

Dear friend, I wanted to write you a letter on the benefit of doing — rather than “thinking.”

Don’t theorize

I see a lot of arm-chair philosophers, thinkers, and academics— who simply analyze, theorize, and think. But many of these individuals do not “do.” They don’t take risks. They don’t have skin in the game. They aren’t adventurers, soldiers, or knights — who put their lives on the line. Rather, they are like sports commentators — watching from the sidelines, and jabbering incessant noise.

What is important in life

Life is all about making decisions, and doing. Theories very rarely hold up for a long period of time. 99% of the scientific theories today probably won’t exist 100 years from now — very much how 99% of scientific theories from 100 years ago aren’t applicable today.

Life is all about trial and error. About doing. About figuring things out by yourself. About breaking things, putting things back together, and re-arranging information, atoms, and molecules.

We learn as we do. Every theory I’ve learned in school, I’ve forgotten. But everything I’ve done by myself, I learn.

Should we ever make a theory?

I think it is much better to create theories after you’ve learned by doing something, instead of following a theory to do something.

To create a diagram, consider the following:

  1. Learn by trial and error -> Create Theory


  1. Learn theory -> Try to put into practice

The second rarely works. The first usually works much better.

Don’t follow the rules

There is still a lot of truth for you to discover in the world. Why waste time learning what others have learned before you? Try your best to ignore advice, lessons, and theories from the past. Rather, test your own assumptions of reality. Figure out what works for you, and what doesn’t work for you.

After you take a lot of risks, partake in trial-and-error, and make mistakes — then try to create you own theories (after the fact). And then after you’ve spent a lot of time tinkering on your own, then try to read theories from others (and contrast your own theories with the theories of others).

The secret is to venerate and respect the past— but not to be a slave to the past. To be inspired by the great thinkers, doers, and philosophers of the past. But not to be chained by them, and follow them blindly.

Always learn by doing

When in doubt, try it for yourself. If you ever smell bullshit, test out your own assumptions. Find out what works for you.


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