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Statements I hate: “it’s easier said than done”

cheap-talkOne of the blogs I follow is Harsh Reality by a blogger who refers to himself as Opinionated Man.

The site description reads:

My goal with this blog is to offend everyone in the world at least once with my words… so no one has a reason to have a heightened sense of themselves. We are all ignorant, we are all found wanting, we are all bad people sometimes.

One of yesterday’s posts was about how much the author hates the phrase “We come from similar backgrounds.”

In a nutshell, he finds it pretentious, insulting, and flat-out false.

If you want his full thoughts on the matter, you can read it for yourself here.

After reading his post, I started to wonder if there were any statements like that for me.

Without much effort, I was able to recall several popular statements that make me cringe.

Today, I’ll share the one cliché that stands at the top of my list:

“It’s easier said than done.”

If I could eliminate just one phrase from the English language, “it’s easier said than done” would be my unquestionable choice.

Here’s why:

Regardless of the topic of conversation, “it’s easier said than done” contributes nothing to the discussion other than the proclamation of a self-evident truth that literally applies to everything.

In and of itself, the phrase is not a bad thing. I understand what it’s supposed to mean and I acknowledge the sincerity of those who use it.

However, when this statement is typically invoked, it’s usually only uttered as a response to an invitation to do something constructive or creative.

People love to say “it’s easier said than done” as if it’s some sort of linguistic trump card that uniquely softens the blow of inspiring messages and healthy suggestions.

But here’s the deal: EVERYTHING is easier said than done.

Going to bed is easier said than done.

Seriously.

Going to bed might be easy, but it’s a lot easier to say “I’m going to bed” than it is to actually walk over to the bed, lie down, and fall asleep.”

Making toast for breakfast is easier said than done.

Again, making toast is quite a simple task, but it still involves activities like opening up a package of bread, removing a slice from the package, placing it in the toaster, setting the timer properly so it doesn’t burn, and so forth. Merely uttering the words “I’m going to make toast for breakfast” is a heck of a lot easier.

On so many occasions,  “It’s easier said than done” is triumphantly or fatalistically asserted as if it were a reason to reconsider or reject some important proposition.

But it isn’t.

It’s a relatively empty cliché that sounds more revelatory than it actually is.

Any decision that requires action, however small or insignificant those action-steps may be, is easier said than done.

The notion that some things are easier said than done while others things are easier to do than say is an illusion.

All of the hundred and one little choices you make on an average day are easier said than done.

Whether you’re making toast, training for a marathon, brushing your teeth, fighting for your marriage, tying your shoes, changing your diet, checking your voicemail, learning a new language, surfing the internet, taking a shower, or trying to change the world for good, it’s all easier said than done.

We unnecessarily, unfairly, and unproductively depreciate the demands of doing when we arbitrarily compare it with the ease of talking.

If you’re one of those people who loves responding to practical suggestions by saying “it’s easier said than done”, I offer you my response:

It’s better done than said.

So, just do it.

if you don’t want to do it, then do something else.

Because no matter what it is you decide to do, it’s always going to be easier said than done.

“Screw it, just get on and do it.”

Just-Do-It-Now“As everyone around him was filling the air with business buzzwords and talking about complex ideas for mapping out our future, Branson was saying things like: ‘Screw it, just get on and do it.'” -James Clear, Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready

Entrepreneur, weightlifter, and travel photographer, James Clear, recently wrote an inspiring blog post on Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of Virgin Group, about the importance of taking action before you feel ready. I strongly recommend you read his post here.

Here are some of my favorite highlights with my own thoughts to follow:

Branson doesn’t merely say things like, “Screw it, just get on and do it.” He actually lives his life that way. He drops out of school and starts a business. He signs the Sex Pistols to his record label when everyone else says they are too controversial. He charters a plane when he doesn’t have the money.

When everyone else balks or comes up with a good reason for why the time isn’t right, Branson gets started.

If you want to summarize the habits of successful people into one phrase, it’s this: successful people start before they feel ready.

If you’re working on something important, then you’ll never feel ready. A side effect of doing challenging work is that you’re pulled by excitement and pushed by confusion at the same time.

You’re bound to feel uncertain, unprepared, and unqualified. But let me assure you of this: what you have right now is enough. You can plan, delay, and revise all you want, but trust me, what you have now is enough to start. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to start a business, lose weight, write a book, or achieve any number of goals… who you are, what you have, and what you know right now is good enough to get going.

We all start in the same place: no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. The difference is that some people — the winners — choose to start anyway.

I think the point Clear is trying to make here is that “readiness” is an illusion whether you emotionally feel like you’re ready or not.

In any craft or line of work, there are unpredictable factors and forces that one cannot anticipate, or prepare for, through research, training, analysis, and planning.

There are certain lessons necessary for success that don’t begin until you 1) engage the world through action and 2) receive feedback from the world in direct response to the actions you’ve taken.

Readiness is not an emotion. It’s not something you should strive to feel as a prerequisite for taking creative risks.

No matter how you feel, you’re not ready for something until you do it.

A friend of mine recently shared the following Arthur Ashe quote with me:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

One could easily retort by saying “That all sounds great, but starting things before you’re ready wont necessarily yield success.”

This objection would be a moot point, however, because that same observation is also true of any piece of advice one could possibly give about any subject.

The insight to be gleaned here is not that starting is some sort of insurance against failure, but that moving forward before you have answers to all your questions is a part of what it means to prepare.

There are plenty of unsuccessful people who started before they felt ready, but there are no successful people who felt fully prepared before they actually started doing the work.

Zig Ziglar said it best:

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

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