Think first? Or act first? It depends on the thinking…

‘Too often, we try to gather up all the answers we think we need to act. In reality, we need to act to find our answers.’ Jay Acunzo, Keynote Speaker

If you write (anything), I’m sure you’ve been paralysed by the acute awareness of how much more other people know about your topic. There’s always someone who knows more, there’s always more to learn. So we hold off from adding our voice to what looks like an ocean of knowledge because we feel underqualified.

We keep learning and practising, refining and polishing. But we don’t take the risk of putting it out there because of the possible harm to our reputation.

Is that a valid concern?

Absolutely. There is risk involved in publishing anything we can judged by, especially now when the potential audience is so big.

But should that hold us back from creating and sharing? After all, that potential audience carries opportunity as well as risk.

And what of Jay’s point, that in acting we can find our answers? Our answers. Only our work will give us our answers. But if we don’t do our work, we can only find answers that are right for others.

Think first or act first?

It comes back to the thinking…

The most fruitful thinking we can do in order to create something of our own is ‘contained thinking’. With unchecked access to knowledge, we get swept away by overthinking. It can leave us marooned on islands of doubt – islands of our own making.

Contained thinking is what we do best on a deadline. When we have to produce something within a set time, we can stop ourselves from researching the heck out of it and just get it done. But often, this is not our best work or even the work we want to do. It’s just work that has to be done.

So, we need to contain our thinking as well for the work that doesn’t come with a deadline. It’s the creative work – work we love to do, that will grow us and our reputation. Contain not restrain– after all, we want to be free to create so we need to play with ideas and yes, get risky.

If we build in an element of containment to our creative quests, we can set ourselves up to avoid getting stalled in first draft mode. One strategy is to ask and keep asking:

  1. What am I trying to say? Establish a single line of inquiryMine was, ‘How can we ACT (create and publish) with the confidence that what we have created will be in our best interests?’
  2. What will help me speak to this inquiry? Here is where the containment takes effect. By establishing an individual line of inquiry, we can achieve two important things – set boundaries for the topic but also open up possibilities for our own individual exploration of that topic.

Every time we begin to drift off and undermine our own confidence, we can return to those two questions. If what we are doing does not serve the purpose, we tear ourselves away and return to the work. The work will save us from ourselves.

And here’s the interesting bit – I’m publishing this article without truly knowing if my approach will work for others. It’s an approach I learned through my journalism years. It’s an approach that works for journalists and other writers I know.

But will it help you?

I don’t know and I can’t know unless I act – unless I publish this article and get feedback.

By acting, I get to find my answers. And by containing my thinking to that which serves this inquiry, I reduce (not eliminate) the risk to my reputation.

Win-win?

Leave a Reply