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Consistent action beats perfect action

We often deliberate before taking action because we are waiting for the ‘perfect’ choice. I know would be founders waiting for the perfect billion dollar idea. I know would be writers waiting for the perfect thing to write about.

To be lucky you need to be consistent. To be creative you need to be consistent.

Prevention and Promotion mindsets are really important drivers of success.

  • Prevention - You are trying not to fail, you fret about things and over think.
  • Promotion - You only see the upside of trying, you just do it and don’t worry.

Student study

Students for a photography class were split into two groups

  • Group A - Tested on the volume of work - 100 photos
  • Group B - Tested on the quality - 1 perfect photo

Surprisingly the Group A students (volume) produced much better quality photos. They just started straight away and tried lots of different things. It was an art class so they still wanted to make something good. Anything that might be worth a photo they tried.

Group B (quality) spent a lot of time thinking about things. They only wanted to do something that would be perfect so they didn’t take chances. Without the consistency they didn’t accidentally learn new things.

A nice way to look at choice.

Low repetition, decision failures

If you don’t eat out often or you barely watch movies. Say once a month or less. You can worry about picking the right one and it takes ages. You’ve heard about lots of good ones. You worry about what you are missing out on with any choice that you do make.

You feel you might let a friend down if you don’t follow their recommendation. The restaurant is full that day or a flatmate you are with doesn’t want to watch that movie you chose. You feel like you are losing something.

High repetition, decision flow

If you eat out everyday or watch a movie everyday. Choosing is very easy. You just want to try new things. You hear about a few great restaurants, you add them to the list. You watch a few film adverts that excite you. You add them to the list.

You know you will reach the important ones and you don’t worry at all. You can make a list of all the classics and slowly crack through them.

Upside opportunities

When you are very consistent you know you will experience all the best options. You will also discover a lot of gems you could have never experienced when you were stuck fretting about the few referrals you had to decide between.

There will also be some terrible experiences. You don’t worry about those so much. That’s the cost of discovering the great. It’s part of it and you get to learn something from the experience.

How a consistent writing habit becomes easy

If you write everyday or every week it becomes pretty easy to just write stuff. Everyday I pick up two or three ideas I could write about from a book I’m reading. More ideas from a podcast. More ideas from issues we faced as a team in my company. I might wake up in the middle of the night with more ideas. Don’t get me started on relationships and “emotional availability”...

There is so much to write about. I don’t even try to choose. I just write the thing that forces itself to the top of the pile of ideas each day.

When I wanted to write once a month I wouldn’t know what to write about. I felt like I had no ideas and nothing seemed like it would be good enough.

Find the threshold

There is a threshold level of regularity for a search based decision activity. When you achieve the threshold you automatically go into a promotion mindset.

It stops you worrying about missing out on something or making a bad choice. You start to play an infinite game where you just enjoy playing. You get out of a finite mindset where you need to be right every time.

Further examples

I think the above explains the idea fine. I went for some deliberately diverse ideas to show that it’s not confined to one topic.

It’s an idea that now I’ve thought about it I’m seeing everywhere. Relationships, art, cooking, travel, music listening, music writing...

Some ideas specifically relevant for me that are nice examples and might inspire you.

Startups

If you accept that you are always going to start companies you will inevitably start one that succeeds. If you feel like you are only ever going to start one company you will be too worried that the idea isn’t perfect and might fail.

Nearly every startup pivots a lot from the first idea to find success. It turns out people don’t have perfect ideas strait away.

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Coinbase didn’t have a way to buy Bitcoin when it was started. It was just a wallet to hold cryptocurrencies. After they left YCombinator they still didn’t have product market fit. They realised lots of the new users were opening accounts but didn’t know how to buy Bitcoin. The founder thought blockchain was the future. He started a stupid idea building a wallet for crypto currencies that no one had. Doing this silly idea he realised there was huge demand for creating a way to buy cryptocurrencies.

Long games with podcasting

I noticed this effect with the Wiser Than Yesterday Podcast I run. It is a book review podcast that I run with my friend Nicolas Vereecke.

When we started it, I wasn’t sure if we would keep it up as a long term thing. I was worried about reviewing all the best books. Making a decision for which specific book to read next was hard. Who got to decide? Do we review ones we have read? Do we only pick new ones? What if the book isn’t good?

It was a prevention mindset.

We randomly went from book to book and deciding was slightly stressful.

Then we swapped to seasons. Instead we would pick a topic for a season. Stoic philosophy, Racism and equality, Money and investing.

For each topic we would pick a bunch of books that were in that category. We’d make a list of twenty or so books and try and cut it down to ten. We stopped worrying about who picked what.

We also really enjoyed diving deeper into a specific topic together.

I no longer worried about which book to read. I became unusually calm. There are a list of 15 topics I really want us to cover and often we will finish a season and choose a new topic because it has become relevant to us.

I have a very long term mindset because I know we are both enjoying it and will carry on. There are so many books we can just keep going basically endlessly. We’ll read most of the recognised best ones. We’ll discover some gems. We will also read some terrible books. That’s fine. Every book will teach us something new.

There is no way we could ever choose the ten best books ever. Instead we just have infinite books