When Learning Stunts Growth: Knowing When to Consume vs When to Create

Photo by Rendiansyah Nugroho on Unsplash

I am currently trying to read 2 books, following a few blogs, listening to podcasts and webinars. The key word is “trying” because it’s exhausting to be consuming so much information at once. It’s easy to get caught up in consuming every little nugget of knowledge you can get your hands on when starting something new. We want to know EVERYTHING!

But we can’t know everything.

The trick that consuming all this information plays on us is it makes us believe we’re productive. We spend hours reading blogs, books, watching videos, believing we’re making progress. And that’s true when we’re starting out. We need to read and consume in order to learn new things and skills but when we consume too much, it bogs us down if we’re not using that knowledge; all that information will eventually become unused and lost.

“The problem is that there is no risk in consuming.” — Scott Dinsmore

I took both French and Spanish in school and do you know how much of the languages I actually know? Here are the phrases I know:

  • My name is…

That’s it and it’s because I never practiced what I learned. I could’ve seeked out people to talk to, tried to have conversations in Spanish with friends who were taking the same class but I never did, because I was too scared or embarrassed that I haven’t mastered the languages.

It’s safe to consume and take in. There’s no risk in buying those pairs of shoes or read books but the thought of having to design and make those shoes or write your own story is daunting. So we just take it all in without ever putting anything out. But like my Spanish and French classes, all that time and knowledge will be wasted if we don’t ever apply the lessons learned.

Information overload

  • Analysis Paralysis

Whatever you want to call it, the impact of consuming too much is the same — it freezes us. Consuming is addicting because it’s easy. Using that consumption to create something is the hard part and if you’re a beginner (like me), it’s even harder to create because you don’t know how to filter out what you need now and save what you don’t for later.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself” — Unknown

Creating something, anything, allows us to know ourselves in a different light. It’ll help us realize our capabilities and our weaknesses; we’ll know a little bit more about what we like and what we don’t. But we have to start.

Screw up — really, it’s ok

Start with the most basic thing you learned and try to apply it. If it doesn’t work, try it again and again. The nice thing about being a beginner is you have the opportunity to mess up. There’s no shame in admitting you have no idea what you’re doing, in fact, you should be proud to be attempting something new in the first place. So screw up plus you have nobody to apologize to if things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to.

Set goals

Sometimes it makes sense to follow someone else’s strategy; it’ll give you direction and guidance but eventually, we’ll have to deviate from their roadmap and follow our own. Finding focus and setting goals will help you see the next steps, and then we can take in only the information that will help us achieve our goals, not theirs. It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s “shoulds”.

There are thousands of articles telling you what you should do next and how you should do it. Setting goals will make it easier to filter out what you need to know now and what you can save for later.

There’s no right or wrong way to start

The important thing is to get started. We live in a world of free and abundant information and that can serve as both a catalyst and a hindrance to our creative spirit. It can be overwhelming and confusing but at the end of the day, we need to decide if we’re going to use that information to start creating or to use the abundance of information as an excuse to paralyze ourselves with consumption.

There are givers and there are takers. There’s no harm in being both because in order to create, we need to consume. And just as you found insight and inspiration in other people’s work, so too will other people be inspired by what you create. We just need to put down that book first.

Here’s to the chase,

Alice

Originally published at possiblepursuits.com on June 28, 2017.

Living life imperfectly and as creatively as possible. www.alicevuong.com