Talking vs. Doing

An academic environment provides plenty of opportunity to engage with a wide range of ideas on a wide range of levels.  Being situated at this intersection is often incredibly stimulating, can lead to great conversations, and provides a chance to expand one’s horizons on a daily basis.  There comes a time, however, when you must stop talking and start doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s no value in the theory or the hypothetical – quite the opposite.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m always willing to discuss the options, possibilities, off-the-wall ideas, and what-if’s of any scenario or situation.  I love it!  But, as much as I do, I’ve recently realized that unless you wish to make a career of it, at some point you have to take the plunge (those aspiring to be researchers, professors, or academics should probably stop reading at this point).

Taking the plunge is scary.  There are risks: of failure, embarrassment, financial loss, emotional distress.  There are also potentials for reward, success, recognition, financial gain, and emotional fulfillment.  The obvious question, then, becomes “How do you know?”  How do you know if this is the idea you should act on?  How do you know if this is the time to act?  The short answer: you don’t.  Because you can’t.

Very rarely in life do opportunities so perfect present themselves that you simply cannot take them.  Often times there are smaller signs, compromises, trade-offs, and coincidences that all come together to present what amounts to a decently good chance that you’ll break even on this proposition.  This could be anything from choosing a check-out line at a grocery store to founding a new venture.  All of these decisions are, at some level, the same.  But still – how do you know?

Like I’ve said – you can’t know when to go, you can only know that you’re ready.  And you’ll know when you’ve reached this point.  It will be clear that you’ve gotten all that you can or need out of the discussion, out of the theory, and that you’ve reached the point where actual engagement is the only direction left.  When it’s your time, go.  Don’t get bogged down by the naysayers, or “wantreprenuers” who can only focus on the risk and the possibility of failure.  If you’re ready – do it.

If you think you’re ready, and you’d like to start small, that’s fine too.  There are plenty of resources for getting your feet wet in the world of doing.  Once you realize that it’s your time to be doing, soon you will find that it’s all you can do – and that’s perfect, because doing is hard, takes time, and does carry very real risk.  But it also carries the possibility for so much more.

Once you’ve exhausted your time and growth in the world of thinking, I wholly encourage you to take the plunge into the world of doing – there is so much out there to be done!

Shay Colson

A 2010 iSchool graduate, Shay Colson lives and works in Seattle, Washington. He uses technology to solve problems for government, organizations, and also real, actual people. You can find him on Twitter @shaycolson.

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