On Motion vs. Action

“When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result,” says James Clear in his ultra-popular book, Atomic Habits.

Basically, when you are in motion, you read. Your tweet. You network. You watch, endlessly, videos about whatever. Some people, feeling exceptionally brave, might even get a truckload of gear for video production to start a YouTube channel, for example, but they don’t actually start. They usually end up in a never-ending preparation stage.

I see this all the time. People hopping from channel to channel with one simple quest: to gather as much as possible to-die-for anecdotes in the form of tweets, courses, eBooks. All promising to help them get rich without getting lucky.1 But once their virtual bag is full of goods and their credit card is exhausted, they do little with the content they so enthusiastically collected.

Conversely, there are others. Quiet birds. Self-isolated nerds who dominate the shadows of their 2nd bedroom. Folks who are either too busy to engage in a social conversation or simply don’t quite give a sh*t. For them, doing is all that matters.

That’s the difference between motion vs. action.

Motion is a delusional state where you are thinking that you are doing something while you are actually – in most situations – only preparing to start doing the thing you so obsessively talking about. It’s something like wishful thinking.

Action, on the other hand, is doing the hard work that will eventually lead to visible results.

We’ve all seen it. And we have all done it – even if we don’t want to admit it.

Actually, something we all have in common is a friend who is always talking about starting a business. But that’s what he ever does – he only talks about it, never starts. He is always, as he states, “gathering feedback or planning.” Always in motion. Instead of registering a brand. Starting a website. And gathering feedback from real users. He’s mostly focused on signaling to the rest of the world his dreams but never dares to pursue them.

And that’s a problem we all face – in one area or another.

We Need More Action And Less Motion

Based on my experience, if you want results. If you want something to actually change in your life, you need action. Not motion.

The concept of motion versus action is nicely explained by James Clear in the mentioned book. Paradoxically, the famous newsletter by the said author – The 3-2-1 Newsletter – is exactly the opposite of what he’s suggesting.

Not that I have something against the content or the format – I love it. Simply the way it’s presented and the incentives proposed inside the newsletter are leading to motion, not action.

Let me explain…

Every Thursday, like clockwork, I eagerly refresh my inbox to receive the most wisdom per word newsletter in the world. I read it. I’m deeply moved by the content, I quickly consider the question in the newsletter (the 3rd part of the 3-2-1 newsletter) and then… nothing.

I quickly move on to what’s next on my to-read list and I never schedule time with myself to think deeply about the proposed material by James.

I know it’s my fault, but I’m positive that most of the readers of the newsletter are doing little, themselves, to actually do something with the content besides reading it, sharing it, and quickly forgetting about it. Just like me.

Again, I don’t think the content is the problem. And most importantly, I don’t think that I’m doing something profoundly different on my site – up until now at least.

The problem is the length of the content and the environment.

Short, Purely Online Content Leads to Motion

Here’s why I think that short, bite-sized, free, tweet-length content is not contributing much to our daily lives:

  1. You are not emotionally (and financially) invested enough to do something with short free content.
  2. The suggested actions – tweeting the content – moves you to a completely different atmosphere where you are more prone to procrastinate for longer than to actually do something with the content. In all the newsletters, James Clear is including a link so you can share online the short anecdotes presented in the newsletter. We all know why he’s doing it – to get more people interested in his products. And we all know why we are actually tweeting the content – to present ourselves as smart and original in front of our online friends.

But that’s not all…

Let me further elaborate on the two points:

First, when something is free, or easy to get – in this case, the content is something we consume in less than 3 minutes – we don’t pay much attention to it. Or as Andre Michelin beautifully said when he put a price tag on his previously free Michelin guides, “A man only truly respects what he pays for.”

And for the second reason, if you decide to tweet the content, it’s like exiting your apartment and entering a loud dinner party where everyone is talking about themselves. And since it’s so loud, you can hardly hear your own voice, let alone do something. You just sit there and do what everyone else is doing – talking about important stuff without doing something about these pressing problems.

But how do you focus less on motion and get more action?

Focus On Less Content, and More Thinking

Remarkable content is all around us. Newsletters like 3-2-1 are quite common. People share insightful concepts that are easily consumable, sometimes even daily.

If you open YouTube and Twitter, and if you search properly, you can find a massive archive of lessons about how to become a writer, a designer, a pianist, you name it. There is free content for everything that can easily be consumed across all of our devices.

But something is fundamentally wrong here. Since we are all surrounded by this magical content that supposedly has the power to transform us, why people are still not movie-star rich, highly-ranked YouTubers, or famous musicians?

Why people are still, well, ordinary?

Why people are still not mega-famous, super thin, and owning an island? You know, the stuff we are used to seeing online by famous influencers.

The problem, I think, is not the content. If you’re a savvy internet user – which I’m sure you are since you’ve found this site and you are still reading this – you can easily find an online course that can make you more productive, more self-aware, better at playing drums, or whatever weird thing you want to do today.

The problem is the commitment.

Transitioning from wanting to become a writer to actually becoming a writer, for example, has to do only with how bad you want to become a writer. Not surrounding yourself with a monstrously big online library of courses. You simply have to write.

This same concepts apply to everything.

Regardless of what you want to achieve, it all comes down to this: time, dedication, and some sort of guidance. Nothing else.

That’s what I’m trying to do with my membership program: Thinkers Club.

An Online Club For Action. Not Motion

You surely don’t need another newsletter about how to become a [enter your desired thing]. Moreover, you surely don’t want another book, another podcast, another Facebook group, another course, another guru to follow that endlessly tweets cliché stuff that are carefully crafted to get him more followers. You need more time, on your own, to practice the activity you want to master.

Framework + time. It’s so simple.

Once both are present. You can achieve anything.

Sounds simple. But it’s not.

Prior to my new club – Thinkers Club – members of my previous program were getting access to the full summaries on my site. Currently, if you’re not a member, you can read around 30% of a single book summary. The rest is behind a paywall.

And while it was a way to monetize my efforts. Ultimately, it wasn’t the main activity I wanted to promote with my content. In the long run, I want to help people move from motion to action.

Getting access to 100+ book summaries convinced people to become members. But how does reading 100+ book summaries actually help you?

While it can – you surely learn a lot of new concepts that you can later implement in your life – it’s much more valuable to sit in front of a blank piece of paper and try to answer the difficult questions suggested in the great books we are so eager to ingest.

Or in other words, focus on action.

Instead of reading every single book on the planet about starting a business or changing your habits. Personally, after reading more than 100 books, I think it’s enough to read one book on a given topic and actually do something with the content. Not simply let it pass by you.

And thinking about the content is the first step towards action. It sets you on the right path.

That’s my new focus.

And here’s how I’m tackling the motion vs. action paradox with my membership, the Thinkers Club:

  1. Paying monthly: Seeing money fly out of your credit card will surely motivate you to do something. On the page where I present the membership, I’m highlighting several times that you need to do something when you join the program. And tying this with money surely does make you move.
  2. A fair price: The price tag for the membership is intentionally higher than what I was initially comfortable putting. Paying nothing or paying little will hardly ever make you do something. That’s why, instead of charging something like $5 or $10 a month, I decided to put a $15 introductory price that will later become $20 and after that $25 – when more people join.
  3. Time to think on your own: The monthly Think Workbooks that come with the membership are full of questions that prompt you to sit and think about how you can make adjustments in your life based on the text.
  4. Isolation: But not the isolation we all hate. If you read something online, the chance to click away and lose yourself in the endless sea of content is quite high. That’s why the format is digital and print-friendly. You can print the workbooks to start answering the questions. And even if you don’t, the format is all about writing stuff down. You can grab a notebook and answer the questions. Why this is helpful? Well, there are numerous studies that explain how writing on paper is therapeutic.2 It helps you think better and allows you to plan your next steps.
  5. No community: For some, no access to a Facebook group – or similar – it’s surely a blocker. But that’s OK with me. Although I know that communities can be helpful in terms of motivation, they are super noisy and absent of real engagements. I’ve joined a lot of communities in the past hoping that I will become better at my craft. However, as soon as I joined, I found myself unable to enter the conversations. It was either too irrelevant or too time-consuming to participate.

The membership is not for everyone. This is quite clear to me. Not everyone will enjoy a no-meeting club where you have to do some sort of exercise – what’s the fun in that, right? Some individuals thrive when surrounded by others and get inspired by people who are regularly sharing stuff online. That’s cool. We are all different people with different desires and ambitions.

But I’m certain that the right people will find it interesting.

The people who are ready to take action, and want to stop being in constant motion, will click the button, grab a pen, and start outlining the things they have to change in their lives in order to improve.

If you are that type of person, hop on board by going here.

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  1. One of the most famous tweets by Naval – the master guru of all entrepreneurs.
  2. Here are two: Expressive Writing in Psychological Science; Writing therapy: a new tool for general practice?
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