June 3, 2023

Break Free From Your Programming (A Strategy to Overcome Analysis Paralysis)

Break Free From Your Programming (A Strategy to Overcome Analysis Paralysis)

We spend the first 20 years of our lives learning and then "applying".

I say "applying" because it isn't even real application. We only iterate on the knowledge we gained to hammer it into our heads.

To memorize it.

Learn of a math formula, and iterate on that formula. Learn about the different parts of speech, and practice writing sentences with them.

This is how the school system functions. This is how most of our lives function in general.

Zooming out and looking at this big picture...

Early in life we learn that continuing our education beyond high school is the way to build a "successful" life.

In other words β€” we learn to go learn some more.

Beyond school, social media has become an insane superpower for learning.

Pick up your phone, find an expert with a few clicks, and you have access to world class knowledge.

The learning continues.

We learn that learning is good. Conditioned to believe so.

But we don't learn to execute.

The execution that we do immediately after learning is only done for the sake of remembering.

The point is, we have learned that the proper order of operations is to learn and then apply.

Later in the letter, I am going to share why the inverse order is far superior

We develop the habit of getting all relevant knowledge before doing anything.

We learned the essence of analysis paralysis -- one of the many things that makes the beginning stages of doing that new thing so difficult.

Analysis Paralysis

I won't spend a lot of time defining this, but lets give a quick overview.

Analysis Paralysis is a phenomenon that prevents people from taking action due to overthinking.

I am interested in understanding habit formation and what prevents people from creating them.

For that reason, I am going to focus on one specific way of overthinking a problem: needing the perfect plan to start. Β 

You might already see how this ties in with the learning example I laid out in the intro.

Throughout life, we have learned a bunch of stuff before doing anything with it. (if anything at all, but that is a separate discussion)

We never acted without knowing first. That's our habit.

Let's Try Something New

Let's say someone wants to start going to the gym. They've never gone before and don't know shit about it.

What do you think they're gonna do before going to the gym? They're going to revert to what they know...

Accumulate an unnecessary amount of knowledge before doing anything with it.
Try and create the perfect plan.

Its ironic because the gym is one of the most simple things.

  • Enter gym.
  • Move weights heavier than last time.
  • Eat more food than last time.
  • Repeat.

But these are the things people actually do:

  • Read a book on hypertrophy.
  • Study the difference between hypertrophy vs strength training.
  • Read a book on macronutrition.
  • Learn about ketosis, high carb diets, and understand protein synthesis.
  • Discover what time under tension means, and understand rep ranges for optimal muscle response.
  • Read reviews on 20 different workout programs, and understand workout splits.
  • Never hit the gym.

If only it were as simple as following the first list. If only we weren't taught to absorb the entire fucking world before taking an ounce of action.

I struggled with this for awhile. Especially with the gym... this example is me.

Time to break that habit ;)

If you think about it, attempting to come up with the perfect plan before beginning is silly. That is the single worst possible moment to do that. You have the least amount of experience. The chances of you having the perfect plan is the lowest it will ever be.

Bear With Me Here (Semantics Time)

Up until this point, I have referred to learning in the traditional sense.

I have recently adopted a different definition of "learning". It is from Alex Hormozi. I'll throw the quote here:

This means a lot of what we did in school was not learning. It was absorbing knowledge.

The reason for this is because our behavior didn't change.

We memorize the knowledge, apply it for the test, and then our behavior remains the same.

Studying doesn't make you smart, knowledge doesn't make you smart.

How fast you can adapt and change your behavior when receiving the same stimuli is how smart you are. How fast you can learn is how smart you are.

If you subscribe to this definition, then you might already be thinking what I thought when I agreed with it.

For the rest of this letter we will use this new definition of learning.

Let's Try It Out

Think back to a time when you were bit by the analysis paralysis bug.

When you tried to accumulate all the knowledge necessary to begin, only to never feel ready.

Ask yourself this question: "While I was learning about the thing, was I getting any closer to the goal I had in mind".

If you had continued learning about the thing forever, would you have achieved your goals?

Of course not.

With that said, no plan is perfect. Executing without knowing shit isn't gonna get you perfect results either. But its way better than doing nothing.

That is the new proposition. The new plan. Execute first, fail. and then go absorb knowledge to learn.

Don't underestimate your ability to adapt once you begin.

As long as you are moving in the generally correct direction, you are on the best possible path.

It's hard for me to prove to you that you learn faster from experience. That you learn faster from doing and failing.

You're going to have to take my word on that piece. I have a gut feeling that your gut agrees ;)

Flipping The Script (A Direct Cure to Analysis Paralysis)

So how do we escape the programming that we have learned?

We reverse the order of operations. Take action, THEN absorb knowledge.

Step 1. Receive the Stimuli (click me if viewing online)

To learn, you must adapt to stimuli and change your behavior. This makes the first step rather obvious.

You need the baseline stimuli and the behavior associated with it as a control variable. How else will you receive it a second time to measure how your behavior has changed?

To learn how to be successful in the gym, you must first go to the gym. You must recieve the stimuli. There is no way around it.

Step 2. Repeat Step 1

Go receive the stimuli by doing the action until you sense a roadblock or constraint. 

Step 3. Absorb Knowledge

You may still be thinking that the old definition of learning can still be applicable at this point. 

Something like: "But reading about better exercises or rep ranges will help you adapt your behavior quicker."

You're right. This is where the old definition of learning comes in. Go study like you would in school. 

Absorbing knowledge can be great, and at times like this it is necessary. But that's only true if used as a tool to see behavioral change as fast as possible.

Once you sense a constraint, go study the precise info you need to break through it, and only that info.

The reason why you only learn that info and no more is because you already have what you need for behavior change. 

You now have what you need to learn.

We don't want to fall back into the old habit of learning and not applying

Step 4. Apply the Knowledge (learn)

Now that you have absorbed information about your constraint, go apply it.

Go learn.

You take what you absorbed and change your behavior.
If the changed behavior...

  • ...solves the problem, move to Step 2 but with the new action until another constraint arrives.
  • ...doesn't solve the problem, move to Step 3. Absorb new, different knowledge.

That's it. We have flipped the script.

We have always learned to absorb and then act.
Now we act until we NEED to absorb, then we only absorb enough to act again.

Gimme More Proof

The real benefit is something that we have not even discussed yet, but now seems like a good time.

You absorb a ludicrous amount of knowledge from acting itself. Acting provides results as well as knowledge to absorb.

By doing Step 2, we absorb the knowledge we need to break through constraints when or even before they arrive.

It's a beautiful thing. You are receiving tons of personalized knowledge firsthand through your own senses.

β€œFor the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
― Aristotle

With this strategy, we can get results and break through constraints with efficiency.

Much faster than absorbing knowledge without application.

More benefits of this strategy include:

  • Making immediate progress which will begin to compound.
  • Receiving dopamine and feelings of fulfillment from progress which lead to motivation to continue.
  • You will prove to yourself that this path is better (try it once and fall in love)
  • You learn what it is like to start and fail. You learn a cure to analysis paralysis.
  • You are able to reach your goals much faster!

A fun thought exercise that I like to do is to think about an RPG that you have played before. When your character receives a new quest, do you go to the library and research the best way to get it done... or or do you just start?

You might fail the quest, but you learn why and then go try again. It's the fastest path. In games, the downside of failing is death, but in life, the downside is most likely nothing.

Be like your RPG character.


If you're still worried about failing, let me try to give you some peace of mind...

I very recently started writing these newsletters. Before starting, I felt the temptation to learn every little thing about writing.

Before starting my YouTube channel I wanted to get the best camera and the best background setup. Learn the perfect editing style for my videos.

Before co-founding our clothing brand with my fiancΓ© I tried to be a market positioning expert.

The good news, I learned about analysis paralysis. I learned about directional correctness.

I decided that I was going to start and not stop. Pivot and learn as I go.

To not be somebody who talks about the thing they are going to do but never do it.
Starting that thing has infinite upside, and zero downside. You've made up the downside in your head.

Nobody is going to read your terrible newsletters at the start. Nobody is going to watch your horrendous videos when you begin.

I don't have much to show for these things I am doing yet, but that's okay.

Start, plateau, absorb, learn, continue.

Let's get going.

- Jason