“Just do it” must be the single most brilliant piece of marketing work of all time. It’s motivation. Inspiration. Action. Energy. And truth.
People don’t realize how deep this slogan is. They get hung up on its immediacy. “If it were that easy, don’t you think everybody would ‘just do it?’” No, no, no. You’ve got that all wrong. That’s not what it’s about.
It’s about something Marcus Aurelius said to himself 2,000 years ago:
“You must build up your life action by action, and be content if each one achieves its goal as far as possible—and no one can keep you from this.”
If all we did was to focus on the task right in front of us, we’d accomplish 99% of our goals and then some. Sure, we’d still have to reflect on occasion and not all goals would turn out to be worth chasing, but we’d just…get there.
Pro athletes only ever focus on the next play. How do we convert this move? How do we recover these inches? How can I get the ball out of the bunker? All year you worry about minutes, inches, seconds - and by the end of it, you’ve won the championship.
A bias towards action eliminates the worst kind of doubt: doubts about the big picture. It also ensures you’re always working on something that’s doable. Only the next step matters.
But there’s another reason “go do stuff” is the best advice: it’s the only advice that works.
When young people approached for advice or mentoring, I gave lots of specific tips. Here’s how to set goals, have a morning routine, be productive. But there’s a huge hindsight bias in all that.
I’m only giving you the final 10% that worked - and that worked for me in particular. The messy 90% of the journey that led me there? I left those out completely.
I might have tried 15 different things over two years to nail my morning routine - but then I turn that last process into a pattern and tell you how to do just that step by step.
But if I’m talking to the people who are at the same place I was at two years ago, then, now, I’m talking to the wrong crowd. I need those for whom those last 10% will work immediately. Not those who still need to go through the random 90%.
There's no perfect solution to all of this, but that’s why I keep saying “just start” and “get off your ass and do things.” Because specifics won’t help. You have to get through messy, random part. You have to make your mistakes.
Forget the big picture. Keep your head down. What’s the next play? Figure it out.
And then just do it.