Don’t be an over-motivated under-achiever

Dan Miller —  January 22, 2013 — 19 Comments

In listening to the new Success audio CD last week I heard Darren Hardy say this:  “Too much learning and not enough doing will turn you into an over-motivated under-achiever.”

How do we find that balance between knowing and doing?

Let me give you an example:  Imagine for a moment that your 3-yr old daughter Act Nowslipped and fell into the pool while playing.  You’ve never had swimming lessons, you don’t know the tempurature of the water, you don’t know how deep the water is where she went in, and you aren’t sure that the suit you have on would withstand the effects of the chlorinated water.  Are you going to do some research on each of those issues before acting?  Of course not – you’re going to jump in immediately.  At that instant you know that doing is more important than knowing.

But I see people who have been researching for the last seven years for the book they are going to write.  Or an employee who has been studying small business for 14 years in anticipation of starting a business of his/her own.  I talk to people who have set a goal of losing weight but are still reading books on the best weight-loss plan.  I think there are times when gaining more knowledge becomes less and less valuable as opposed to doing something.  And it’s not a matter of either/or.   It’s clearly a matter of AND.  Start doing and continue learning as well.

  • When I started an auto accessories business I went out the first day and secured seven jobs – then I spent the rest of that day trying to figure out how I would do what I had already sold.
  • When I went back to graduate school I secured a teaching assistantship – having never had an education course.  I walked in that Psychology 101 course the first morning shaking in my boots, but learned as I went.
  • My first “product” was a loose compilation of my Sunday School notes.  I ran them off at Kinkos, used a plastic spiral binding to hold them together and offered it for sale for $24.95.  After $2 million in sales I signed a contract with a publisher to learn how to write well.

Typically we pay for learning and get paid for doing.  But the cool thing is we can also get paid for continued learning –if we are doing at the same time.

Are you an “over-motivated under-achiever” or are you enjoying the thrill and rewards of doing?

  • Adam Rico

    I really like that phrase Dan – over-motivated under-achiever. As a high “S” I really have to manage myself to not enjoy the planning aspects so much that I stall on actually doing what I planned.

    In the examples you gave of taking action in your own life – most people would just have shied away from taking action because of fear. How did you motivate yourself to take action without really knowing what you were doing at the time?

    • Andy Mort

      I agree…it is a great phrase! i find that achieving (even the smallest thing – like publishing a single blog post) itself serves to motivate. But we can hide behind the learning, the reading and the finding the perfect model before starting, so that learning turns into procrastinating. It’s a really interesting subject and one I think far too much about – instead of achieving things!

      • Adam Rico

        Yes, absolutely Andy. I love to learn and think about personal development. But at some point it just becomes positive entertainment if I don’t take action on what I’m learning. It looks like you’re taking action with your music – way to go!

  • Raven Burnes

    There is something going on with these blogs lately, or maybe I’m just paying closer attention. It’s like with some sermons or talks where you are only paying vague attention and then there’s one that makes you sit up straighter, eyeball the speaker, and squirm a little bit. It means he’s hitting on something really significant. Lately that’s how these blogs have been for me. There has been a theme in my life lately surrounding issues of self-worth and fear. This year is the year for putting aside the books and affirmations long enough to try something scary and see what happens. Reading and studying alone are so much easier in the short run. But nothing gets done until somebody does something. I hope by December all of us regulars have praise reports to send you!

  • kimanzi constable

    I had some of the best training in the world last year by attending two Brendon Burchard events. I was tempted to sign up for more when I realized I actually have to do what Brendon talks about.

    When I applied 10% of what I learned, I doubled my business, it was an eye opener! This year it’s time to work on the other 90%.

    • DS

      Thanks for talking about what actions you needed to take even though you were super-motivated.

    • 48DaysDan

      What a great example – when you applied 10% of what you learned you doubled your business – rock on.

  • Jason

    This post really hit home. I overanalyze and it keeps me stuck. How do I stop analyzing and start doing?

  • DS

    Thanks for sharing how you made your first product, and took your first steps to teach.

  • MrTravisScott

    What a great quote “over-motivated, under-achiever”. I have seen this from so many people. I recently had an idea for iPhone app…I don’t know the first thing about programming, but I do know how to network and how to sell. So I partnered with a college student and sold the app for quite a bit of money within nine months.

    I could have researched how to make an app, how to market it, ect….but I just took action instead.

    Thanks for the post

    • 48DaysDan

      Congratulations on taking action! Great example.

  • Marty Wenger

    You wear spurs on those boots, Dan! Thanks for “spurring us on to good works”. I too easily plan & conceive & evaluate… until the opportunity is lost. It is taking persistent effort to turn that around, and I appreciate your part in that.

    • 48DaysDan

      Hey I like to keep those spurs handy. Taking action and then figuring it out as I go has served me pretty well over the years. Gotten me in trouble now and then as well.

  • Bernard Haynes

    I have been there, got the trophies and t-shirts. I admit spending more time researching and over analyzing that I couldn’t get anything done. I put myself on a do diet. Thanks Dan.

  • Kim Cordell

    I am interested in how the Sunday School notes became 2 million in sales. My husband put an estate planning workbook together and had a marketer try to sell to financial planners and it has sold only twenty. Maybe his biggest problem is being to busy to market it himself.

    • 48DaysDan

      I made 48 Days to the Work You Love available to my Sunday School class and made it available on the internet. I showed it at $49 but with an “internet special” for only $39. My good friend Dave Ramsey promoted it on his radio show, I spoke tons of times for free, and did interviews. We sold between 50-60,000 of those before I was contacted by a publisher and it went into traditional book form in January of 2005.

  • VastLane1

    Good stuff Dan. I just posted to my facebook page.

  • Greenhorn Gardening

    I agree, and it can go both ways. You can do and not make much progress, then you learn something by reading a book, implement with the same intensity and make huge leaps.

    For me it’s been a Jim Collins 20 mile march, firing lots of bullets. It’s only after a couple years of heavy blogging, podcasting and video work that I’m finally getting to see how the basic sales process and methodologies works.

    Every time I read a book, I consider it a field manual, testing an implementing things before I ever finish reading the book.

    I don’t see a difference between the learning process and the doing process. It seems all the same.

  • Tim

    Hmmmm…You might ought to be careful talking about how you sold and taught things you didn’t know anything about. It might make people think that you are doing that now!!! :0)