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Act a Fool, or: Motion vs. Action

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If you’ve started reading this article, but have only two minutes, don’t read what I’m writing. Go read this article by James clear. It’s called “ The Mistake Smart People Make: Being In Motion vs. Taking Action”. I’ve linked it a third time here. Go read it. James starts with a simple definition:

Motion is when you’re busy doing something, but that task will never produce an outcome by itself. Action , on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will get you a result.

Motion, as defined, obviously won’t get you to your goals. It is, be definition, those things that you do that don’t produce.

Action, as defined, gets you where you’re going. The difference between the two is that you don’t get criticized for motion. You can get a ton of criticism for action.

We humans are a cautious bunch - we’re more likely to do small things that return small but predictable benefits. Those large things we may do can fail nine times out of ten, and that failure can be devastating.


We all speak to each other, and the quality of our speech matters. When I think “public speaking”, I don’t imagine giving a speech to hundreds, I imagine how I carry myself in front of groups of people I don’t know well. Incidentally, this is most of the people I interact with.

I wanted to get better at public speaking. So, I read a few articles and watched a few videos. This was all motion . I quickly realized this, and thought “the one thing I really don’t want to do is give a speech to strangers”. So… using that fear as an arrow towards the path of greatest growth, I gave a speech.


I read about two paragraphs from “ The Self-Made Man”, a speech by Frederick Douglass and, if you watch the video, you can see that absolutely no one even noticed me. This was an extremely short way to get a little closer to fearlessness in these situations.

Not only does this short exercise exemplify the difference between motion and action, but if you want to get more confident in public, this is a ridiculous but effective method.

I’m trying to keep my eye out for other equally effective short cuts to obtain real-world experience doing difficult/uncomfortable things. If you have ideas, send ‘em my way. I won’t commit to anything, but I’m open to just about everything.