Mark Manson’s Advice + a Simple List = a New Strategy for Making Progress

August 27, 2021

minute READ 

I owe Mark Manson a thank-you. Or rather, his math teacher. 

Wait, perhaps I should start at the beginning. The beginning was the slump. Or rather, The Slump™. 

You know, one of those times when you think you should be doing work-related things but aren’t sure what

In my case, I had been changing a ton of things around in my business and my life. Kind of like rearranging the furniture, only to realize you accidentally removed one of the load-bearing walls in your house. 

Long story short, my existing structure got kind of wrecked. I’m sure it will be worth it in the end, but in the meantime, I live on a metaphorical construction site and shower at a friend’s place. 

In the absence of my regular structure, what was I supposed to do?

The powerful “Do Something”-Principle

In that situation, I recalled something international bestselling author Mark Manson shared in this book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” In high school, Manson’s math teacher Mr. Packwood used to say

“If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.”


Mark Manson calls this the “Do Something”-Principle and talks about how it helped him solve business problems.  

And you can see why it’s such amazing advice. After all, when I think of successful entrepreneurs, they seem to have one thing in common: they take action. They’re doers, not just dreamers.

They might not take the right action every single time. In fact, they often don’t (because life and business can be so complicated). But because they continue to take action again and again and again, they eventually gain momentum. 

So, after remembering Manson’s life advice, I decided to do something (I should clarify that I’m referring to blogger Mark Manson here, lest I make this sentence sound unintentionally sinister). 

I reached out to a past client for a testimonial, got back in touch with some old clients, submitted a meditation to Insight Timer… and probably did a few other productive things I don’t remember. 

Just two hours later, I felt much better about myself. I even got a few things ticked off my list that had been on there for a long time. 

In this particular case, I used the “Do Something”-Principle as a one-off solution. However, before hearing about this principle, I had once used a similar idea — systematically.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to products which means that I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. You won't have to pay anything extra. I only recommend products and services I feel good about. 

How to systematically “Do Something” to make progress

A few years ago, I participated in a group coaching program called “Heavy Mental” (affiliate link). 

Influenced by Tony Stubblebine's prompts in the January module of the program, I created the following strategy for myself: 

  1. Decide on a change you’d like to see and write down what that change is. For instance: “Grow my business.”
  2. Write down a list of small actions you can take to get closer to that goal (this should be a long list). For instance: “Do referral calls, post on Social Media, publish a blog post, send out an email to my list, etc., etc., etc.” 
  3. Decide how often you will take action. For instance: “Every workday.”
  4. Every workday (or whatever frequency you chose), pick one action from your list and do it. 
  5. Keep a list where you note which action you took each day (you can repeat actions). 

I stuck with this approach for many weeks and felt good that I was “doing something” every day to grow my business. Whereas before, it often felt unclear about what I should be doing (a feeling most entrepreneurs can probably relate to at least at some point in their journey), I suddenly had something akin to a strategy in my business. 

If you’d like to have the same experience, I would encourage you to try out this process. 

3 other important principles

Before you get ready to take action and apply the “Do Something”- principle, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a few caveats and clarifications. Concretely, let me introduce you to three other important principles: 

  1. The “Actually Do Something”-Principle: Studying or buying business courses only counts if you actually put things into action. Don’t be the person who regularly drops thousands of dollars on courses and then doesn’t take action.
  2. The “Do Nothing”-principle. We live in an action-oriented culture. However, action is not always the best solution to a problem. If the stakes are high, it might be best to stop and consider your options. As I explain in this Medium post, Stanislav Petrov thankfully didn’t just “do something” during a false nuclear alarm. (If you want to become a Medium member, please consider signing up via my affiliate link.)
  3. The “Do Something Different”-Principle: If your previous actions have gotten you nowhere, don’t just continue to do the same thing again and again and again. Do something different. Experiment. 

Also, don’t do something that doesn’t need to be done. 

Takeaway

Over dinner, I talked with some friends today and mentioned that I prefer to exercise just before dinner. Someone replied that they had read that it was best to exercise early in the morning. 

I replied: “Well, I guess what really matters is that you exercise at all. (Assuming that your doctor has cleared you for exercise.)

While this is a fitness example, the same applies in all other areas of life, including in business. 

So often, we want to do things perfectly, instead of just trying to do them at all. But “do something” is often better advice than “do it exactly right.”

Unless, of course, you ever find yourself in Stanislav Petrov’s shoes in the middle of a nuclear crisis. In that case, please, please, pleeease don’t listen to Mark Manson’s math teacher. 

Now excuse me while I head over to my friend’s place to shower.

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About the author

Bere is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Bere loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at www.workyoulovecoach.com.

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