One Reason We're Afraid to Take Action

This was originally published in my free weekly newsletter, How It Actually Works.

In April 2012 I launched my first iPhone app, a Spanish-language Bible app.

For being such a unique niche I did pretty well with the app. Long story short, I grew it to over 1 million downloads and sold the whole business in 2015 to Salem Media (Nasdaq: SALM).

At the time of the launch the App Store had already been around for 4 years. Luckily I didn’t know any app developers, engineers, or really anyone connected to the Apple ecosystem.

If I did I’m sure I would have asked them for advice on whether they thought my app idea was any good. I’d have (rightly) assumed they knew what they were talking about, and leaned on their expertise to make a decision about my silly idea.

Since I sold my app business I get those types of emails all the time:

“Do you think this app idea would make money? How profitable could it be?”

And I always write back with the same two points:

  1. Don’t make an app. The App Store is insanely competitive because there’s a ton of apps and the quality expected by users is really high.
  2. If I’d asked someone for the same advice in 2012 they would have told me the exact same thing, and I never would have made my app.

We Have a Word for That

Everyone claims to not want a job or a boss. We say we want “passive income” or to start our own business.

And yet one of the first things we do with a new idea is go into research mode, trying to find out whether it can succeed.

We send emails, similar to the ones I mentioned above, asking for advice.

We do this without realizing the total error we’ve committed. Sending emails asking other people to tell us what to do?

That’s called having a job.

Why Don’t We Act?

“Once I know what to do then I will start executing! I just need more certainty first.”

A big part of why we don’t default to action is because we’re afraid of finding out we’re not special.

If you never actually try you can Future You Masturbate every day until you die, your whole life telling yourself “I could be successful if I wanted to. I just needed to put in the effort.”

“Just needed to put in the effort”… as if that’s the final 5% of the problem, something to haphazardly throw in at the end.

The implication is that what’s important and unique and special in The Formula For Success is YOU.

I could have done it. I was good enough. I have the abilities.”

You had all the raw ingredients, the only thing missing for success was that final dash of action.

It gives you an excuse – that effort is an ingredient external to your identity – that lets you remain special and unique while never actually accomplishing anything.

No, we’re afraid of doing something because if it doesn’t work out it means there’s nothing left to blame but ourselves. We’re naked in the mirror of responsibility.

And the more your identity is attached to your goals and ambition, the deeper that spiral goes and the more mental gymnastics you’ll perform to avoid reality.

Deceiving Ourselves

If I’d listened to my own advice in 2012, the lessons of a so-called expert, I never would’ve made my Bible app.

Thankfully I was mostly clueless and managed to hack the app together and get a 1.0 released. I didn’t consider myself an “app developer” or an “entrepreneur” so I wasn’t embarrassed at what a terrible first version that was. I wasn’t in search of some Right Answer, other than making my app idea a reality.

But so often we think the Right Answer exists, and if we just knew the right person to ask or the correct article to read we could find it.

We’re avoiding what’s really at bottom – a fear of lost identity – but we can’t even confront it because we’re so afraid to acknowledge what the real problem is in the first place.

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