Why You Need to Focus on Output Over Input

Have you made a dent in the universe yet? If not, maybe it’s because you’re focusing too much on input rather than output.

For many years, I spent my time focusing on input. I would read as many books as possible and learn as much about computer programming and other topics as I could. I would watch documentaries in an ever-expanding effort to increase my knowledge. I would run and play tennis to increase my physical skills, but I never entered any races or tournaments.

I would practice art and guitar, but always copying other people’s pieces. I wasn’t generating anything new or original. In other words, I wasn’t having an impact beyond myself. If I was to die after reading all those books and learning all those skills, who would know or care?

In order to really have an impact on the world around me, I needed to translate all that I’ve learned and turn it into something new and unique that can provide value to others.

If you look back through history, the people that are remembered are those that focused on output. They wrote books to spread the knowledge they learned (Newton, Einstein, Descartes). They entered contests and broke records (Armstrong, Bannister, Owens). They built companies that created innovative products to make the world a better place (Edison, Ford, Jobs).

These people certainly spent time on learning and input, but output was their primary concern. As Jim Collins describes in Built to Last, they had a “bias for action.” They didn’t just sit around learning and waiting to learn everything. Instead, they took action and jumped into the arena:

A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow. -George Patton

As for myself, I’m trying to focus on output in the following ways:

  • I’ve entered tennis tournaments and marathons to actually use the skills that I’ve learned to try and achieve tough goals.
  • I’m using my computer skills and to build great products.
  • I’ve started this blog to share any great ideas that I have or learn.

How will you focus on output?

We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here? -Steve Jobs