David Heinemeier Hansson

March 8, 2023

Actions beat arguments

You can't convince someone invested in their convictions to the contrary by arguments alone. Only actions can pry open a locked mind, and most minds remain locked most of the time. So if you wish to be persuasive, you ought to spend less time arguing and more time doing.

This is as it should be. Talk is cheap, and others are right to keep their considered positions from being for sale at a discount. Everyone should be open to change their mind, of course, but they should also keep the bar high or they'll drift about constantly and randomly.

There are a thousand plausible arguments available for every possible side of any issue, but rarely more than a few that can be substantiated by reality, once put to the test. This is why we listen more to those who do than those who merely opine. Both might be wrong, but odds favor the lessons derived from contact with the real world over those kept safe from falsification.

Credibility is thus the consequence of successful actions. The social payoff for taking a risk and seeing it through. This again is as it should be. There's an endless supply of people willing to stake nothing on their convictions in the realm of arguments, but only a few ready to risk the effort of being wrong by actually following through.

This is what skin in the game is all about. Wrestling reality over the veracity of an idea, so that you may earn the keys required to unlock the minds of others, and advance us all.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.