Michael He

March 21, 2022

Do It For Two Weeks

I haven't learned much in my short life, but I know something that is important to understand - the difference between thinking about something and doing it. 

Without getting philosophical, I want to mention a simple rule that stems from this thought process.

Whenever I think about doing something, do this thing for two weeks before making any real plans or reflect seriously. 

Every major endeavor that I have taken and succeeded follows this simple process in one shape or another. For example, this blog started as an attempt to write one post for a week. When I succeeded, I went on to write for three more weeks. When I started weight training for the first time in my life, I told myself to go to the gym three times a week and just try things out. Once I figured out the major movements (e.g. squat, deadlift, press), I could go consistently. I have made plenty of progress on that front.

There is a simple explanation to why this rule works. We are terrible at figuring out how things work in our heads. We can guess, second guess, and make educated guesses, but none of those thinking can replicate reality in any way, shape, or form. We simply need to get in the weeds.

That is why most people aspiring to be writers fail. They never write for long enough to realize the intricacies, pains, and the results of the craft. Everything feels romantic in their head until the dread of vomiting subpar words on paper slaps them louder in the face than a belt. Writing is grunt work, not something elegant as feeling sentimental and writing a final draft in one go.

This is the philosophy behind "getting my hands dirty". If a chef's hands do not have knife cuts, you know that person is a phony. A weight lifter with callous-free hands is a phony. A mathematician who cannot write with chalk is a phony. The examples go on. 

But the beauty is we can gauge a lot of things rather quickly. This is somewhat inexplicable, but we can still use it to our advantage. Chefs do not need to study chemistry in college to know certain ingredients go well together. Similarly, we can pick up a lot of subtle cues without even thinking about them consciously. I don't analyze every little movement when I follow my dance instructor. Getting in the feels takes care of most of the learning. 

And two weeks (or one or three) is wonderful because it serves as a built-in buffer to get the habit going. Once you make through one week, you now have the confidence that you can do another week. It's this psychological transition from zero to one that really makes things possible. Conviction is underrated in any circumstance and we will not true conviction in something until we start doing it. Religious people do not develop faith out of nowhere. Their initial leap of faith strengths their faith down the line. In a way, we need to kickstart our own engine and drag ourselves forward. 

Once you have two weeks under the belt, the contexts are enough to learn about the theory, principles, and mechanisms behind something, as well as helping you to make a realistic, workable plan to stick to. You have some past data to help you predict your future performance, as well as insights on how to improve things and keep the good going. 

It's also quite applicable to life. Instead of making annual plans that rarely work out, have a list of things you'd always want to do and just focus on the next two weeks. If you keep at it and really get in the process of working, eventually you will tackle many of your long-term goals. Eat healthily for two weeks and you can figure out what makes healthy eating attractive and sustainable, so that can become a new part of your lifestyle.

So yes, do something for two weeks first before making grand plans. See what happens.