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Theorist vs. Practitioner

Theorist vs. Practitioner

I believe everyone is capable of having great ideas, ideas that can change the world. Some people are able to accomplish their goals, while others stay average, or never reach the level they aspire to. What is the difference between these two groups? Many would say that it's a matter of initiative and dedication. I disagree with this assessment. The real distinction is that one group practices what they preach, while the other only theorizes it, without putting thought in motion. Consider these words from an essay by James Clear: "Theory without practice leads nowhere."

In the world of entrepreneurship, a lot of people have ideas that could change the world. However, not all who have these ideas are able to accomplish their lofty goals. What is it about some people and not others? Why do some become incredibly successful while others remain average?

I see two primary groups; theorists and practitioners. Let's take a look at the differences between the two. The distinguishing trait between those who become incredibly successful and those who remain average is; motion.


The theorist has great ideas, thinks them through deeply, and runs simulations in their head for months, even years before they take any action. Meanwhile the practitioner, who is actively producing outputs that move them towards their end goal is getting ahead. Now, don't trick yourself here into dismissing the possibility you could be a theorist...

A theorist is still capable of working extremely hard. Long hours, deep thought, meetings, phone calls you name it. The key difference remains the outputs. The outputs are not definitive artifacts of productivity, they are merely hypothetical outputs for actions to be acted on later.


Meanwhile, the practitioner, who is actively producing outputs that move them towards their end goal is getting ahead. The practitioner puts their thoughts into work by taking small steps towards achieving great things - even if they're not fully evaluated or thought through yet. They may be jumping ahead too quickly but at least they're moving forward!

In life and business, there is no such things as remaining neutral. You're either progressing forward, or moving backwards. Intentionally focusing to be a practitioner keeps you moving forward and not backwards. Focusing on outputs that yield forward momentum allow you access greater learning and velocity.


What does this look like in my actual day to day? Good question... I find that focusing on output-producing work is much more effective. This means I'm actively working towards focused goals, taking actionable steps to accomplish something meaningful each day. The biggest distinction between outputs and theorist behavior is; outputs will have artifacts, or proof of your work. For more information on activities vs. outputs check out our Blog: You Aren't Productive Unless You're Producing.

I also see a huge difference in my productivity when I focus on creating actual artifacts of progress rather than just thinking about what needs accomplishing later. There are times where we must pause and think deeply through problems before jumping into any solution based decisions... but if this becomes your default state then you will get nothing done because there is no action taken in the aggregate.

Do not allow your theorist tendencies to lead to a lack in execution. If you lack in action, your idea will never come to fruition. It's okay if it takes some time for your ideas to develop; however, make sure they do not remain stagnant. This is the difference between someone who wants something, and makes it happen; versus someone else with similar aspirations who lacks the forward momentum.

Author: CCG Coaching Team

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