Doers and talkers

For every person who does something, there are multiple people who talk about doing it.

The first reason why this imbalance exists is because there’s a cost to doing something, both in terms of time and in terms of the risk you take while doing the activity. There is however no cost to talking about doing something.

On the benefits side, the personal benefits of doing something include the positive feelings you get from taking ownership of something and seeing its results. Depending on the context, they may also include any financial rewards you get from the activity if things work out.

However, there is a second source of benefits. These are the social benefits you get from the activity. You identify yourself, and others identify you, with the activity and this gives you a sense of social recognition.

The problem is that you can get the social benefits of doing an activity without actually doing it. You can gain the social recognition associated with the activity just by talking about doing it. And for most people this social recognition provides a sufficiently positive self-image that they don’t feel the need to actually do the activity. For most people, the social benefits of an activity are greater than its personal benefits.

This is great news for people for whom the personal benefits of an activity are greater than its social benefits. In other words, this is great news for doers. The shortage of doers relative to talkers places a premium on the returns, both intrinsic and extrinsic, available to doers. You just have to make sure that a talker doesn’t take the credit for your doing.