Talkers and Doers

by Mike Shea on 5 September 2011

30 second summary

There are a lot of talkers in the world. Everyone has an opinion and a voice and seems incapable of not using it all the time. There aren't, however, a lot of doers. There aren't a lot of people who simply shut up and make things. Talking about things is easy, doing them is hard. When you find people who do things, stay close to them. Pay attention to what they do and how they do it. Want to be a doer? Try doing something small, tie it to a habit you already have, and do it every day.

The talker

Talkers are easy to find. They're everywhere and they never shut up. They have opinions about everything. They live in hypocrisy, defining themselves by what they think they want to do instead of what they actually do. They're loud. They love any new tool or mechanism or widget or website that lets them talk more to more people. They leave 300 comments on every article ever written on the net. They can't imagine a world where people don't care about what they have to say.

The doer

Doers aren't easy to find. They're quiet. They stay out of social circles. They don't self promote very often. They don't correspond well. They don't read through a thousand RSS items a day. They don't criticize much and the things they criticize directly affect them. They love talking about turpentine. You follow doers by seeing what they do. You'll see a trail of creations behind them, a series of things you probably didn't know they even did.

A world of edge cases

Of course, few people fall perfectly into one of these camps. There are a lot of talkers who do stuff and there are a lot of doers who can't shut up. A lot of people probably lean one way or the other.

Are you a doer?

If you have to ask the question, you probably aren't one. Worse, you probably won't ever really be one. People talk all the time about doing things but its really hard to do it. It's like dieting or writing or Getting Things Done. It's easy to understand the mechanics but its something else entirely to actually do it. Most of us would just be happy sitting around watching other people do things.

Everyone who buys a fancy notebook and pen thinks they're a writer, but until they write something, they're just talking. Everyone who reads forty updates a day on seventy six firefox extensions to simplify your life on Lifehacker thinks they're being productive. All they're doing is wasting time. Productivity is measured in what you produce and what value it is to others. That's it.


Why is it so hard to get people to change? Why do so many people talk about things without actually doing them? It all comes down to inertia. People like to stay in the same state they're in now and it's easier to stay in that state than it is to change. When people habitually do things, they keep doing things. That's their current state — doing things. For most people, their current state is not doing things, so they keep not doing things. Getting from one state to another is the hardest part. It's the part most people simply will not do.

What's the point?

So what good is talking about it? Why bother discussing something most people will not change? First, if you're looking for people to surround yourself with, choose doers and you might find yourself caught up in their state of doing things. If you're already a doer, finding other doers keeps you on track, like hanging around a bunch of runners. If you're looking for colleagues, look for those who exhibit doer traits.

Be careful when listening to talkers. Judge someone's opinion based on their own creations. If they don't have any, listen to someone else.

If you're one of the extremely rare people who wants to change from a talker to a doer, consider the Stanford Persuasion Laboratory's three steps to new habits: