Full text of Joshua York’s talk titled “Doers, Dreamers, and the Differences between Them” at TEDxLivoniaCCLibrary conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Doers, Dreamers, and the Differences Between Them by Joshua York
So what is a doer? The simple answer to that is a doer is someone who does. Someone who takes action, who makes life happen.
In today’s day and age, it’s easier than ever to live our lives from the sideline. We can live vicariously through the photos of others.
With the rise of social media like Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram, we can take a ride on a gondola through the Venice canals. Or we can walk the Great Wall of China all within the same day.
We can go to a concert or we can watch the engagement of a loved one without even leaving our bed.
Now as great as this technology is and maybe, it fosters a culture of people that are content with experiencing the world without ever taking action, they’re content with living through the lens of others.
I believe that there are two types of people in this world. There are dreamers and then there are doers. The people that are willing to take action and make the world happen.
So what does a dreamer or a doer look like?
I really don’t have an answer to that question. But I am going to start by sharing a couple stories of doers and dreamers in my life to just show you that that’s not always what you may think.
My friend that I went to college with, her name was Jessie. I’ve known her for about five years now. She graduated at the top of our class in the Michigan State Business School. And after college she took a job out on the left coast in Silicon Valley. She’s the audit accounting person and she works with companies like Google, Facebook and Apple on a daily basis.
She’s done some of the most incredible things and met some of the most amazing people out there. And outside of her corporate life she’s extremely passionate about human rights issues. She cares a lot about human trafficking or the gender wage gap. Or just many different things that are very relevant in today’s day and age.
And she often has ideas that she can take her passions and make a difference. And she can raise money or raise awareness for these causes. And Jessie calls me a lot. She uses me as a sounding board for these ideas. And time and time again I’m blown away by the complexity and how great these things could be if she just took action.
But Jessie is a dreamer. Despite her incredible background, she doesn’t take action and she doesn’t put any of these things give them to the world.
Another friend of mine, Ryan who I’ve known since high school, is on paper, the polar opposite of Jessie. He’s entering his sixth year of college still pursuing an undergrad degree. He lives at home with his parents and he’s been fired from seven jobs in the past five years.
But despite his tumultuous professional career one might say, Ryan has something going for him that most people I know don’t. Ryan is the epitome of a doer. He takes action about the things that are important to him and he makes things happen.
Since I’ve known him, he’s raised thousands of dollars for charity in other causes that are close to his heart. He puts his passions into action and he fires up other people and motivates them to join him in his causes.
In high school, Ryan started his own media agency where he used to interview some of his favorite bands. And he would post music news. He was making hundreds of dollars a month while at 17-year old because his site was getting so much traffic and advertisers were paying him to advertise there.
He also could most likely go on his phone right now and call up any one of his favorite bands and have a good conversation with them. He’s just that kind of person that’s not afraid to take action. He believes in himself and what he stands for and he had no problem putting himself out there and potentially failing. But he did it anyway.
So now in listening to these stories, I hope you’ll agree with me that sometimes someone’s professional credentials or you know people might not be what they seem.
How many of you out there fancy yourself as a doer? Good. I like to see that.
Now the rest of you either aren’t paying attention or are tired or whatever it is. Or maybe you find yourself a little bit more like Jessie where you’re extremely passionate and you believe in something but you might not know how to take that first step or maybe you’re just afraid to put yourself out there.
I truly believe that all of us, inside all of us, we all have what it takes to do and to take action and to create change in this world. But the doers, the true doers, may just have a little bit more practice at it and might just have a little more experience in doing those kinds of things.
So I’m going to share a couple key traits that I think all doers possess, and a couple exercises that you can enact in your daily life to practice them and maybe start doing on your own.
The first trait that I think all doers possess is that they’re confident. They’re confident in themselves and they’re confident in the decisions that they make so that when it comes time to take action and actually go do, they don’t second guess themselves. They believe in what they stand for and what they’re doing.
Now it’s estimated that the average adult American makes about 35,000 decisions each and every day. That’s three, five, zero, zero, zero. Now those range from hitting snooze on your alarm clock in the morning to how you’re going to style your hair for your TED talk.
And to bigger things, I cut my own hair by the way, I know my mom doesn’t like it but I styled it you know. To bigger things like where to place the care, the health care of a loved one, or how to invest your money or your time.
And a doer embraces these different decisions because there’s no way that you can be correct on all 35,000 each and every day. But a doer recognizes that and they’re not afraid to take a little bit of a risk and make those big decisions. In fact, it excites them.
Now simple exercise that you can try to be more comfortable with decision making and more confident in your decisions, next time you’re at a restaurant and the waiter hands you a big old menu with 50 different dishes on there. Instead of reading through all 50 of them and potentially getting stressed out, what am I going to choose? What am I going to do? I want you to look at a maximum of three different options and select one as quick as you can, close your menu and that’s it.
Some people are looking at me like I’m crazy. I’ve done this a couple times and it’s a really great activity because it forces you to stick with the decision that you made and be confident in it.
And the good thing is that it’s a very low risk. The worst that happens is that you don’t love your dish or if even worse you might have to eat again when you get home later. But it’s a very low risk thing and it can really train yourself to be confident in your decisions.
And so when it comes time to make those big decisions like where to invest your money or what to do with something important in your life, you’re that much more confident in yourself because those kinds of things build on each other. You’re more confident and you easily take that risk, make that decision and not look back.
A second trait that I believe all doers possess is that doers are not afraid to ask. The fastest way to get to the result that you’re hoping to is to make it known, be upfront with someone and just ask them.
But so many people are afraid to do that. Whether it’s the risk of failure or maybe they’re afraid to talk to strangers.
So if our lovely emcee, Sam over there. If I had a pack of gum and he wanted a piece of gum, I wouldn’t just happen to know that he was in the mood to get a minty fresh gum unless he asked me for it.
Now that’s kind of a silly example but it can really transpire in all different walks of life.
Another important thing about asking is that the world can really open up for you. My sister is dating a guy from Canada. He’s from a small mountain town in British Columbia and he’s one of the most soft-spoken gentle personalities and he’s such a great guy. He’s really awesome. I’m really happy for them.
But out of college he found a job working at Quicken Loans in Detroit. He was selling mortgages to people over the phone. Now anybody that knows anything about a Quicken Loans job, a lot of the entry-level jobs are calling hundreds of hundreds of people a day. And think about when you get a phone call from someone trying to sell you mortgage. It’s either hang up or yell at them, take me off your call list, whatever it may be.
The person on the other end of that line is getting rejected hundreds of times a day. And he would come home after 13, 14 hour shifts and say, yeah I got 15 people to say yes to me today so that’s one more than yesterday but still 200 rejections.
Now I would hate that. He didn’t really like it either but what he did I really, really admire. Outside of his job he challenged himself to be rejected one time each day in face to face. And his thought was that if he got rejected in person it would be a whole lot easier to then get rejected the next day over the phone a bunch of times.
So he would do things like, when we would be at Kroger, we’d be going to checkout and he would come up to the cashier with his bag of avocados and he’d set him down and he would say, these cost a dollar fifty but how about you give them for me for 50 cents?
And the Kroger cashier would be all confused and say can’t do that sorry. And as simple as that maybe, those type of things over and over they make you more comfortable with getting told no because it’s really not the end of the world. It might sting for a second but you’ll get over it.
But the even cooler thing about this exercise that he did was the amount of times that he actually got told yes. He’s gotten to do some incredible things that most people would never even think about just by asking. He got to ride around in a limo. He got to serve up a cocktail at a bar and take it to the person and deliver it like he was the waiter. He got to tour the meat smoker in the backroom of an esteemed Detroit restaurant.
I just really like this exercise for two reasons. First as mentioned, it builds up your immunity to being told no into failing. There’s nothing wrong with that.
And second is it’s a win-win because either you get rejected, which is what your goal is hypothetically or you get to do something really cool.
The last thing about not being afraid to ask is that when we want to start a business or an organization, whatever it may be, we’re never going to have all the resources that we need. So the only way to get from A to B is to ask others for help or support whatever that may be. And a lot of people don’t use their ask.
But you really have to in order to take action and make your dreams come true.
The last trait that I think all doers possess is that doers not only are confident in themselves and what they stand for in their decisions, but they actually go and do.
How many of you have had a great idea and thought about it and you know feeling really great about it? But then when it comes time you are unable to talk yourself out of it kind of like Jessie.
I know I’ve been there before and I push myself every day to not do that, to take action.
This past weekend I had a really great experience that I think really fits well with this conference. We’re all familiar with the tragedies that are going on in Florida and Texas right now. My business had a booth at Dally in the Alley in Detroit which if you’re not familiar it’s a large block party with a ton of stages and music. There are about 15,000 people that attended it this year.
And just outside of the gates, we were right at the end. Just outside of the gates there were three 10 to 12-year olds that had set up a lemonade stand. And I got all excited thinking, oh look at these guys; they’re young entrepreneurs. I love the ambition.
And it turns out they were actually selling lemonade to benefit the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. I was greatly deeply inspired by that. Not only were they doing, they were taking action and making things happen to make a better world. But they really embodied what this whole TED event today is all about. And that’s thinking globally and acting locally.
They took a macro problem that most people wouldn’t know where to begin and they broke it down into a small actionable chunk of things that they could do and act on to make a difference in the world.
These kids were confident in themselves in their decision. They weren’t afraid to take that risk of setting up a lemonade stand all day and getting told no.
They weren’t afraid to ask people passing by if they would support their cause and buy their lemonade.
And lastly they didn’t hesitate or wait too long but the time was right and they went and they did it. If they were to wait another two weeks, the hurricane would be old news and there wouldn’t be a music festival going on. And they might have still sold lemonade but I guarantee that the impact they had by taking action right then and there was greater than it would have been two weeks from now.
So I believe that everyone in here is passionate about something. There’s something that fires you up that keeps you up at night. And I also think that everyone in here is here for a reason.
Because people don’t come to TED Talks because they’re bored and they’re looking for something to do on a Tuesday night. People go to the movies for that or whatever else.
Everyone in here is here because you either are a change maker or you’re on the brink of becoming one. So I implore you all to think about what you’re passionate about. Be confident in what you believe in. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. You’re never going to have all the resources in front of you so don’t be afraid to just ask.
And when the time is right and you believe it in your heart, go take action because the world looks a whole lot brighter and a whole lot more clear when you’re looking at it through your own lens.