Why Can't You Get Anything Done? The Know-Do Gap for Artists.

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I have two friends who have HUGE visions for their businesses.

Both of them want to help the world, both want to generate sustainable and thriving incomes, both of them are creative, both want to acquire a space for the business, and they both can see their entire vision in their mind’s eye.

The only difference between them is doing.

My one friend is stuck and has been consistently stuck, my other friend is chipping away at the dream one day/week/month at a time.

The person who is stuck is trapped in the know-do gap.

The knowing-doing gap was popularized by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton. The knowing-doing gap is essentially: You know what you have to do. You know because you’ve done a bunch of research, asked tons of questions, and have it laid out in your mind. But it’s the doing. The doing doesn’t happen. Therefore, the results don’t happen.

Below are a few examples of how the know-do gap can show up in your life:

  • I KNOW I have to start that essay my professor assigned us at the beginning of the semester, but I DO it two days before it’s due.

  • I KNOW my writing practice should be daily, but the only time I DO write is when I’m feeling inspired - which doesn’t happen as readily.

  • I KNOW my business needs consistent marketing, promotion, and sales, but I don’t DO it unless the opportunity comes to me.

  • I KNOW I should be getting medical help for this reoccurring problem, but only until I start coughing up blood is when I DO it (this example is a bit extreme, but you get my drift).

You thought you were bad in your know-do gap as an artist? It’s even worse for health professionals. A study showed:

Only 14% of research is ever translated into practice
and takes 17 years on average to be implemented
Balas and Boren, 2000).

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Now take that in. The average person changes their job every 4.2 years (United States Department of Labour, 2018). Therefore, health professionals are doing research, getting it published, approved, and peer-reviewed. But by the time it is actually implemented and applied to the field, this person has already moved on to their 4th job - 17 years later.

The know-do gap affects artists as much as it affects health professionals, business owners, and any other person who feels they need to gather ALL of the research before starting anything. This keeps them from moving forward because not every itty bitty piece of information is collected.

This also relates to people who continue to talk about ideas and concepts but never put it into practice. For example, for years I’ve been saying I want to become vegan. Just because I’m talking about it, doesn’t mean I’m doing it. It was only when I started having nightmares after eating meat did I start transitioning my lifestyle.

Furthermore, I’ve also noticed I procrastinate because I can’t do something perfectly or because I don’t have enough knowledge/experience/skills about it. That’s why I remind myself of this quote:

"Every pro was once an Amateur.
Every expert was once a beginner.
So dream big and start now."

- Robin Sharma

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In the fall of 2017, I jumped into the deep-end by saying yes to Aden Abebe about producing a web-series trailer called virgins!. Yes, I was naive. Yes, I had some media experience. Yes, I have project management experience. No, I had no idea about what I was getting into. No, looking back on it, I never would say yes if I knew what it entailed. No, I didn’t think it would be a production with 33+ cast and crew members - I thought it would be shot on some DSLR cameras with a handful of people.

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I had some baseline experience (this is the amateur stage of the Robin Sharma quote), and now a year later I’m getting opportunities to be a production coordinator and am networking at major film festivals with the intention of continuing to pursue my career in film and media. Everyone has to start somewhere. The important piece of this is STARTING.

Starting is the DOING.
Starting fills that gap between what you know and how you go about doing.

What are some things that you have stuck in limbo of the knowing-doing gap? What is a reoccuring theme in your life where you are all talk, but no action?


Balas EA, Boren SA. Managing clinical knowledge for health care improvement. Yearb Med Inform. 2000;(1):65-70.

United States Department of Labour. (2018, September 20). Employee Tenure Summary. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm