Our world today is consumed by content.

Our tightly-woven social networks are bursting at the seams with tips, tricks, life-hacks, listicles, and advice that you "need to know." The writers of these articles take advantage of our insecurities, drawing us in with promises of being more productive, building better habits, making more money - the list goes on.

And we keep asking for more, like a hungry toddler demanding Halloween candy (trust me, I have recent experience). We refresh our feeds in the hope that the next article will teach us something new, something we don’t already know. That somehow, one day, we’ll find that missing piece - that one simple trick that doctors hate, that will make our lives that much better.

Here’s the truth, though. Reading about how we should be growing our businesses, hacking our productivity, or improving our lives may feel like progress, but in reality it holds us back from actually doing those things. No matter how many listicles we stumble through, they don’t move us forward in any significant way - even though it feels like we’re making progress.

It’s a vicious cycle. All of the time we spend reading about, let’s say, audience building - that’s time that could be used to create new podcast episodes, or newsletters, or networking. Spending hours making spreadsheets to calculate how many years until you can quit your job and start creating your own thing is time that you could be using to start a side project right now. If only we had 32 astonishing ways to get more time out of our busy days!

Worse still - the endless list of "expert advice" convinces us that unless we get every tiny detail juuuuust right, then we probably won’t end up successful, or rich, or happy. This Man Burned Out and Quit His Job - You Won’t Believe What Happened Next. We put so much trust in the words of people we’ll never meet that we see their path as the only conceivable option - the secret sauce, if you will. Blindly following this path will lead to one of two conclusions. Either we end up creating a career, business, or lifestyle that doesn’t work for us - or we end up going nowhere at all.

We want things to be easy. Lose 15 Pounds in 15 Minutes kind of easy. Everything we read online tells us that if we just keep reading, we can learn how to take action. The truth is, action is hard. Really hard. And it’s easier to keep reading, instead of putting down our phones, getting off our asses, and just starting. So we keep gulping secret sauce, looking for that one hack that will make things easier.

Regardless of how many condiments we consume, though, the truth is that these shortcuts can only take us so far. Figuring things out for ourselves, on the other hand - learning from the mistakes we’ll inevitably make, and trusting in our own experience and intellect over the advice of others - that’s what takes us to the next level.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building a business and lifestyle that works for everyone, regardless of what your Facebook feed tells you. Maybe only getting 5 hours of sleep a night turns you into a dysfunctional zombie. Maybe you’re a terrible writer, but you’ve always wanted to try making videos. Maybe quitting your job and taking some time off is the only way to help you beat burnout.

So, next time you find yourself nose-deep in a list of things you should be doing if you weren’t too busy reading lists, take a moment. Ask yourself if it’s truly helping move you forward, in a way that works for you. Think about how much more you could learn by trying things for yourself, instead of searching for shortcuts.

The world already has enough consumers - it needs you to become a creator. The only thing holding you back from reaching your potential is your belief that you need to follow in the footsteps of others. Take a step off the beaten path, and try doing things your way.

I promise you won’t regret it.