This line has been deconstructed, debated, and put back in it’s box by pontiffs far, far smarter than me.
Part of it's poignancy probably lies in it's quasi explicit phrasing, coupled with it's confident delivery (in the book the line was far less decisive, and more of a talking point, the character ponders the difference as opposed to tailing off into a silent declaration of confidence.)
I'll spare you any more comprehensive school analysis and move on to how I have always interpreted this line, derived from it a personal message, a 'meathead metaphor' if you will, and in many ways, lived by it.
Some forms of procrastination are so easily justifiable, that they stealthily bleed into your life and daily routine, silently, like white noise, quietening the pleas of ‘just get on with it’, and whispering toxic reassurances directly into your amygdala, both arousing, manipulating and pointlessly persuading your fear centre that your best interests are being served.
This form of procrastination, to my mind, comes in the form of constant questioning-
‘But what about…’ ‘But doesn’t that…’ ‘What’s the best way to…’ ‘Should I be…’
The hollow illusion of self improvement.
The gathering of hypotheticals.
The desperate hunt for the silver bullet.
It’s something you have to be so guarded against, because it’s so easy to rationalise away, why would you not want to know more?
It sounds almost ignorant, to push on, uninformed.
When we learn, we improve.
There in lies the possible problem.
You’ve done it, you’ve ticked the box labelled ‘betterment’. Your soul breathes a smug sigh of completion and the reward centres of your brain proved you with a cascade of pats on the back, ‘You did it, champ!’
Meanwhile, the needle doesn’t budge in inch, you move no closer to your goals and the equation is further muddled through the input of this new data.
Why? Because talk minus action equals bullshit.
Self-improvement, the principle of, so easily cajoles you into a sense of ‘doing’, that the forest of inaction is shrouded by the trees. It’s risk free, pain free, and more often than not, results free.
Take the plunge, detonate, self-destruct, burn the ideas you’ve accrued as fuel by… using them, now.
The progenitors of this ‘wisdom’, had no book to learn it from, they walked the tightrope, they risked being wrong in an effort to eliminate any divergent paths that weren’t right.
Throw yourself on the line.
We’re not curing cancer here, we’re throwing vulcanised rubber balls, filled with sand over our shoulders.
Treat it thusly.
Of course you must learn, but learn on the job, whistle and ride, and above all APPLY IT.
Self improvement, in the form of the fervent scramble for further lines of questioning, in the place of actioning what you have to hand already, is masturbation, to some degree it feels like ‘the same thing’, and it may temporarily lull you into a sense of achievement, but it’s incorrect practice, procrastination that just serves to temporarily reduce your passion for the real thing.
Risk self destruction, because you’ll either be rewarded, or you’ll learn.