Voluntary education is different from compulsory, the kind we grew up with.
When you're the victim/beneficiary of compulsory education, it happens to you. You have little choice. Perhaps you choose to open your mind and do the work, but either way, here it is.
Now that we're adults, though, we have choice. Endless choice. Most people choose to learn as little as possible, while a few dive in and find more insight, wisdom and opportunity than they could ever expect. Why do so many people hold back?
- "This might not work"
The truth is that you don't need a license, experience or skill to run a course online. You can post videos, write blog posts and generally just show up and announce you're teaching something.
As a result, there's a lot of reason for the buyer to beware. The student who spends time and money on a course that doesn't work feels stupid, even stupider than they did before they began. Hopes aren't realized and the disappointment in being ripped off is real.
The second reason is a bit more surprising…
- "This might work"
This is real, it's disappointing, and it's also the biggest reason people hesitate. We hesitate precisely because the course might deliver what it promises. Because a new experience, a workshop, an event might show you something you can't unsee. It might lead to forward motion, to new opportunities and to change.
But change brings risk and risk brings fear. Those new horizons, those new opportunities, those new skills–they might not be as comfortable as what you've got going on right now.
And so the challenge. We choose not to learn because it's either going to fail (embarrassing and expensive) or it's going to work (frightening). We get ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place of inaction.
The door is open to be heroic. To go on the journey from a place of fear. Not to wait for the fear to go away before you begin, but instead to begin precisely because there is fear.
Those that have successfully come before us have figured out how to make this leap. To feel (and embrace) these fears, not to deny them, and to dig in because and despite.
[As you might have guessed, I see this firsthand when I talk about the two workshops I run. Workshops that actually do what they promise. Tomorrow, Friday the 14th, is the last day for first priority applications for the altMBA fall session. And the Marketing Seminar has just about a week before we close the doors for the last scheduled session.]
The biggest hesitation is the fear of an open door.
The biggest challenge is the question we ask ourselves: Then what will I do?
That's why we're so eager to tweak the little things. Because the little things give us a little more of the same thing that we're already used to.
Hope to see you leap. Because it might work.
Of course everyone wants to reach the maximum audience. To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to have a huge impact.
And so we fall all over ourselves to dumb it down, average it out, pleasing everyone and anyone.
You can see the problem.
When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.
The solution is simple but counterintuitive: Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.
When you have your eyes firmly focused on the minimum viable audience, you will double down on all the changes you seek to make. Your quality, your story and your impact will all get better.
And then, ironically enough, the word will spread.
Focusing on the MVA is a key part of what we teach in The Marketing Seminar. (Look for the purple circle).
It’s easy to talk about in the abstract, but difficult to put into practice. Just about every brand you care about, just about every organization that matters to you–this is how they got there. By focusing on just a few and ignoring the non-believers, the uninvolved and the average.
Ask a frog or a housefly or a dog to describe the world around us and they'll give you the wrong answer. The frog will talk about moving objects, the housefly will describe things repeated hundreds of times and the dog only sees in black and white.
Of course, our vision of the world is just as flawed, just as fake. We can't see the smells, as the dog does, nor can we visualize things on the edges of the spectrum. We make up a reality based on our particular way of seeing the world.
But, here's the good part: That made-up reality is shared by many people around us, and it's useful. We can use it to make predictions about what's next, we can avoid bumping into people, we can appreciate a sunset.
If the illusion is working for you, stick with it.
Where we run into trouble is when the vision isn't shared, when we assume others can and must see what we're seeing, but they don't. And worse, when the vision isn't actually useful, when our narrative of the world around us isn't working, when it's merely a fantasy, not a tool.
If the way you see the world isn't helping you make the changes you seek to make, consider seeing the world differently.
Who do you subscribe to?
And who subscribes to you?
Those simple questions determine what you know and what you learn. And they influence whether a business or a charity will succeed, and whether or not lives will be changed.
Newspapers are discovering that without subscribers, they can't do their work. Online voices that were seduced by the promise of a mass audience are coming back to the realization that the ability to deliver their message to people who want to get it is actually the core of their model.
Big hits are thrilling. Launch days, deadlines, the big win… That's easy to sign up for as a creator or marketer. But subscriptions are what work.
Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime… subscriptions. This blog wouldn't exist without the people who trust me enough to read it every day.
Consider the case of charities. If they raise money from consumers, they get almost their entire budget in the last month of the year, or related to some sort of external event. And most people who donate never do so again. Out of sight, out of mind.
Who do you subscribe to?
Who subscribes to you?
Seven years ago, I dedicated my annual birthday post to raising money for charity:water. 665 generous readers like you ended up contributing more than $39,000. Enough water to impact the lives of 3,000 people. On their behalf, thank you.
Five years after that, we did it again, but this time I encouraged my readers (people like you) to donate their birthdays to charity:water. 204 of you raised more than $50,000 and saved even more lives. And again, thank you.
This year, I'm hoping 1,000 people will subscribe to charity:water today. A monthly drip, the best possible pun, drip, drip, drip in a way that not only becomes a habit but gives the organization a chance to plan, because thirst doesn't have a season. Every month becomes your birthday, because you're giving a magical present, paying it forward. I just subscribed for $4,000 a month. If more than 500 of you subscribe at any amount (even $6), I'll double my monthly commitment.
Scott and his team made a film and built a site. You can skip the film if you're busy, but don't skip the box at the bottom of the page.
This is how we change the world.
Literally with a drip, drip, drip.
Marketing doesn't have to suck.
It doesn't have to be a miserable experience for consumers, and it certainly doesn't have to be a distasteful, creepy or annoying task for the creator.
We don't have to market at people, pin them to the wall, target them, track them, stalk them, trick them, manipulate them and sell them things they don't want.
Not if we care enough to do something better.
The other kind of marketing, the marketing that's consensual, useful and effective, is possible. This is marketing that we eagerly connect with, marketing that we'd miss if it were gone.
I call this modern marketing, and it's easier than ever to do this effectively.
The second edition of The Marketing Seminar launches today. It's a special summer school program, compressing the 100-day process into just 30 days.
The first session worked beautifully. Thousands of people were transformed by the combination of 50 videos and (more importantly) thousands and thousands of direct online discussions in our 24/7 discussion board. You learn by asking and you learn by teaching.
If you're ready to love what you do and have it work better than ever, I'm hoping you'll check out the Seminar. Scroll to the bottom of the page and if you click on the purple circle before July 12, you'll save $75 because you're reading this blog. Lessons start July 24, so today's a great day to get it sorted.
Here's a chance to join with others and do work we're proud of.
In the short run, of course, not caring can save you some money.
Don't bother making the facilities quite so clean. Save time and hassle and let the display get a little messy. Don't worry so much about one particular customer, because you're busy and hiring more people takes time and money.
But in the long run, caring pays for itself.
Caring is expensive, but it also generates loyalty and word of mouth.
In the long run, an organization that puts in extra effort gets rewarded.
Not to mention that caring makes us all more human. Worth it.
If you see yourself as an engineer, a scientist, or even a person of logic, then it's entirely possible that you work to make rational decisions, decisions that lead to the outcomes you seek.
The paradox is that you might also believe that you do this all the time, and that others do it too.
But a rational analysis shows that this is far from true. Almost every choice we make is subconscious. We're glitch-ridden, superstitious creatures of habit. We are swayed by social forces that are almost always greater than our attraction to symbolic logic would indicate. We prioritize the urgent and most of the decisions we make don't even feel like decisions. They're mostly habits combined with a deep desire to go along with the people we identify with.
Every time you assume that others will be swayed by your logical argument, you've most likely made a significant, irrational mistake.
Your actions and your symbols and your tribe dwarf the words you use to make your argument.
Isn't this the essence of design thinking?
I have a great wool hat that I wear in the winter. Does it help?
Well, that depends on what it's for.
If it's designed to keep me warm, then yes, it helps.
How about that meeting you're going to, that website you're updating, that question you're about to ask?
What's it for?
Does it help?
If it doesn't help, or you don't know what it's for, perhaps it's time to revisit your choice.
[PS we're about to launch the summer session of the Marketing Seminar. We got great feedback on the last session, and you can sign up here for first dibs and more details on the next one.]
The data, the dashboard, the comments, the statuses, the likes, the rankings:
Check them half as often and do twice as much with what you learn.
Then, after you've gotten good at that, repeat the math:
Check them half as often and do twice as much with what you learn.
Freedom comes with choice and choice comes with responsibility.
Why do people willingly give up their freedom to a boss, a method or even a despot?
Why do successful entrepreneurs who start a new company take on investors even when they don't need the cash?
Why do so many choose to go into debt when they might be able to avoid it?
Sometimes, we willingly sacrifice our freedom because it creates an other, someone to blame. It gives us hard boundaries and eliminates potential choices. And mostly, it lets us off the hook, because someone else is driving the bus.
Trying to drive from the back of the bus might feel less risky, but it rarely leads to much agency, influence or control as to where the bus actually goes.
Careful what you do with the keys.