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Workshops are not courses

Traditional courses, online or off, are linear. They’re based on a direct connection between the instructor’s content and the student’s attention. Write this down, memorize this, understand that.

Traditional courses scale in a particular way. They scale even better when the instructor appears on video.

Workshops are different. Workshops are about the cohort. The other students. The people you meet, the people you learn from and the people you teach. Workshops involve work, not the compliance inherent in testing and certification.

If you want to learn to build a boat, take a workshop.

It’s very difficult to run workshops at scale in the real world. The physics of interaction make it awkward. But it turns out that online, a workshop is a powerful way to learn.

A course can be quite effective. Students get a ton of actionable insights from the highly-rated video courses I offer at Udemy. But a course can’t possibly provide the magic of a workshop.

And workshops are the future of online learning.

That’s because in a workshop, you are able to connect, and connection is at the heart of the economy we live in now. Connection means finding the others. Embracing peer support, giving more than you get, engaging with ideas and with other people. Connection is part of the process of growth. Connecting with possibility, with change and with the generosity of new ideas and new approaches.

The Akimbo Workshops aren’t courses.

In the most recent session of one of our seminars, a typical day saw students interacting with each other every three minutes, 7,000 times a day. In a typical course, that number would be zero.

We’re launching two workshops this week. One might be a good fit for you, if that’s the direction you’re headed:

The Freelancer’s Workshop (a short sprint toward finding better clients).

The Bootstrapper’s Workshop (a deeper dive into building an organization without outside funding).

Each of these is specific. They use Akimbo’s customized discussion platform to create large-scale communities built around solving a particular challenge. They are there to help you find the others.

Four times a year, we run the altMBA, our elite flagship, a workshop that’s very different from the others. It has curated small groups, video conferencing, hands-on alumni coaches and focused cohorts that meet every day for a month. It’s designed to help you see more clearly, decide more effectively and most of all, transform into the leader you’re capable of becoming.

I’ve been a teacher my entire career, and the workshops we’re running now are the most effective way I’ve found to help people level up. I hope you can join us.

[also, another new riff on this from me on Medium]

The problem with unicorns…

is that there aren’t any.

That’s precisely what makes them so interesting. The null set. The impossibility of it.

A unicorn is not a black swan, which is a rare bird that proves a point. A unicorn is by its very nature, impossible. That’s actually not a problem. That’s the entire point. That there’s something unavailable.

Instead of aspiring to unicorn status, a pipe dream which is simply a place to hide, we can instead decide to do something useful (and possible) instead.

It’s more challenging to set your sights on something that’s possible. More useful, too.


[HT to Michael, for a tangential unicorn riff. He points out that now that so many companies are called ‘unicorns’, the term is meaningless, a lazy trope used by some in business media who eagerly substitute lazy tropes for insightful analysis and interesting assertions.]

Cognitive load is real

Disneyworld is stressful.

The occasional visitor has far less fun than you might expect. That’s because without habits, every decision requires attention. And attention is exhausting.

And it’s stressful because the choices made appear to be expensive. There’s a significant opportunity cost to doing this not that. You’re leaving tomorrow, what are you going to skip? What if it’s not worth the line? What are you missing?

It’s all fraught. We feel the failure of a bad choice in advance, long before we discover whether or not it was actually bad.

And it’s not just Disneyworld. It’s now the whole world.

Every minute on a website is a minute not spent doing something else. Every decision about what to write in social media is enervating. It’s not like the old days, with just three TV channels and a TV Guide to make that difficult decision even easier.

(The most popular magazine in America, for decades, was devoted to helping people figure out which one of three channels to watch).

Here’s my list, in order, of what drives behavior in the modern, privileged world:

  • Fear
  • Cognitive load (and the desire for habit and ease)
  • Greed (fueled by fear)
  • Curiosity
  • Generosity/connection

The five are in an eternal dance, with capitalist agents regularly using behavioral economics to push us to trade one for the other. We’re never satisfied, of course, which is why our culture isn’t stable. We regularly build systems to create habits that lower the cognitive load, but then, curiosity amplified by greed and fear (plus our search for connection and desire to love) kick in and the whole cycle starts again.

A job without a boss

Are you a freelancer or an entrepreneur?

It’s not simply semantics, your answer changes everything.

Freelancers get paid when they work. We’re not focused on scale… and we’re not tiny versions of real entrepreneurs. Freelancers do the work for clients who need them.

Hiring employees to scale when you’re a freelancer can be a bit of a trap, because you are likely to give up the very thing you set out to do in the first place.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are organized for growth. The job of the entrepreneur isn’t to do the work, it’s to build a company that does the work. Mary Barra doesn’t make cars at GM. She organizes so that GM makes cars.

And, it turns out that there are two kinds of entrepreneurs: Funded and Bootstrappers.

Funded entrepreneurs are the ones you hear about all the time. They use other people’s money to fuel their growth, and one day, they have to pay that money back, either by going public, selling, or distributing the profits.

And Bootstrappers? Bootstrappers build a business using their customers’ money. Bootstrapping is a special case, an intentional choice, the chance to serve your customers so well that they eagerly fund your growth.

I’ve been a funded entrepreneur, and I’m fortunate it worked out well.

And I’ve also been a bootstrapper, more often than not, and sometimes that’s worked as well.

Today, I’m often doing the work of a freelancer (no one writes these posts and those books but me).

Which means, if you work on your own, you’ve got three choices, and we’ve built two Akimbo workshops that might help.

Today, we’re launching the first session of the Freelancers Workshop. It’s an intensive interactive workshop with about ten lessons… you can finish it in just a few weeks if you want to, but you don’t need to worry about falling behind. Mostly, you will meet and engage with freelancers from around the world who will help you accomplish your goals (and vice versa).

The Freelancers Workshop is focused on just one thing: Helping you get better clients. Because better clients are the only way for a freelancer to find the support and respect and income you seek.

And, also today (because I want you to make the choice!) we’re relaunching the famed Bootstrapper’s Workshop. To date, thousands of people have experienced this deep dive into making deliberate choices about how to be an entrepreneur without scraping together money from investors and banks.

I’ve been talking about the freelancer/bootstrap/entrepreneur trichotomy for years. Here’s what I hear most often:

“Thank you for giving me permission to be a freelancer. It’s as though a weight was lifted, and I’m doing the best work of my career.”


“I’m so glad that I don’t have to obsess about valuations, bro fundraising culture and the rest of it. Our business continues to thrive, because we’re proud to be bootstrappers.”


Resources: More than 23,000 people have taken my Freelance course on Udemy. You can get it here for 10% off.

And nearly a million people have read the Bootstrapper’s Bible. Here’s a free copy.

The new workshops take these ideas and run with them. They connect you to others on the same path, using the proven Akimbo methods to help you go way beyond text or video and dive deep into how it works and why.

Today’s an excellent day to decide if you’re a Freelancer, a Bootstrapper or something else… And if you visit the site, look for the purple circle for a rapidly decreasing discount for early birds.


Rare QA video, a new workshop, and a path forward for entrepreneurs

It was 100 degrees outside, and far hotter inside the barn (which had no air conditioning.)

But SwissMiss invited me, and I’m glad I followed through. Watching this video a year later, I’ve realized I have very little recollection of what happened in that jam-packed barn, so I’m thrilled that Kertis Creative captured the day.

[You can rewind for a very kind intro from Tina.]

I ended up riffing on dozens of topics, and it might be the best session like this I’ve ever done. I hope you get something out of it. And thanks to the amazing Creative Mornings community for bringing so much care and energy to the event.

The timing for the release of the edit couldn’t be better, as we’re launching two workshops today:

The Freelancer’s Workshop is brand new. Join us as we work together on the single biggest issue facing anyone who is out on their own: How to get better clients.

And The Bootstrapper’s Workshop is an effective and proven method for starting an organization financed by customer investment. We’ve brought it back for entrepreneurs who are looking for a better, saner way to make a difference.

Early birds, don’t forget to click the purple circle.

I’ll be posting later today with some thoughts about the urgent but non-obvious choice so many of us face: Which are you, a freelancer or an entrepreneur?

Mind the gap(s)

There are two kinds of marketing, and the gap between them keeps widening. You’ll need to choose.

Do marketing to people or with them…

Actually, there are a few other gaps worth considering:

Average stuff vs remarkable edge cases

Brand vs. direct

Unmeasured vs. measured

Largest imaginable market vs. smallest viable audience.

And… Attention as a precious resource vs. something to be purchased or stolen, cheap churn, and then move on.

The high cost of a little bit sooner

As the news cycle has trained us to find out results the moment they happen (or sometimes, as polling promises, before they happen), it’s easy to lose track of a simple truth:

There’s a sweet spot between knowing with certainty at a low price (yesterday’s weather report is free) and guessing with a bit of a head start at a huge price (insider trading information).

When we’re anxious, we spend too much time and thus too much money trying to hurry up what we’re about to find out anyway.

A deep breath is usually a better plan.

Do you remember the frenzy?

There was an outcry when they banned cigarettes from bars in New York. The restaurant owners were certain that disaster was imminent.

And there was panic when we began to switch to LED bulbs, with concerned citizens and opportunistic politicians proclaiming that it was the end of civilization as we know it.

And when law firms started offering women partnerships…

And when seat belts were required in cars…

And when the building codes required fire exits and accessibility ramps…

And when work rules required more training and more rest for pilots and airline crews…

And when doctors were required to wash their hands before and after delivering a baby…

Change isn’t always guaranteed to work, but change often brings the frenzy.

“I was wrong”

That’s a hard sell.

It’s difficult to get someone (a client, a boss, a voter, a partner) to say those three words. Difficult to say on our own behalf, too.

Which is why we so easily get stuck.

We get stuck defending what we already decided. Because it feels easier to defend than it does to be wrong.

In 1993, in my role as founder of an internet company, I rejected the idea of the world wide web. I saw Mosaic (and then Netscape) and decided it was stupid, a dead end, a technology not worthy of our tiny company’s time.

That decision cost me a billion dollars.

Within nine months, I saw what others were seeing. I saw the power of widespread connectivity and how it was more powerful than a centralized host.

It still wasn’t easy to say, “I was wrong.”

The alternative is, “based on new information, I can make a new decision.”

We can make a new decision on what’s happening to our environment, based on new data and new science. We can make a new decision on corporate governance or on a recent political referendum.

“Why didn’t you tell me that it would lead to all these bad outcomes?”

Not wrong, simply underinformed.

The cost of a do-over is often less than the cost of sticking with a decision that was made in good faith, on insufficient information.

We don’t have to be wrong. But we regularly get a chance to make things more right.

The avocado principles

  1. If you wait until you really want an avocado, the market won’t have any ripe ones. You need to buy them in advance.
  2. If you eat an avocado that’s not quite ripe, you won’t enjoy it. AND, you won’t have a chance to enjoy it tomorrow, when it would have been perfect if you had only waited.
  3. If you live your life based on instant gratification and little planning, you’ll either never have a good avocado or you’ll pay more than you should to someone else who planned ahead.
  4. Buy more avocados than you think you need, because the hassles are always greater than the cost, so you might as well invest.
  5. And since you have so many, share them when they’re ripe. What goes around comes around.

All of these truths lead to the real insight, the metaphor that’s just waiting to be lived in all ways: If you get ahead of the cycle, waiting until the first one is ripe and then always replenishing before you need one, you can live an entire life eating ripe avocados. On the other hand, if impatience and poor planning gets you behind the cycle, you’ll be just as likely to waste every one you ever eat.

Plant your tree before you need the shade.