Productivity / Professional development

Are you caught in the self-education trap?

Have you ever read a game-changing book, but noticed the game didn’t change for you? If this keeps happening, there’s a good chance you're suffering from a ‘failure to graduate’.

11 April 2017 by

As an alternative to formal education, you decided to take Purple Cow 101. Or Crush It 101. Or E-Myth 101.

Or, maybe it was an online course, a TED talk, a webinar, or a brilliant article.

You nodded furiously along, and marvelled at the sheer genius and undeniable truth of it. You were inspired that day, but were you educated? Let’s see…

What would your report card say?

Let’s say we called on Seth Godin to issue you a Purple Cow report card. Is it possible yours would look something like this?

"Non-completion is by far the biggest failure point for self-directed learning."

  • John failed to take sufficient notes to summarise the key points
  • John failed to apply any on the concepts to his current business
  • John failed to turn in any work at all
  • Grade: F (Did you even read my book John?)

John may feel like he learnt something, but if this was an assessed course he simply would not have graduated.

How to start graduating

The beauty of self-education is that you can pick and choose what to learn, and focus on the things that are important to you. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon all aspects of formal education.

There’s a good reason why school, university, and TAFE have strict graduation requirements – they safeguard against the biggest risks of failure. You can ensure you graduate your next lesson by eliminating the following threats:

Threat 1: Failure to finish

Non-completion is by far the biggest failure point for self-directed learning. Life is busy and with no external motivators to force you into attending or finishing to the end it’s shockingly common for a course to go unfinished and then quickly be forgotten.

Threat 2: Failure to assemble your tools

Any course, book, or other lesson should leave you armed with a skill, toolkit, clear instructions, a recipe, a framework, a plan, or a formula. In other words something you can use.

But just like a piece of Ikea furniture there’s always some assembly required. You’ll almost always need to digest and summarise the important parts of the material for yourself, then assemble them into a format you can use – an action plan, to-do list, formula, or whatever tool you can put into action.

Threat 3: Failure to apply what you’ve learned

Give yourself a specific assignment to integrate your new learning into your business. Whether it’s committing to 10 actions to simplify your life, setting up your podcasting studio, or transforming your brand, this is the critical point where you either use your new tools to make a change or solve a problem, or you don’t.

How to graduate with honours

Without the incentives of formal education (assessments, competition, and deadlines) it can be difficult to push yourself to higher levels of achievement. But rest assured there are hidden rewards on offer for almost any course.

The poster boy strategy is one way you can win big by going the extra mile with an online course. As Bryan Harris describes it, the idea is to:

  1. Buy someone’s product.
  2. Record one big win with their product or service.
  3. Let them know.
  4. They showcase you as one of their successful customers, giving you free exposure and/or traffic.

It works because every business owner wants to show prospective customers that their product works, and your case study will help them sell more stuff.

Your graduation checklist

Go back to a book or course or article that really resonated with you, and draw up a report card for yourself using these criteria.

  1. Complete the course
  2. Assemble your new tool (skill, plan, formula, process)
  3. Apply to your business (complete a specific assignment)
  4. Become a poster boy or poster girl (go all out on the assignment)

Commit to graduating with at least a pass in lessons that are important to you.

What game-changing course or book or principle do you need to finally graduate from?

Dave Gillen

improves under-performing AdWords campaigns at Bankable Online Marketing in Brisbane.

Comments

  • Hello Dave,

    I just loved the article. I have been struggling with the “new shiny thing” syndrome for some time now and your checklist is helpful and to the point. Coincidentally I am also listening to the Freakonomics Radio podcat featuring Angela Duckworth where she talks about Grit. It goes well with your article.

    -Prashant

  • yes that is a great way to think about it!! We need to show our teachers or lecturers we KNOW our learnings.. though your model takes it ONE STEP BETTER by making sure we apply it… AND potentially contribute back to the community (facebook group perhaps?!) where others can learn from your win and mistakes.
    Recently did this from a new book called Stealing Fire and their Facebook group. I truly resonated with the book and the people in the group so posted some videos and have made new friends, colleagues and even got an inquiry about possible business.
    BRAVO.. love your method. SO GOOD! Thank you Dave. 🙂

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