On the surface, continuously investing in your education appears to be an innocent – and even admirable – behaviour pattern.
But for some soloists, it’s a dependency that’s gotten out of control and needs to be taken in hand.
These tips will help you determine whether you’re a course junkie, and what to do about it.
1. You’re not using the information you’re paying to learn
Symptom: You sign up for courses that you’re super-enthusiastic about, and then neglect to apply the information they contain. You may even pay for courses that you don’t finish, or (gulp!) never actually get around to starting. This symptom can be indicative of several different ailments, common examples of which include Shiny Object Syndrome and the delusion that you’ll somehow have more free time on your hands tomorrow than you do today (both of which I’m prone to suffering from myself).
Treatment: Next time you’re excited about signing up for a new course, review all the coursework you haven’t used and applied, and put some time aside to do one of those programs instead. Unless they came with a refund policy that hasn’t yet expired (in which case, request a refund quick smart!), the money spent on those programs is a sunk cost to your business. The only way you’re ever going to recoup your investment is to absorb and use the knowledge. (Caveat: If you abandoned the course because its content was poor or it didn’t offer what was promised, don’t waste any time on it – but do find out whether you’re still eligible for a refund).
2. You keep hoping the next course will reveal the elusive key to success
Symptom: You have a sneaky suspicion that you don’t know enough, and that you need someone else to fill in the gaps for you. The problem is, despite all the courses you’ve enrolled in, that elusive piece of the puzzle still hasn’t landed in your lap. Note that this symptom isn’t the same as recognising a specific gap in your knowledge and setting about gathering the information you need (which is a very proactive approach), but instead is often indicative of a lack of confidence, and is sometimes related to Imposter Syndrome.
Cure: Recognise that there is no secret ingredient that’s going to turn your business around. Ask any established soloist what the secret to their success has been, and they’ll rarely nominate a gold nugget of information imparted to them by someone else. Instead, they talk about ceaseless persistence and the incremental learning that comes from trying things out to see what works and what doesn’t. If you really want to grow in confidence, get to work and keep going.
3. You sign up for courses on a whim
Symptom: You sign up to courses with no real forethought, simply because they cross your radar or their marketing appeals to you. Again, this is sometimes a symptom of Shiny Object Syndrome, but may also indicate that your business strategy and goals aren’t compelling enough to keep you on track.
Treatment: Even if you don’t have a budget in place for the rest of your business, have a think about how much you’d like to spend on training over the course of a year, either in dollar terms or as a percentage of your sales, profit or salary. Once you’ve arrived at an answer, think about how it makes most sense to spend that money. Should it all go in one place on a specific training program, or will you get better value from several smaller courses on a variety of topics? Once you know what you want training on, actively seek out opportunities to fill those needs rather than waiting for someone to sell them to you, and then be disciplined about saying ‘No’ to everything else. (Caveat: Sometimes, something really does land in your lap that it’s worth dropping everything to do and finding the money to pay for; that happened to me about 18 months ago, and the random course I enrolled in on the spur of the moment has turned out to be incredibly beneficial to every aspect of my work – but do try to make these intuitive decisions the exception rather than the rule).
4. You sign up for courses thinking, ‘Paying good money for this will make me do it’
Symptom: You’re not getting around to marketing, new product development or other business growth tasks on your own, so you sign up for a course or group in the hope that doing so will increase your motivation and momentum, only to find that you quickly slide back into old habits.
Treatment: Recognise that if what you’re really looking for is accountability rather than learning, a course may not be the best way to get what you need. Working with a business coach is a great way to have someone else help you keep on track while also prompting you to stretch and grow, but asking a friend or your partner to be your accountability buddy might also be effective for you.
5. You’re doing courses even though they’re not quite right for your needs
Symptom: You’ve enrolled in a course, but quickly realise that elements of it are aimed at people whose circumstances are very different to your own. This often occurs when teachers are aiming to broaden the appeal of their program and make it suitable for as many students as possible.
Treatment: Consider investing in a program that’s tailored to your specific circumstances. Coaching is ideal because you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to determining where you want to focus your energy and attention, and there’s no need to spend time or money ploughing through info that’s irrelevant to you just to get to those topics. Alternatively, be disciplined about only enrolling in courses that get to the core of what you need, and skipping those that are only of passing relevance.
6. You’re ashamed to admit how much you’ve spent
Symptom: You’re afraid to tally up how much money you’ve spent on courses over the past 12 months, and even more worried that your partner might ask to see the figures.
Treatment: This is one of those situations where you need to put your big girl or big boy pants on, sit down with a calculator or an Excel spreadsheet, and crunch the numbers. If the result leaves you horrified, take a deep breath, go for a walk, and have a sobering talk with yourself about whether there was something more worthwhile you could have done with that money. Learn the lesson, resolve to make more conscious choices in the future, and give yourself a pat on the back for having learned a valuable lesson that you’ll never need to repeat.
Have you suffered from the affliction of being a course junkie? Please share your tips for breaking free from it in the comments.