Real Self-Change Can’t Be Mass Produced
Why it makes sense from a teaching perspective, as well as a “marketing” perspective, to have different “entry points” to the work for different people, each with their different interests and goals.
Rob Hardy, who gave me the idea for the 100 posts in 100 days, wrote somewhere recently about creating a membership site for his business that is non linear. I don’t know the details, it sounds interesting, but it reminded me of my original plan for the posture course.
I first thought of doing a non linear approach a couple of years ago, then dismissed it because of the logistics of setting up, managing and marketing a complex course structure like that – especially my first course and while I had no idea yet how best to present the materials when not in a 1 to 1 situation.
So when I eventually did make the course “principles of posture” it was the usual linear series of 10 videos, 45-70 minutes long, each with a presentation of theory followed by some practical procedures. If I made it today I would do it a little bit different. I wouldn’t have such long videos for a start, I would break it up into much smaller ‘bite size’ videos.
One problem with the online course format in general, is it’s too linear. You start here and you end up there. You start with video #1 and work your way through to video #10, in numerical order, the same path for everyone.
While there is definitely a linear progression in how you learn any skill – e.g. you can’t do, or even understand, some things until you’ve done certain preparatory work – but there is still a lot of wiggle room for going off in different directions, and doing things in your own way, going through the materials in an order that is unique to you.
I still think the best way to learn a skill is in a master-apprentice relationship, where possible, but for most it isn’t realistic. So I have mixed feelings about self-directed online courses - both as buyer and seller! – but lots of people do want and need a course for various reasons – if nothing else just to see if this internet guy knows what’s he talking about before they decide to become his apprentice.
When planning how to teach someone a skill you also need to take into account motivation and emotional drives – not just the mechanics of what and how they should learn, structure and style etc. If the person doesn’t feel they want to do it, or is unable to make themselves do it, then all that stuff is useless.
So it makes sense from a teaching perspective, as well as a “marketing” perspective, to have interesting and relevant “entry points” to the work for different people, with their different interests and goals, and not just the same planned route for everybody. Even though these different entry points might not be optimal in terms of learning, in the strict matter of fact mechanical way, the fact is it gets them to engage with the work because it feels meaningful to them and their immediate problems and goals.
For example, giving someone the general posture mechanics while sitting at a desk is quite dry and boring, because at the desk you are trying to focus on something else more interesting and important to you – not sitting at a desk for the sake of it! – so posture is just a means to an end. The person is distracted and conflicted all the way through, desperate to get to the good stuff!
Whereas, if the postural mechanics was related to, say, the specific warm up routine you do for your sport, which you do regularly anyway and have to as part of your training, then it is already meaningful and important to you, so no motivation is required. Creating a lesson on mechanics using this angle will be much more successful at getting the pupil to actually do the work on himself and engage with the practical experiments in the course.
The issue is how to create this experience for as many people as possible without making a new course for each person. And we come full circle back to the master-apprentice model of learning once again.
But let’s imagine some perfect version of the course where there are 1,000+ of these different “entry points” for all sorts of skills, activities, behaviours and pastimes, and each new person can find their own way in using the one most interesting to them at this time. The trick would be having basic and fundamental enough information with action steps for each, without it either dumbing down the course concepts OR being at too high a technical level for beginners – all the while not compromising them when doing their activity.
In other words, can they actually use it in life starting today? Something that will make them want to practice and master the skill applied to this for no other reason than they are going to be doing it all the time anyway. And then they can come back to the course for another “bite” later once they chew and digest this one first.
This is where a more non linear approach might be useful. Instead of strict step by step everyone forced into the same formula, you would have a choice of paths to take, within a loose framework of “circles” where you have to work your way around that circle first, but in any order you please, before moving onto the next circle. Each circle increasing in complexity, and where some things can be ‘true’ in the first circle for beginners but not necessarily as ‘true’ for advanced students.
There are basic setups and procedures you need to master before going onto more complex ones, this is normal, but the same strict order for everyone forces you to reduce the materials to the lowest common denominator, and it’s not possible or aesthetically pleasing to be constantly putting in caveats and exceptions-to-the-rule every 20 seconds and ruining the flow of a training video.
Maybe a non-linear approach would be much easier now I have everything here in the Substack – you just need to become a paying member and then get access to all the materials. In a way, I don’t mind new members seeing the more advanced “circles” straight away (everyone will take a peek!) because it gives you a better idea of where you’re headed, and shows you some of the things that are possible. Or maybe it is better if I use one of the newer platforms and block you from access until I know you have the basics down first. Circles within circles within circles.
One of the downsides of focussing the original course specifically on “posture” was it limited the potential areas of growth and development from learning the technique – it induces the wrong aim in the student of “I just want to get my posture fixed and move on to more interesting things.”
When really you are learning a method for becoming more conscious, as a human animal, not in a woo woo, wishful thinking kind of way, but in real physical visible ways which make your life better. Posture is where we apply it first, the perfect training ground, but you can use it in multiple areas of life, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ways – it’s all up to you.
So a more non linear approach has the advantage of it being built in from the start, that you will be going in your own direction with this work. Real self-change can’t be mass produced.