Welcome back! I hope you liked lesson 1 and a book is sitting comfortably next to you, near you, on you, or maybe even under you – as long as it’s there, that counts.
In this lesson, we’ll cover how you can adapt this course to your own personal needs (and why one-size-fits-all advice doesn’t work).
Ready? Let’s do this!
Why Maps Are Useless
On May 2nd in 2015 I started a course to help me get more email subscribers.
I already knew that an email list is one of the most valuable business assets you can build online, and this course was supposed to be my step-by-step plan to build one.
The plan was to complete the first module and get my first 1,000 subscribers in 90 days. I even had a head start, sitting at 100 subscribers – and I completely failed.
Instead of 3 months, it took me almost 6 to hit 1,000 subscribers. But that’s not the worst part.
Out of the 120+ people who started the course with me, this poor performance made me one of the top 3 people in the group in terms of list growth (as far as I could track). Everyone else was doing even worse.
What happened here?
This course is a specific-path course, meaning it’s meant to take you exactly from A to B, just like a map. I didn’t see it at the time, but after a while I realized that this kind of one-size-fits-all advice couldn’t possibly work for something as hard and personal as building an email list.
By now, I don’t think one-size-fits-all advice works for anything at all.
For example, just an hour ago I got off a coaching call with a client who wanted to know how he could improve his productivity. He told me he works in IT, and as a result of his job he spends around 70% of his work time waiting for software to compile, most of it in 40 minute blocks.
Having a productive day will look vastly different for him than it does for me, a guy who works from home and has few appointments, or for someone who works the nightshift at Burger King, or for an actor in a movie.
Being productive, just like…
starting a business,
improving your habits,
building great relationships,
investing your money,
…isn’t very complex. Hard to stay consistent at, yes, but not too difficult to figure out. It’s just a matter of finding the few strategies that work specifically for you and then consistently doing those.
But there’s no map for any of these things that you can just buy and it’ll tell you what those are. Because maps you can buy are the same for everyone. The only thing that works is to make your own map.
In my case, the course primarily relied on three strategies to get to 1,000 subscribers: writing lengthy how-to posts, content upgrades and giveaways.
I threw myself into executing these as best as I could, but soon felt discouraged with all the grunt work and lack of results, because:
a.) None of these things were a good fit for starters in my niche (self-improvement), since there was tons of competition already.
b.) Not one of those strategies reflected what I wanted to do with my email list (which was to just write helpful posts, no matter the length or topic).
The only reason I reached my goal faster than the majority is that I broke the rules and skipped to guest posting (something it turned out I was really good at and liked doing at the time).
None of the strategies in the course were inherently bad, but instead of acknowledging that not all of them will work for everyone, it tried to force everyone along the same path.
As a result, we’re losing a ton of great podcasters, Youtubers, singers and original marketing ideas. Everyone wants a map, when the only things that are working are doing so precisely because there is no map for them.
I wish I’d known what you’re about to learn back then, because I would’ve thrown my map right out the window and started asking some questions.
Questions like: What’s the principle here?
The Rainbow Principle
Did you know that no two rainbows are the same? Even if you and I stood right next to each other and looked at what seems to be the same rainbow, we’d never actually see the same thing.
Since the raindrops in which the sunlight is broken are constantly moving, the exact shape and appearance of the rainbow are always changing.
Plus, the center of the semicircle that is a rainbow is always on a line that connects the sun and your eyes.
It’s impossible for your eyes to be in the exact same spot as mine, even if we’re right next to each other, so you and I will always see a different rainbow.
With reading it’s the same.
Look at the book you picked. Why did you pick that book? What does it say about you?
Is it a childhood favorite that reminds you of a time 50 years ago? A marketing book that you hope will propel you forward in a career that you just started? The textbook that might hold the breakthrough insight that gets you unstuck in writing your PhD thesis?
I don’t know you yet. But I know this: You are special. You’re unique. No other human being on this earth is the same as you. You’re the only one of your kind. And we really need you.
Even more so, we need you at your best. That’s why you and I are here, trying to read more.
But to make it work we’ll need to consider today’s principle, which, in honor of the uniqueness of the rainbow, we’ll call:
The Rainbow Principle
What does it say? Everything you do in life is unique to you, so always consider your context.
The best way to live this principle is to always be asking questions. When you set out to do something, you can take your own, unique context into account by asking yourself a couple of questions – an assessment of your current situation.
One of the first things I learned when becoming a coach on coach.me is that a great coach never gives one-size-fits-all advice.
If you were to become one of my coaching clients right now, I’d ask you a whole bunch of questions to get the bigger picture of your goal, identify blockers and understand what your expectations are.
But you can just as well ask these yourself.
The 5 Question Experiment
Questions are the root of customization. Most of the time, answering them is easy. Picking the right questions, however, is hard.
After coaching almost 300 people over the past 2 years, the following questions are the ones that have stood the test of time. I’ve customized them for Time 2 Read, and today I’d like you to answer them.
Why do you want to read more books?
What would your life be like if you read 2 books per month?
Describe your perfect day?
Describe your typical (not perfect) day. What’s stopping you from achieving your goal?
How do you hope this course will help you? Have you taken an email course before? If so, how do you prefer to go through the material?
The best way to answer these and make the results stick is to write down your answers. Writing down goals is scientifically proven to increase your chances of realizing them, even if you never look at them again.
That said, you can make this even more powerful by replying to today’s email and sending your answers right to me.
That way, you’ll be accountable to an actual, human being (who really cares about you!) and you and I can make a true connection. You’ll not only know more about how you can make the lessons from this course work for you, but you can also rest assured that someone who cares will read, think, and learn more about who you are.
I’ll do my best to respond to every email.
Closing The Chapter
The power of this course – like all courses – is limited. But only by your imagination and the quality of the questions you ask about it.
Please don’t treat it like a map. Think of the remaining lessons as experiments – just like the staring illusion we did in lesson 1.
Run them, tweak them, and then ask questions about them:
Does this work for me? If yes, could I improve it? If no, can I make it work for me? How?
Okay, so what have you learned today? You now know that one-size-fits-all advice never works, that you have to make your own map and that because of The Rainbow Principle, you should always start by asking questions and assessing your current situation.
You’ve done this for your reading habit (or are about to) and are thus ready for tomorrow’s lesson. This story will blow your mind (pun intended, you’ll see why) and lead to an experiment that is bound to show you that no matter what you think, you do have time for reading.
Looking forward to getting to know you.
Rooting for your reading,
PS: Keep your book around, tomorrow’s a big day!
PPS: Here is our table of contents with the previous lessons.