I was talking to my buddy Kevin Rogers on the phone the other day, and he coined a phrase that’s kind of resonated with me ever since. It’s been zinging around my brain giving the few remaining brain cells no end of trouble.
The phrase was “perpetual student”. We were talking about how certain people in the marketing business will forever mail you stuff aimed at keeping you a beginner.
We got onto the subject because of the American Writers & Artists Inc copywriting course. Heard of it?
The AWAI course is a copywriting course designed to let the average person fulfil their dreams of freedom and independence by becoming a successful freelance copywriter.
I have no problem with AWAI or the course. I took it myself, several years ago. It’s a pretty comprehensive entry-level course, and gives green newbies an overview of the copywriting world, and how to become a freelancer.
Nothing Wrong With That
What I don’t agree with, however, is the way they continue to treat you like a green newbie.
I did the AWAI course maybe six or seven years ago, when I was first getting serious about this copywriting gig. I’d already had mentors and devoured all the books I was pointed at, and to be honest I was already starting to get my shit together as a writer…
I just didn’t want to have missed anything in my quest to become The Greatest.
In the intervening years I’ve created a lot of successful pieces for a lot of clients in a lot of different markets. I’ve done well, and I feel comfortable saying I’ve become world class. In fact, if you’re reading this blog you probably know that, and that’s why you’re reading.
But Apparently It Doesn’t Matter To AWAI
You see, I recently got an email promotion from them, offering me some “advanced tuition” through videos or an event or somesuch… I didn’t read the whole thing, to be honest.
But the general gist of it was that if I could only find the money in my wallet to purchase this one final shiny object, then all my copywriting dreams would come true and I could finally be the kind of successful freelancer I always wanted to be.
And that’s where Kevin’s “perpetual student” thing came from. It’s more profitable for certain people or organizations to keep you feeling like you don’t know anything – so they can make money teaching you whatever it is they’ve convinced you you don’t know.
Yes, it’s good to learn. None of us should ever stop learning. We should push ourselves every day. Make your brain sweat by pushing it, just like your body sweats when you work out.
(Wait – you do work out, right? If not, start, today. You’ll see immediate productivity boosts and experience clarity of mind you’ve probably not experienced before. And you’ll look better and live longer. What’s not to like? Man up and get it done.)
But there’s also a wrong way to be always learning. You want to be looking forward as you learn, broadening horizons and discovering new concepts… not looking backward, forced to cover the same ground over and over by some external force.
And that’s what I’m talking about – the marketing world, maybe more than any other, makes tens of millions of dollars every year from people who are wilfully accepting their “perpetual student” badge, and wearing it with honor, diligently buying every course and how-to recommended to them.
But That Is Not How You Get Ahead
That’s the wrong way to be a perpetual student. You don’t want to be like that. Get shackled by that mindset and you’ll probably never break out of it, and never experience the true success you’re capable of.
Instead, you want to study enough to get at least some chops at your chosen endeavour… and then jump in with both feet. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
Why? Because you’ll learn an infinite amount more with your hands on the wheel than you will from sitting at the feet of some “guru”. What usually happens in that case is that he gets richer because of the Pavlovian response he’s trained you into – you buy his shit when he rings the bell.
What happens then is that you’ll feel constantly less ready – each day that passes marks another day you should have gotten started but didn’t – so your resolve, and self-confidence will steadily erode, taking your chances of success with them.
And That Got Me Thinking…
A situation like that is bad… but learning is good right? As balanced, enlightened humans with a finely honed “Writer’s Eye” you’ll want to constantly grow into new areas and experience new business environments.
That’s one of the main things attracting us to this business (and if you haven’t realized this yet, you will). We embrace the growth and creativity it brings us.
So it’s good to learn… but I wanted to show you the right way to be a perpetual student.
First, study your art. Learn to do it constantly. Keep your radar up, and run everything you see and hear through your internal filter. Keep what’s useful and discard what isn’t.
That kind of studying is important, and should never stop… but don’t let it interrupt what you’re doing right there and then. Get your work done, but learn as you go.
Study with a target. Don’t aimlessly devour information. Aimless devouring is the default setting for most people, and it’s a big part of why they never get anywhere. As an entrepreneur, marketer or freelance copywriter this kind of unfocused thinking will eat you alive.
Because you’ll never be “ready”. You’ll always be looking for the next shiny object… and you’ll try to shoehorn each new thing you learn into your latest project or idea.
The part of you that doesn’t feel ready will always be screaming “Holy shit this is amazing I should go back and re-do this project so I can include this new technique!”
But don’t listen. It’ll undermine you, and you’ll never move forward. Movement is everything.
Instead, focus. Pick something you want or need to learn about, and concentrate on that for a certain period of time. When the time’s up, move on. You’re not going to learn everything, so get the important stuff and keep rolling.
Analyze yourself. You are the engine of your business. You make it go. Without you there is no movement, no money, no progress.
So take a step back, and examine yourself. Make a list if you have to.
What are you good at?
What do you suck at?
What can you improve?
What’s a lost hope?
What do you love to do?
What do you hate?
Then fill those gaps. Pay attention to what you love vs what you hate. It’s a lot easier to be good at something you enjoy, and therefore productive. If you hate doing something, outsource it. You’re not going to learn to be great at anything you can’t stand doing.
Let’s say you suck at writing email copy, but you enjoy it.
For the next two weeks, your task is to read as many good emails as possible each day, and write five emails a day. Disappear into the task, let it consume you.
After that 2 week stretch, you’re going to be a whole lot better at writing emails, so then you move forward onto something else.
Lastly, don’t fall for the trap. Don’t ever feel like you have to be some kind of all-rounder superstar.
You don’t need to do everything. You don’t need to be capable of doing everything. That’s what outsourcing is for.
Your job is to be great at whatever it is you’re great at. Excel at that, get by with everything else, and outsource the rest.
It’s not rocket science… but they’ll convince you it is, if you let them.
Always bigger conversions,