As a person who uses and benefits from the internet, I curse it daily.
The web was a new thing when I started teaching; then it wasn’t something most had access to, or used for commerce and communication. Students still called to get signed up – checks were written and sent in by mail – and most interaction between Instructors was accomplished in person at seminars, trade shows, or by attending each other’s courses. There was a personal aspect to it that forced a certain level of decorum; you were prone to choose words wisely less those you were speaking to decide to walk away. It’s a fact of life that people behave differently when face-to-face.
Along came social media.
In 2017, everyone with a smart phone possesses the ability to vomit their opinions 24/7 with little repercussion. Yeah, if you’re a CEO of some company and you Tweet a joke that “offends”, you may find yourself on the outs – but, the average Youtube commentator can spew the most racially charged or personally vindictive insults imaginable with no worries. And when they’re done, they just wipe the Funyon crumbs on their pants and mosey on to the next target. It’s a 6th dimension which ignores the rules of reality – and this alternate world of Kardashians, TMZ, and soundbite news has sucked the training industry in like the Borg.
It’s clicks over content. As long as it produces traffic, that’s all that matters. But, what’s actually produced is an environment of conflict, click bait, and fan worship that replaces sound curriculum with the cult of “instructor” personality. It has become “Look at me!” instead of “What can I do for you?”
Well, my compadres, it’s unsustainable. Yeah, you may have some “success” at first, but you’re going to crash – And are.
I’ve noticed something over the past year – some of the more confrontational/internet savvy Instructors are having implosions of their popularity. Meanwhile, the “old guard” Instructors are being “re-discovered.” Ayoob, Farnam, Spaulding, Smith, Givens, et al – they’re seeing a surge in course enrollment. Why? Because they actually have something to teach.
They’re putting students first, as they always have. They aren’t concerned with endorsements or T-shirts, and they aren’t riding the wave of their latest on-line grudge match. They understand their job and what their students need. Because of it, the small percentage of armed populous that is desperate for a proper education is beginning to see the showbiz for what it is, and they’re making the change…away from you.
You’re not a rock star. You’re not an actor. You’re not a socialite. You cannot employ the “Any press is good press!” business model and produce students you can back up in court. When the rubber hits the road you still have to invest the time and work into producing a product that will properly equip your students with what they need to have victory against attackers and prosecutors. Your oh-so-clever comeback on that forum thread is not going to help their family when they bury them. Your sticker on their back window will not impress their attacker. Your Youtube subscriber count will not change a jury’s mind.
Ask yourself this question in relationship to everything you teach, type, say, or do: Is this about my student, or is this about my ego?
If it’s the later, then change your direction or find something else to do. And do it before you find yourself answering for it on a witness stand…or at a wake.
Those you inspire will go farther than those you impress – John Farnam