Engaged Facebook Groups, Divi, and LifterLMS with Eileen Lonergan from Elegant Marketplace

In this LMScast Chris Badgett of codeBOX talks about engaged Facebook groups, Divi, and LifterLMS with Eileen Lonergan from Elegant Marketplace. You’ll learn about building and running online groups, integrating LifterLMS and Divi with WordPress, and finding your niche.

Eileen has a thriving Facebook Group called the Divi Theme Users Facebook Group. She is one of the owners of the Elegant Marketplace website, and Divi is their showcase WordPress theme. Eileen and a co-owner, Andrew, came to LifterLMS when they needed to put together a video tutorial course. They were able to use it right out of the box and create the course using the default layout.

Starting with Google AdWords, Eileen became familiar with WordPress and themes. Then she discovered Divi and liked it so much she started blogging about it. From there she started the Divi Facebook Group community, which has grown to over 19,000 users in just 3 years.

Building a community for your online course gives it momentum. You can use the existing tools in Facebook, or use a WordPress add-on like BuddyPress to create your own community environment. And you can make it an open group or restrict it to members-only. The key to making your group successful is to find your niche, know it inside out, and build for it.

Eileen and Chris discuss aspects of running groups like being a moderator, setting boundaries for your time and accessibility, working with other group administrators, maintaining balance between promotion and support, and hiring members when they demonstrate expertise. They also talk about building your audience, finding your ideal students, and injecting a little bit of fun into your group experience. Plus they offer some great pro tips for course creators just starting out.

You can find out more about engaged Facebook groups, Divi, and LifterLMS with Eileen Lonergan at Elegant Marketplace.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and in this episode I’m joined by Eileen Lonergan. How are you doing Eileen?

Eileen: I’m good. How are you, Chris? Thanks for having me.

Chris: Thanks, it’s good to have you on the show. Eileen has an amazing Facebook Group with over 18,000 people in it. It’s called the Divi Theme Users Facebook Group. If you don’t know what Divi is, Divi, is a WordPress theme, and we’re going to get into that. She is also one of the owners of the Elegant Marketplace website. We’ll discuss what that’s all about a little later in the show. But to start off, Eileen, how did you get into WordPress and Divi and Facebook?

Eileen: Okay. I, back in the day, got a degree in advertising, so I worked as a media buyer, which meant I was working putting ads into different magazines or buying time on television shows. Then I moved abroad for awhile. When I came back, a friend … The internet was in its infancy stage when I was away. When we came back I had a friend who had four different golf sites and was looking for somebody to help him do his Google AdWords. It was a natural fit for me. Then he decided to do something else and I took his clients. I was doing AdWords. Out of that, I really began to understand SEO. AdWords is awesome, but as we both know as soon as you stop paying for clicks, your content does a dive. The golf clients were getting priced out of the market. I started helping them with content. Then one thing led to another and I reconnected with a friend that I went to high school with who was developing a WordPress theme. He said to me, “If you ever built …” I’d built one website in Front Page. I was like, I am never, ever going this again. This is horrible.
He said to me, “If you ever make another website and you buy my theme, I’ll hold your hands through the whole thing.” I was like, “That’s so great, but I’m never, ever doing this again.” That’s how I got to WordPress. Just one thing led to another. I was really committed, and I am still to my blog. I would just casually post on Facebook, “Here’s another website.” Then I just kept getting client after client. Through that WordPress connection, my friend Don Campbell … He has a really cook product now called Get Five Stars, which is a review platform. He’s really doing that and not doing the themes. One of the guys from that group we were in called me one night and said, “I think you’d really like this Divi theme.” It was like, all right. I went and I bought it and I thought it was great and I love it. On my blog, I started posting some of the things I was figuring out. As I was figuring things out, I was also looking for a community who could answer my questions. Although I’m a big, huge fan of support and paying for it, sometimes you just want your little posse and you don’t want to wait around.
Chris: Yeah.
Eileen: I started the Dive Theme Users Group. Maybe two hours into it I realized, “Oh, my gosh. This is probably not the right name because as soon as you open up anything with WordPress, you start getting questions about WordPress. You start getting questions about hosting, learning platforms, plugins.” The focus everybody is gathering around is Divi. I think that gets people in the door.
Chris: That’s awesome. How many people are in there right now?
Eileen: I checked this morning and it’s almost 19,000.
Chris: That’s amazing. Just to plan a little context of where we can go and really look into that in more detail. For the online course creators out there, the membership site builders, the people trying to build community around a brand and build training around a certain brand, there’s this community piece that pops up. You can do that on our own platform. If you’re using WordPress you can use something like BuddyPress and build Facebook in a box type social networks, but you can also leverage the tools that are already out there, like Facebook or just other online community platforms. Now you get conflicting advice around Facebook. For example, I may not want people to leave my training site to go to Facebook because they’ll get distracted and they’ll never come back. The counter argument to that as well is if your stuff’s not good enough, people don’t want to come back, then maybe it doesn’t really matter.
I do understand the importance of protecting the focus. Really one of the things that make a Facebook group great is just a thriving community and numbers, having enough people to get that momentum. For example, if you have your own forum that nobody posts in, it’s a graveyard or it’s a dead forum. What are some of your key insights that you’ve learned over the years in helping to build this up to almost 19,000 people? How do you build community in Facebook? What are the do’s? What are the don’t’s? Let’s get into all that. Maybe we can start just by looking at the niching. You mentioned, okay, this isn’t just WordPress or web help that you share. This is for a very specific users of one product called Divi. In the niching department, what else would you add? What about niching has helped make your Facebook group successful?
Eileen: That’s a really good question. I think that finding your niche is a little bit of a wild card because you have to care about it. You can’t just say, “I’m going to have a group about plugins.” I don’t really care about plugins because you become very tied to these groups, I guess if you want them to be successful. You have to care about it and you have to use it and you have to like it. For me, with the Divi theme, I specifically … While I’ve tried a whole bunch of WordPress themes and I have licenses to them all, my philosophy has been get to know one theme really, really well, and ultimately it will make your life easier.
For me, I don’t necessarily have niche clients. I don’t just do chiropractors or dentists or authors. I need something that’s flexible enough that it can accommodate these different businesses, but I don’t want to be learning a new theme every time. The beauty of WordPress, or I think a lot of people come into it because they think, “Once I know this behind the scenes, the dashboard becomes really easy,” but each theme has its own little nuances. Where do I change the colors? All that stuff. I think it’s important to have a niche. It grew really quickly. I randomly posted on an Elegant Themes, one of their blog posts. We’re talking about this in a group. That opened up the flood gates.
Chris: In a comment?
Eileen: In a comment, exactly.
Chris: Okay.
Eileen: On my website, on my blog posts, I put “For more learn, visit the Facebook group.” Then people would start telling their friends about it, give you support, started directing people to it. They did a blog post on it. It’s taken off from there. I’ve definitely gotten help and support along the way from Divi from Elegant Themes.
Chris: That’s awesome. How long has it been? Going from 0 to 19,000, how much time has passed here?
Eileen: I think it’s been 3 years.
Chris: Yeah, that’s a lot in 3 years.
Eileen: It’s a lot in 3 years. Back to your previous question, what makes it a vibrant community, I think if somebody is going to start one of these groups, you have to realize that you’re not going to be the most popular person on the blog.
Chris: Because?
Eileen: Because you have to say no. You have to …
Chris: Like moderate?
Eileen: You have to moderate. Sometimes it’s really easy to kick people out because they’re posting the Ray Ban Sunglasses deal, and you’re just like, “You’re out.” Other times people are just relentless with their self-promotion and you have to decide is that detrimental to the group? Are they just annoying or are they really just … There’s a lot of cultural differences between Americans and other countries. You have to say sometimes to people, “You really don’t want to say give me your login and password in a Facebook group because that’s dangerous. People are just going to view you as a spammer.” You might spend a little time saying, does this person really have a skillset that they’re bringing to the table or are they just creepy?
Chris: Right.
Eileen: Right.
Chris: Yeah.
Eileen: Because there’s some of that out there.
Chris: Yeah, Facebook’s wide open. A lot can come in there. If you’re looking at it for an online course or your learning platform, I think there’s really two approaches, kind of like how you guys with Elegant Marketplace. We can talk about that in a moment. You can have a Facebook community that then a piece of that points to your online course, your membership site, or, in your case, your marketplace. Or you can go the other way where only people in your course who get in are allowed in a group and it’s very tightly restricted. I think that’s just a question of what’s your model? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to funnel people from Facebook into your platform or is it really just that’s where the community lives for your members only?
Eileen: Yeah.
Chris: How does a Facebook group … First of all, what is Elegant Marketplace, and then how does the Facebook group and Elegant Marketplace interact with each other?
Eileen: Yeah, that’s a really good question. Elegant Marketplace is a marketplace for child themes and plugins and other creatives. We have everything from style packets for if you’re maybe not a designer. One woman has put together a style packet focused on travel and tourism. I don’t want to pick fonts and colors. That’s in their image packs are in. We had one guy do a whole writing series on client contact, everything from initial reaching out through the either great job, you were an awesome client, to this isn’t really working out so well. You can buy all those emails for a pack. We’re also moving into Elementor and other page builders, themes, and layouts for those.
That’s what Elegant Marketplace is. That fell out of a group of people I met through the Facebook group. It started with more people. Now there’s just two of us, Andrew Palmer and I. Andrew is in London. We try to come up with a delicate balance of promoting our developers and keeping things open and informing people of what’s going on in WordPress with hosting. You and I did an interview, which is great, introducing the Divi community on using Lifter. We try to work with our developers so they’re not posting on their own in the group. We don’t want to over-do what we put into the group because we want people to be happy to be there.
We don’t want them to feel overwhelmed. We get a lot of questions. People will say, “I would like a plugin that …” Or, “Does anybody know how I can have this same image appear on the bottom of every post?” You know what? We have a plugin for that and you can respond. Sometimes people respond with sharing the code on how to do that. Other people … Google fonts is a great example. How do I add Google fonts? You know what? We’ve got this 10 dollar plugin. People are like, “Done. I don’t want to deal with the code.” It’s a bit of a balance. Hopefully we strike the right balance of promotion and satisfying peoples’ needs.
Chris: That makes sense. I mean, it’s challenging to moderate and to have it be top-down. At the same time, these other great things happen in the Facebook group where peer to peer conversations and new relationships are forming in the community. How does that work out for you? What kinds of things do you see people, like new relationships forming, or how do, without getting you or your partner involved, what other kinds of things are happening in there?
Eileen: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s really been amazing to me. Thank you for asking because I’m really proud of it. I think that we have had life-changing results. Organically from that group peoples’ lives have changed.
Chris: Has anybody gotten married?
Eileen: No, I know, I know. I do know of one relationship. At some point maybe there will be a little Eileen, or I’ll get a wedding invitation. Yeah, I don’t know. If anybody has gotten married they haven’t told me about it. I get really nice emails. I got this one from this woman who is in Ireland. She said, “Because of this Facebook group and these tutorials and learning, I’ve been able to move back to my hometown.” Yeah, so we get those a lot. I can’t reveal numbers, but we have paid out a lot of money to the developers who have created the child themes and the plugins. I hear of people who got a car, paid my rent, I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck. It’s definitely significant, from that end. Then I get the people in South Africa at Word Camp who are all Divi users from the Facebook group who met up and had lunch. There was like 8 of them or something. Yeah, so it’s great.
Chris: That’s awesome. My business partner, he’s one of the organizers of Word Camp Los Angeles. He was talking about there was this group of Divi users. It’s what you’re talking about. It’s one Facebook group, but there are happenings where they get together in person, which is amazing.
Eileen: It is amazing. I was at a local meetup last night. The guy sitting next to me was talking about themes. He was like, “I had to leave one of the Facebook groups.” I was like, “Really? What happened?” He said, “Just so time consuming. There was so much going on. I would just go on there and I would forget about all my other work.” I was like, “What group was that?” And it was mine. Dude, you’ve got to get back in there.
Chris: Right.
Eileen: Come on.
Chris: Right. Let me ask you one … For the online course creator out there, if you’re building a community, sometimes things happen in your community that you don’t intend to happen. Sometimes it’s serendipitous and really positive, and sometimes it’s negative or sometimes it creates chaos in your business. What I mean by that … This is just a simple example. We have a Facebook group around LifterLMS product. It’s called the LifterLMS VIP Facebook Group. When you join or whatever, the about thing is like, “This isn’t the official support channel.” We get lots of questions for support.
What’s really cool is some of the other people in there will start helping each other answer their questions, and sometimes people will start tagging me and stuff where they’re trying to get me to answer support, which I can do and I’m happy to do sometimes when I have the answer, but we also have our formal both free and paid support channels. We have a process and a whole team ready to roll on that stuff. People break the rules, but it’s not that big of a deal, but it is … I don’t know. How do you deal with that? Do you guys get support or customer service questions in your Facebook group about Elegant Marketplace or do the developers or is that not really an issue for you?
Eileen: No, we definitely get support. I think support is unbelievably challenging. People are in the moment and they want an answer, so any way they think they can find you, they will utilize. I’m guilty of that as well. Though, yes, people will tag us. We, for our developers, offer the first line of support. Frequently it’s the, “I forgot to unzip the zip file.” I mean, that’s the number one. Or somebody customizes some code, and then they can’t. Andrew is in London and I’m on the East Coast. I’m wearing my Maine, my LL Bean sweater in honor of Chris, my main friend. We have a little time zone, and then we have somebody on the West Coast and we try to patch together answers. It is hard. We both keep Facebook open all day long and jump in and try to answer.
Chris: Do you guys answer support questions in Facebook?
Eileen: We do.
Chris: Okay.
Eileen: If somebody posts on Facebook we’ll answer in Facebook. Sometimes we’ll say, “Let’s touch base privately because it’s complicated.” I was helping some woman on a Sunday night at 7 o’clock. We were going back and forth, back and forth in Facebook and then realized she’d edited her code. I was like, “You know what? I’m not getting into this on Sunday night.”
Chris: Right.
Eileen: We do answer. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do or not. Sometimes it’s just easy and it takes two minutes. It also shows people that we’re paying attention. To your point about having a private group if you’re running a class, it’s great because if somebody else knows an answer, then they jump in and solve that for you. On the other hand, if it’s your group, do you want to work Sunday nights at 7 o’clock? I can’t answer that for you.
Chris: I think part of that, too, which I can relate to as well with the Sunday night example that you mentioned, is that if you’re going to run a Facebook group there’s some really smart people out there who design user interfaces and software to literally be addictive. It takes some serious self-control, especially if you use Facebook for personal stuff, just keeping up with friends and family. When that red alert goes off, or whatever, I think it’s helpful if you’ve been around the web for awhile to try to figure out some boundaries and just some healthy habits around, okay, I’m only going to do Facebook group between this and this time or five days a week, not seven days a week, or whatever. Eventually, the more you do it, you’re going to need to have some boundaries. That’s been my experience. I guess for email and for everything else, too, but Facebook groups, or Facebook in general, is helpful to at least be aware of how you use it and when you allow yourself to use it.
Eileen: Yeah, I totally, totally agree with you. I know you and I both like to get outside and get some exercise. It’s important. I mean, I had one guy … I’ve never talked about this before. I think maybe I mentioned it to you. Last year I was going through chemotherapy and I was literally, literally in the chair hooked up. The nurse is there in her hazmat suit and the whole thing. This guy is just pinging me. He wants to put his … He’s putting his link to his product in the group. I just kept saying, “We’ve got to talk about this. It’s too spammy. Now is not a good time for me.” Then now is not a good time for me became you know what? I’m getting chemo right now. It’s really not a good time for me.
Your business is not my priority. I said no, and just kicked him out. I just can’t deal with it right now. That’s extreme. Hopefully nobody is getting chemo as their problem. After that, I realized, yeah, I need to be a little bit less tapped in all the time. That’s when not being popular comes in where you just say, “You know what, dude?” Not everybody is right for your group, and you’re not right for everybody. That is something that is sometimes you have to do your deep breathing and remind yourself of if they’re not right for me, I’m not right for them, and it’s okay.
Chris: Absolutely. That just in general is just a challenge for being online. I mean the internet never sleeps. It’s not a 9 to 5 thing. It forces you to either get really good at boundaries or not so good and watch some important things slip away, whether that’s just taking care of yourself or spending time with friends and family or sitting down to dinner and those kinds of things. It’s amazing how it can take over.
Eileen: Right.
Chris: I think that’s one of the dark sides of online community is just to make sure you have healthy boundaries.
Eileen: Right, I totally agree. Having a partner with Facebook group … When I first started the group, anybody who was in admin had the power of … They could only be an administrator and then they had the power of kicking you out. I was a little hesitant as to who I made my partner because I didn’t want to be kicked out. Now you can have people do administrative stuff and not have that power. You can have helpers who are under the radar checking for appropriate … For me, I always want positivity. You have to start somewhere. What’s a silly question to you today may have been the question you were asking a week ago, so there’s no judgement.
Chris: Absolutely. I think getting people familiar with the search function is always good so that they can find stuff before that might have been asked about that sort of thing.
Eileen: Yeah.
Chris: Any fears about Facebook changing? For me as a business owner, I know … I can’t remember when it was, a year or two ago when Facebook made it so that your Facebook page, the reach of it go much smaller. Then you have to pay or boost posts to reach more people, even your own people that like to post. Otherwise it’s going to reach a small fraction, like 1 or 5% of them. I mean, I understand why Facebook did that from a business model perspective. Right now groups are amazing. In the back of my head, I’m waiting for that shoe to drop, but I’m not that worried about it because, well, I think that would be very damaging to Facebook. If I have a strong community and we need to go somewhere else, I know we can. I’d hate to see it go away, but do you have any fears like that or any reservations with Facebook at all or issues with them and having privacy or anything like that?
Eileen: The privacy thing I think is really interesting. I fully, in my heart, believe if you … Anything you put out there, you might as well just do a mental check. Would I mind if my grandmother saw this? Would I mind if my children saw this? My future clients, employees? Perfect example is we have some people in the Divi group who post mean things about their clients, and their clients are in the group. If you find the National Inquirer, you deserve to be lied to. It’s like that kind of thing.
I totally hear what you’re saying. What I always tell clients … It doesn’t come up anymore, but people used to say, “My business is on Facebook.” I’d say, “That’s really not a great plan.” We have a strong website and a strong blog and directing people there for more information is always a good thing. If the group went away I would be really sad. I think that groups are where it’s at on Facebook right now. If that changes, like you say, I think that we’re nimble enough or responsive enough that maybe we’d figure out the next place to be. It’s really easy and it’s really fun, but I don’t think maybe 19,000 could be replicated quickly.
Chris: Right.
Eileen: But I think we could make it happen, don’t you?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, I do. I mean sometimes change is … Not all Facebook changes are negative or anything like that. All the new Facebook Live stuff and the focus on video. The whole live thing, especially, for a learning environment is a great opportunity to blend in not just passive video courses, but also some live sessions in the Facebook group or whatever.
Eileen: Yeah.
Chris: Cool.
Eileen: Yeah, I know. I think that’s part of the attraction to this business maybe for you and I because we both love to learn and we both love what’s next and staying current. Maybe it’s not as nerve-racking to me as other things.
Chris: Absolutely. Yeah, I just go with the flow. That’s it.
Eileen: Yeah.
Chris: That’s it. Cool, well, for the listener out there who’s just getting started and they’re at day one and they’re clicking the create group button, it sounds like if we were going to give a few tips of how to grow the group, it sounds like for you being in a strong niche with a lot of people that are just hungry for a community that doesn’t necessarily exist yet in a super micro-niche is one, your community is related to a certain product, or at least it started that way. Having that other company getting involved on there in their social conversations, whether that’s blog comments or they even write a post about your group, that was a big accelerator. What else has helped the growth in general?
Eileen: I think having niches within the niche. We have a huge amount of people in the group who are photographers. They tell one another about it. We have a lot of virtual assistants. They’ll say to their virtual assistant gang, “You should join this group.” Our own little helpers, we definitely have done some boosted posts. Anytime we write a blog post, or I write a blog post, where I may say, “This question came up in the Facebook group, Divi group.”
Chris: You link to it.
Eileen: I’ll link to it. Then we’ll get people to join that way. I think that slow growth maybe isn’t bad either because it’ll allow the person setting up the group to find their feet and figure out what works for them. I think definitely highlighting some of your power users is good.
Chris: The super connectors?
Eileen: Yeah, because they’re great. Sometimes I see people just answering all these questions. I’m like, “Who are you?”
Chris: I have a couple names in my head. I’m like, yeah, I know who comes to mind when I think about that, which is amazing.
Eileen: Yeah.
Chris: I have hired some of those people. I need to hire somebody for support, guess where I’m going first.
Eileen: I know. I know, I was speaking with Robby from Beaver Builder yesterday. The person that does all of their tutorials was one of their power users.
Chris: Yeah, it’s only natural.
Eileen: It makes perfect sense and it’s great, which is another thing is you don’t really know where your career opportunities are going to come from. Like we said earlier, so much business has come out of people answering questions because you say, “Man, she’s the Gravity forms guru,” or, “That person is the anything related to wedding photography websites.” We’ve got a whole slew of those people in the group. I’m going to this person who … I know Melissa Love. She comes to mind. She’s used Lifter on a new course that she’s launching. Michelle Nunan is one of our shared power users. I think it’s a great way to increase your own profile if you’re trying to get business or set up your own tribe by being active in a group.
Chris: Absolutely. Sometimes, like you were saying, the groups overlap. In LifterLMS, we have a segment of people who are really passionate about Divi. Then I’m sure you have some Divi people, there’s a small segment who’s interested in online courses. There’s other Facebook groups overlap, and those users move between. It’s really fascinating when you think about it. It’s just another way to grow is to not be an isolationist.
Eileen: Right.
Chris: Perhaps there’s other … I’m a member of probably … I mean, I’m a little obsessive about it, but probably 30 or 40 Facebook groups related to online courses. Do I spend all day and every day in there? No, but at least once a month I just like to drop in and check out, okay, what’s going on over here? What’s the conversation about? I know that person, that person, that person. You start recognizing faces and you can see, like you were saying where it’s helpful to be helpful, not just promotional all the time. If you are jumping around, I think that’s a beginner, newbie mistake is to always be slinging or promoting your stuff or whatever. I try to always be helpful. If it makes sense in LifterLMS or link to something, depending upon where I am, if the person is asking about I’ll do it, but I’m very sensitive to try to be helpful in the group and always give before take.
Eileen: Yeah. When I first started in my first Facebook group, which was my friend, Don, from high school who had the WordPress theme, I had this personal standard that I really tried to adhere to, which was for each question I was going to ask I had to have already answered or shared three things. It could be I found Unsplash, and I’m sharing it with you guys, or I found this plugin or somebody has a problem. You know what? I know how to do this. Let’s jump on Skype and I’ll help you solve it or here’s the answer or whatever. Whatever it is I’ll Tweet your blog post, whatever it was. I was really, really religious about it. The upside was whenever I had a question, people were so pleased to be able to answer. When you have a question you’re in that moment of frustration, which is why they’re pinging you on Twitter and Facebook and all the rest because they’re just desperate for an answer. I think you’re right. It’s fine to go into a group and poke around, but try not for your first post.
Chris: Buy my Ran Ban Sunglasses.
Eileen: Buy my Ray Ban Sunglasses. Definitely.
Chris: Right, well, let’s talk a little bit about just where LifterLMS and Divi overlap. If you’re new to all this, just to make sure everybody knows, LifterLMS is a WordPress plugin that makes it possible to create and protect online courses. It’s mostly about functionality. It does have some design elements, but you still need a hosting account. You need to install WordPress, and you need a theme. That’s where Divi comes in. Can you tell the uninitiated what is Divi?
Eileen: Divi is a WordPress theme from Elegant Themes. They have, I don’t know, maybe a hundred different themes. That is I think their showcase theme. What makes it so popular is their page builder. You can drag and drop, have columns, different modules. You can export and import. If you like a layout from one website, you can send it over to another website very easily. It’s very portable. Then within Divi, Andrew and I came to Lifter because I had a course. We had somebody give a whole video tutorial series on Essential Grid and as a free course, Andrew has done a course. For us, we used right out of the box. Your default layout and styling was just fine for what we need. As we mentioned before, Melissa Love has used it. She did some styling. Then Michelle Nunan has a theme, which I have been lucky enough to see. It’s a child’s theme, and she has … Because the LifterLMS pages are really custom post types, you can put a little snippet of code, which she’ll share with you right into your WordPress, I guess, page functions and post functions. Then you can use the Divi page builder. She’s come up with this child theme with the previous or next lesson and previous lesson in the side bars. Everything is really styled, and she’s got columns where you can download the audio, the video, the PDF documentation, whatever. It just looks great. If you’re really wanting to customize, then I wish her theme was live right now, but you’ll it hopefully in just a couple of days. I think you’ll like it.
Chris: Awesome. I can’t wait to see it. If you’re listening to this, by the time this goes live, it should be out. Where would people go to find that?
Eileen: Yup, it will be at ElegantMarketplace.com. Thank you.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Eileen: Anybody who is looking to get into the e-learning space, which you should be because the possibilities are limitless and especially with all of the features that you have from membership to audience engagement or whatever it is, it’s an unbelievable platform. You guys have thought of everything.
Chris: I appreciate that. The thing that we don’t have is just not a super heavy focus on design, so when someone like Michelle comes along and is like, “All right, I’m going to bring some awesome design to this,” that’s next level stuff. I mean, that really completes the picture.
Eileen: Right.
Chris: That’s really cool and I encourage anybody to go check that out.
Eileen: Yeah, yeah, I do, too. I can’t wait to see it or have everybody see it.
Chris: Awesome. Eileen, I want to thank you for coming on the show. What’s the URL for Elegant Marketplace if anybody is going to check that out?
Eileen: ElegenatMarketplace.com.
Chris: Awesome. Anywhere else you want to send people?
Eileen: We have all the usuals.
Chris: Okay.
Eileen: The Twitter, join the Divi Theme Users Facebook Group. What else? Pinterest. I typically will do the Pinterest stuff under Eileen Lonergan just because I’m addicted to Pinterest in my spare time.
Chris: Good to know. Let’s leave people with one pro tip for their Facebook group or creative ways to use Facebook groups. For me, I’m just going to say that if you’re just launching your course and you’re in the marketing phase, or even while you’re building it you should go ahead and start building your audience. It’s really important to get involved in Facebook groups where your ideal students hang out. For example, if you have a photography education website, it would be important to not just join Facebook groups with other photography teachers, but go find where your ideal photography aspiring photographers are hanging out, whether that’s a beginning photography group, and iPhone photography group, architecture or landscape photography group. Whatever it is, you can go somewhere and you might find an area with 30,000 people already in there that are within the range of who you’re trying to teach to. Go get involved. What’s yours Eileen?
Eileen: That’s a good one. I like yours a lot. I guess my tip is for the moderator or the founder would be don’t be afraid to inject a little bit of fun. We had a little ugly sweater party. Everybody posts their photos of them in an ugly sweater. In order to allow people to promote themselves or share what they’ve done or their successes, a lot of times on Friday I’ll post like it’s a virtual cocktail party. I’ll post, “Okay, drink time. Share what you’ve done this week.” Then people can put the sites that they’ve completed or the clients that they’ve landed. Some of the stuff people come up with is like, I’m so proud of you. It’s awesome. Don’t be afraid to have the human element in your group.
Chris: Awesome, well, Eileen Lonergan, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming on the show.
Eileen: Thank you so much, Chris. I appreciate it.


4 Access Models for Courses and Memberships

There are different ways you can choose for people to gain access to your courses or memberships. In this LMScast Chris Badgett of codeBOX will tell you about 4 access models for courses and memberships and how to choose the one that will work best for your situation.

In a previous episode Chris detailed the top 10 pricing models for online courses and membership sites, and these 4 access models dovetail nicely into continuing that discussion. The first access model is lifetime access, which works well for passive, evergreen reference content. It can help you make the sale, but it’s not scalable. If you do one-on-one coaching, email support, or other forms of direct interaction you won’t be able to maintain lifetime access to that. Software requires updates and support, so think hard about sustainability before promising lifetime access.

For most online training applications you want to get in, do the training, and get out. It’s a temporary contract, and most people don’t have a long-term attention span. Our second access model is called limited time access expiration. It lasts for a set period of time and then it ends. Really, most training is only relevant for a certain time period even when the results are good forever. With this model you set an active window of time for access to the course. At the end of that time the user is deleted from the course, but not from your site. Their account will still be available if they want to take another course from you.

The third access option is the specific access window that has a start date and an end date for everyone taking the course. It’s a great way to train a group all at once, perhaps a team, within a set time frame. And finally the fourth access model is the specific launch or ability to buy window. This is excellent for launching a new or updated course and involves setting a limited time to buy or gain access to the training. You can even combine the specific access window with a specific launch window. And you can layer pricing models with access models in a variety of ways.

These 4 access models for courses and memberships are already built into LifterLMS for you so you don’t need a third-party eCommerce engine to use these capabilities. You can simply create and sell engaging, protected online courses the way you want them all in one solution. For more details on these access models and how to choose the right one visit the LifterLMS blog.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and in this episode we’re going to be talking about the four access models for courses and memberships. Now what are we talking about here? In the last episode, we talked about the top ten pricing models that you can use to sell your online courses or your membership or your memberships or stack some side by side to give people multiple options or a pricing table, if you will, at checkout. Another important component besides pricing, things like a one-time payment, a flat recurring payment or free-with-membership or a dollar trial, these things are really important. What also dovetails nicely into that are four access models that you can use to automate and add an access component to your pricing model.

The first one … we’re going to talk about four of them, and the first one is called lifetime access. And I’m sure we’ve all come across this. We’ve seen this. When you discover a course is for sale, if you invest in it, if you purchase it or if you enroll in it for free, you are promised lifetime access to that course. Now, that’s a good thing in some cases. It’s not a good thing in other cases. When is it good? It’s good when the content is just of a passive nature, it’s evergreen, there’s probably not a live component in there, and it’s really just reference material and you can put it on your shelf metaphorically and just come back to it over and over again as needed. I like to say lifetime access might help you get the sale but your platform still needs to scale. What do I mean by that?

I mean, I see a lot of people offering lifetime access to their courses and memberships when it’s not really a good idea. It may help close the sale and create higher conversion because you’re making a promise of you’ll have lifetime access, but if you have things like live one-on-one coaching, email support, these types of things, it’s not necessarily a good idea because if your platform does become very successful, you might have a scalability problem where you can no longer keep that promise for all that one-on-one direct high touch interaction with you. It just may not scale. You might be making a promise that you can’t keep. We see this all the time in the software world.

People ask us about LifterLMS, “Hey, is this a one-time payment for lifetime access?” The answer is, “No, it’s not. It’s an annual license fee.” The reason for that is because software requires updates and support, so if I were to promise lifetime access to those things, that doesn’t scale. The product needs to be able to fund future development, to pay people to provide support and pay people to make updates to the software. You need to think about sustainability very carefully before you promise lifetime access.

The other thing I would add to that is there’s attention scarcity out there, so people are very busy, people have never been so busy and so bombarded with information, training options, opportunities, courses, opportunities for personal and professional development that if you think lifetime access gives you a competitive differentiator in your marketplace, I might argue that you might be a little off on that statement. The reason I mean by that is in most cases, when there’s a promise of training or to help somebody solve some kind of problem, it’s temporary in nature. It’s not that …

You want to get in. Your training needs to help somebody and then you want to get out. You make your promise. It happens over a set period of time and then you’re done because if you think about it, when you’ve learned things in your life, the actual training part was only relevant for a certain period of time. Sure, there’s things where you’re constantly doing lifelong learning and so on. In a lot of cases, for an online course or some kind of membership or training system, it really is only relevant for a certain amount of time. The results may last forever but the training does not need to happen for a lifetime.

A lot of people have books on their bookshelf that they never touch again, so I would encourage you to perhaps think about not doing lifetime access. That gets into our second access model which is called limited time access expiration. Now, there’s two ways to do this. One way is to expire the access to the course after a certain amount of time, from purchase or free enrollment. A common option for this is like a ninety days access, so after you buy this course or this training program, you have access for ninety days. Or what’s also common is like a year, so you have access to this for a year, but then when you’re done, like with LifterLMS, if you set it up this way, it will automatically remove that learner from that course after one year.

It doesn’t delete them off of the system. They still have a user account. They could buy another course and not have to create an account again. They are removed from that course. The other option is to expire based on a specific date. If your course is more temporal in nature or there’s really a reason for people to be moving through there and really finishing at one time for whatever reason, whether that’s there’s tutors that are involved and they’re only going to be around until the holiday or whatever it is, sometimes you expire a training program or a membership on a specific date. That’s another way to do limited time access expiration.

The other option is to do a specific access window. I think it’s easy to get seduced on the Internet with the “Everything’s always for sale, always online. Take any time. It’s evergreen. Your course could be bought at any time anywhere by anybody.” In some cases, some of the most valuable courses are actually … They want people moving through there as a cohort, as a group. There’s a start date. There’s an end date. You may buy it before the actual access window opens, or you may not be able to buy it until the access window’s open or you may be able to buy it during the time the access window’s open but then it’s going to shut down a week before the end or something like that. A specific access window is really important too for …

Like I said, be very careful with that access lifetime mentality. Perhaps you just want people, you want to move, let’s say, a group of people through your training program once or twice a year or even quarterly, four times a year. You start on the first of the month. It’s a thirty day training program. It ends on the end of the month. You only offer it once, twice, four times a year, even once a month. Maybe you’re always rolling people through it but they’re going through it at the same time, starting at the beginning of the month and ending at the end of the month. That’s a specific access window.

The next option is the specific launch or the ability to buy window. Now, in a software like LifterLMS, this is where you can set up a time when people can only invest or get access to a course during a certain period of time. This is often called a launch. You have a launch window, cart open, cart close. People can only get the ability, the right to purchase or enroll for free if it’s a free course during a specific enrollment access window. That’s really common if you’re doing a launch just like you could combine this way of thinking with the method we described before where you have a specific access window accompanied by a specific launch window. Let’s say you open up your course twice a year. One of them opens up on January 1st.

Let’s say you have a specific launch or ability to buy window one week before January 1st, so the last week in December, you may have an access window for the ability to purchase that course. Now then, on top of these access plans, you can layer on pricing. Let’s say we’re doing that pre-launch, cart open, cart close one week before a course. It’s only going to last thirty days starting on the first of the year. Let’s say we want to offer a one-time payment of a thousand dollars or three payments of three hundred and ninety-nine dollars and then potentially we could add another payment plan option on there as well.

You can see how I’m combining access windows with pricing to really structure an intelligent pricing and access model for your online course or your membership. If you want to find out more about this, you can head on over to the LifterLMS blog. Just do a quick search for the four access models for courses and memberships. You’ll also see a post right before that about the ten most popular pricing models that you can do with LifterLMS. One of the amazing things about LifterLMS is that it allows you to do all this without needing a separate third party eCommerce engine or membership site plugin to control access.

It’s all built for you inside of this online course tool and membership site tool so you can really create engaging online courses that are protected and they have the ability to be sold and accessed in the way you want all for one solution without having to string together a bunch of third party options to make it happen. All right. Thank you for checking out this episode of LMScast, and we’ll catch you in the next one.


Connect Your Learning Platform to Your CRM with Jack Arturo’s WP Fusion

In today’s LMScast Chris Badgett of codeBOX discusses how to connect your learning platform to your CRM with Jack Arturo’s WP Fusion. You’ll also learn about the benefits of doing business as a micro, multinational, digital nomad.

Jack Arturo has been a web developer for five years. He created WP Fusion when he saw a need to simplify the process of interconnecting WordPress to CRMs and other marketing automation tools for his clients. Jack’s WP Fusion works with LifterLMS to send your user data to your CRM. That includes contact information and tags that you can use to enhance your user’s experience with your courses, services, and other products.

Unlike most competitors, WP Fusion is an open source solution that you purchase one time, and it’s yours. The only recurring cost is for support and updates at three pricing levels based on your usage and needs, but there’s no commitment for that. It’s also more optimized, lightweight, scalable, and user-intuitive than most.

Basically when a user creates an account, WP Fusion can apply various tags that prompt your system tools – the CRM, the LMS, the shopping cart, automated emails, and forms – to take integrated actions. It also bridges a lot of WordPress plugins in innovative ways and provides extensive reporting capabilities. Plus it’s possible to dynamically add on new capabilities like special coupons and software integrations.

Jack’s vision is to help systems become more standardized. Being part of the digital nomad community gives him access to an organic network where people are working together on advancing technologies, tools, and methods, like optimizing existing PHP using JavaScript and REST APIs to integrate more tools and resources together. These non-hierarchical transient groups are opening up the way global business is done, solving the problems of the future, and keeping up with the rate of change through relationships and mobility.

We’re living in interesting times. The economy is changing, as is the way we work, and that rate of change is accelerating. If you’re willing to learn and evolve with it, you’ll be doing business in a more exciting and scalable way than has ever been possible before.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today I’m joined by Jack Arturo, creator of WP Fusion, and we’re going to get into what that does and how it can help you as an online course creator or digital entrepreneur. And we’re also going to talk a little bit about the digital nomad lifestyle. Jack, thanks for coming on the show.

Jack: Yeah, thank you.

Chris: Where are you? Where are you coming at us from today.

Jack: I’m in Lima, Peru. It’s finally summer here. We’ve got the inverse weather of the Northern Hemisphere. Pretty great today. I’m liking it right now. In about three months when it gets foggy again I think I’m going to head up to Europe as it starts to get warmer, but we can talk about the nomadic part of my life at the end of the call. Yeah, it’s a nice place to be. There’s actually a lot of people working in tech here. I’ve got a few friends from Canada who do major, like from scratch systems for airlines and banks and stuff like that because you can get a very talented angular JS or PHP developer down here for much cheaper than you could in the states. Believe it or not there’s actually kind of a cool programmer community down here. Yeah, it’s a cool place to be.

Chris: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Jack is the creator of WP Fusion. I first came across Jack at LifterLMS because we created a learning management software that makes it easy to create online courses, but a lot of times people want to get those contacts and get some data over to a CRM. We have a MailChimp integration, we have a ConvertKit integration, but there’s so many different ones out there, like for example there’s Infusion Soft, there’s Drip, there’s Active Campaign, which we actually use ourselves and love as our personal favorite CRM of choice, and then there’s also Ontraport, and what jack was able to do at WP Fusion is made it so that you could connect your LifterLMS Users and send that data over to those CRMs.

In the past we’ve used some kind of hacky systems where we do these Zapiers and things like that, but when I came across your product at WP Fusion, I was just blown away by how clear the thinking was and how it’s really, what it does to connect WordPress to different services and things. It was really just amazing and I think you really nailed it on the market need there.

Jack: Thanks, yeah. Sorry, go ahead.

Chris: Just tell us, like where did this whole idea for WP Fusion come from?

Jack: I’ve been a web developer about five years, and doing a lot of client sites. They get more and more complex and started doing a lot of API work, and I ended up doing a lot of sales sites where we’d be using Infused Woo, we’d be using the Gravity Forms Infusionsoft add-on and then we’d be writing a ton of custom code connecting advanced custom fields over to Fusion Soft and every single time it was reinventing the wheel, and also you might need four different plugins to connect the stuff you need on our site to this one system. You’re doing a lot of duplication there and you don’t know how well they’re going to be supported or maintained, and so what it originally started as, was we needed a system to connect User Pro to Infusionsoft which was just impossible at the time, just to have a new user register and make a contact record. There’s nobody that can do that.

There’s nothing out there. I was like, “All right, well well start with that,” and then somebody’s like, “Well, if you do user pro can you do Ultimate Member.” Yeah, okay. “Could you throw in a little bit to make LearnDash apply tags when this happens?” From the beginning, we started thinking like there’s a lot of different CRM solutions out there, and depending on the size of the business and how comfortable you are, and what you’re looking for there’s no perfect one, but they all basically revolve around, you’ve got a contact, and that’s got some data, you know, some fields that are information, and then you’re segmenting your contacts with tags. If you just boil it down to that, you can pretty much do anything you want in your CRMs. There’s some other systems out there similar to ours that are more like all-in-one membership systems where you set up membership levels and restrictions and that sort of thing. We wanted to keep it really simple.

Basically once you connect your WordPress site to whichever CRM using data diffusion, all of your WordPress contacts get mashed up with CRM contacts, and there’s a link, and the tags flow back and forth between them. If a WordPress user gets a tag applied by enrolling in a Lifter course, then that tag goes up to the CRM. Instead of trying to create … a heavy overblown interface in WordPress, now you’ve got all the power of something like Active Campaign, where you can say, “If this customer used a coupon to enroll in the course before September, and then he finished the course two weeks later, and referred a friend, send him another coupon.” Active Campaign’s all ready built that. They’ve put millions into that. I think we’ve come up with a very lightweight, elegant solution for letting you just take that WordPress data and hook it into the awesome power of those marketing automation tools.

Chris: That’s awesome. It’s like a really focused Zapier is one way I think about it. How are you different from Zapier?

Jack: Well Zapier just kills me. I actually use it a little bit myself. If I was rich I would use it for everything because it’s fun connecting stuff together. Basically, my whole career has been on WordPress and I’m a big open source person. I think code should be free to, not, I mean, WP Fusion is free. When you purchase it you’re purchasing support and updates, and I really believe its important for customers to be able to see what they’re buying, to understand the effort and qualities we put into it, and there’s no commitment. You don’t have to pay us every month or we cut you off. Like you know, with Infusionsoft or something like that.

Those guys aren’t trying to be WordPress, so that’s fine, but if you’re going to run it on WordPress, I think that you should stick to the principles of WordPress. Zapier is awesome, but if I was going to automate my life the way I would like to with Zapier, then I’m going to end up paying hundreds of dollars a month. I wish I had thought of that first, I wouldn’t be here right now. Also, we had a lot of benefits too because Zapier is … It’s not really, fully tied into anything. You can do some tricks to get it to notice when WooCommerce makes an order. It’s kind of sitting between two systems and it’s watching one and then going, “Oh, hey something happened.” And letting the other one know. Whereas we’re a lot more optimized, lightweight, and I think user-intuitive, because when you create your LifterLMS course, you can say, “When the user begins the course, apply these tags. When the user clicks the complete button, apply these tags.” It’s just done in one go. There’s, I don’t think even Zapier does Lifter, do they?

Chris: They don’t.

Jack: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah.

Jack: A lot of things you just couldn’t. We’re able to actually hook into your code, and where your code says, “This guy just completed a course.” Then WP Fusion’s like, “Okay, that happened. Let’s let Infusion Soft know.” It’s just more integrated, and I think more streamlined system, and easier to understand too for other people who want to build on top of it later.

Chris: That’s awesome. Well tell us a little bit about WuCommerce as an example. A lot of people who are listening to this, some of them don’t start with courses. They may all ready have products or services that they’re selling with WuCommerce, and then they want to add courses later. We have a WuCommerce integration for that, but if you’re using WuCommerce as your store, how does that work in terms of connecting to the CRMs?

Jack: Yeah. We actually, we didn’t really think of this at the beginning, but because all of our integrations are tied together through these tags, so for example our WuCommerce subscriptions integration. You can apply a tag when the subscription begins, but you can also have it removed if the subscription fails to pay, or expires, or whatever. With our Lifter integration you can enroll somebody in a course based on a tag. Right there without any extra work you can just say, “Apply my cool course tag.” As soon as WuCommerce applies that tag through their diffusion, the user gets enrolled in the Lifter course. If the subscription expires, the user is removed.

Also, because the tags are getting sent to your Crm as well you can send that automated email a week before or something like that. “Your payment is a week overdue, click here to update it.” That kind of thing. There’s a lot, like we have Gravity Forms integration so you can submit a form like a survey and then apply a tag at the end of the survey saying, “Survey completed.” Then have a page on your site with a special coupon that only shows if you completed the survey. With some creativity, it’s not only a connection between WordPress and the CRM, but it even can bridge a lot of these different WordPress plugins, and make them interact in ways that maybe the original authors didn’t think of. Some fun possibilities there, yeah.

Chris: That’s really cool. The next question I’m going to ask you is about your pricing and the addons. I’m in the exact same boat, where we have single site or more money for a five site license. We have all these addons, and even though I know in my head how everything works and what the offer is and you can get this package, or you can get this package. Sometimes people need a little bit of education around what the addons are, what they do, or what in general are they. How does the pricing work, how does the licensing work.

Jack: Sure yeah.

Chris: Can you walk me through, it looks like you have the three pricing levels, you have personal, plus, and professional. With plus and professional you get four pro addons, and then in your addons there you’ve got Abandoned Cart Tracking, E-Commerce Tracking, Media Tools, Birthday Tools. Help the first time person who’s never heard of you before understand your pricing and the offer there.

Jack: Sure, basically the price … We just started off with personal and professional. I wanted to keep it really simple. I’m a big fan of easy digit downloads and Affiliate WP, and I think their model works well, so I just copied what they did. You pay, it’s no automatic or recurring billing. At the end of the year you’ll get an email. If you wish to renew your licence you get a 30% discount and then you continue to have free support and automatic updates. Obviously we recommend you to renew because WordPress updates, WuCommerce updates, something might break, and if you have an active licence you’re guaranteed to get the fixes right away. It’s free software. Once you buy it you own it, and we can’t cut it off or anything like that. We had a ton of people about six months ago saying, “Well I really would like it, but you don’t do what Infuse Do does, which is sending e-commerce data.”

I started thinking about what I really wanted to focus on is users, tracking users, segmenting users, and contacts. If we start to add in, and especially since we were expanding as new CRMs, Infusionsoft has a very complex and very different e-commerce system. Active Campaign has a interesting one, but quite different, and the other CRMs don’t really have one. We started thinking about, well we don’t want to include this massive feature if three quarters of our customers aren’t going to use it, and it’s going to take a while to develop. So that’s what we launched with the e-commerce add-on. With our basic plugin, if you purchase, if a customer purchases in WuCommerce, the tag gets applied, the contact record gets created, but your sales data is still being run in WuCommerce, and that’s how I do it myself.

I think WuCommerce does a great job of reporting and that kind of stuff. Some people in enterprise situations they need to get all those sales also into Infusion Soft so they can assign sales reps and that kind of thing. With or e-commerce addon it actually creates the products in Infusion Soft based on the WuCommerce products. It creates an order record. It applies the products ordered, and then it logs the order to the customer’s record. You can use Infusion Soft’s reporting tools. The other addons grew out of that. It was things that customers asked for.

Chris: Like cart abandonment.

Jack: Yeah, cart abandon tracking. It’s something that if it’s running it will slow down your checkout a little bit, because of course we have to notice when they start checking out, and then we have to do something else when they start checking out. Even if it only adds two thirds of a second to somebody’s checkout, I wouldn’t want to push that on all our customers if only a small subset of them are going to use it. Yeah, and it basically, the way WP Fusion without the addons works, if you’re running Gravity Forms, our Gravity Forms options show up. If you’re not running Gravity Forms that whole part of the plug-in is just not there.

You can really be running, it’s really very fast and lightweight. It depends on how many things you’re integrating with, and anything that’s not directly fitting into that spider’s web of plug-ins and then back out to CRMs, we decided to do as addons. We get to do experimental things too. The birthday coupons was a customer who just really wanted to try that out, and we’re like, “Oh, yeah sure why not.” There’s only a few people using it, but it’s kind of cool. It’s out there if you like it.

Chris: What’s the media tools?

Jack: Media tools was fun actually. I don’t think anybody else is really doing this. For example, if you have a, you could have a video in one of your lessons, like an uploaded video, either in an MP4 or a Vimeo video, and when you click on the video we add some new options there that say, “Apply tag when the user begins watching the video. When they reach a certain time-code, and when they reach the end of the video.” For example, with our course progression, you have your own built-in one, but say, for example, you wanted to use tags to manage course progression, you could say the user has to begin watching the video and make it at least two thirds of the way through, or else when he clicks on the next course it’s going to send them back to there to finish the video.

Chris: That’s very cool.

Jack: Yeah, even outside of you learning. I’m doing another big site right now where we’re doing a huge training platform for a large company, and employees get bonuses by watching replays of their training seminars in video form.

Chris: Oh that’s really cool, incentivized, but there’s a way to actually track that, that’s cool.

Jack: Yeah, and they don’t know we’re tracking it.

Chris: It’s a surprise.

Jack: It’s kind of a mystery thing, yeah. It’s like they get awards and bonuses for being the most engaged and I don’t remember what the business terminology is for all that stuff. We can see which employees are actually watching the replays after they attend the seminar. At the end of the month, because we have all the tags there, we can see if this group of employees has watched five of them they get this, if this group has watched two they get this, and if this guy didn’t watch any maybe we’ll send him an email, and we’ll also get a task for a supervisor to follow up and be like, “Get on the ball there.” I don’t get too much into the marketing automation side of it, just because it’s so overwhelming, but I’ve seen some amazing stuff done by people who know what they’re doing in that area.

Chris: That’s really awesome. For us, we use Active Campaign as our main CRM. For LifterLMS, which is a software product, the number one thing that where people are before they buy LifterLMS is our demo course. I’m going to be setting up WP Fusion on there to get our users into Active Campaign. I have it set up in a really hacky way through Zapier, but now that you’re on the scene I can’t wait to play with it in detail and try some of these more advanced, messing around with the add-ons and stuff.

Jack: Yeah, I get a kick out of pitching in and helping you out with that. We could do a little like, when the video button gets clicked we could have a bubble pop up and say, “Tag applied.” Something you know?

Chris: Okay, yeah.

Jack: A little interactivity just to get them a sense of where the data is flowing out. That kind of stuff, whatever. I like playing with that kind of stuff.

Chris: That’s really cool.

Jack: Let me know, that’ll be fun.

Chris: Yeah, I’m super excited to go deeper with WP Fusion. You’re just hitting such a big need for people and doing it in an intuitive way.

Jack: Yeah, I’m glad we found you guys too, because I’ve done so many LearnDash sites over the years, and it works, but I train clients on it, and it’s like you have to explain in all this course progression, and then the points and the quizzes. The quiz is kind of a different plugin that got shoved in their later, and from a developer standpoint it’s not much fun, and like I was saying to you, I got this Brazilian TV show that we’re setting up a big Lifter site on, and I showed it to them. Even just the fact that it’s a little more colorful or something like that. They’re like, “Yeah, okay we get this, so this is price, right? We put our stuff in here?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s pretty much it, and I’ve got a little custom field here for your video, and oh, you’re good to go.” I’ve been made a convert for sure. It’s finally nice to see an alternative.

Chris: That’s awesome. I appreciate that. Thanks for saying that. Well let’s close it out and just talk about something that’s near and dear to both of us, and the listener, perhaps, which is the whole digital nomad thing. I just got off of seven months on the road with my family living out of a travel trailer, visiting national parks in the US, but also running my business from the road. I was just down in Mexico for a conference with some other WordPress business folks, who do similar things. Just because you have that freedom to be location independent it doesn’t mean you always are living out of a backpack on a plane and in a hotel. It sounds like you’ve been in Peru, or Lima for a bit. You move around, but it’s not like you’re traveling every single day. Tell us about your digital nomadism.

Jack: Yeah, I’m easing into it. I’ve been freelancing on and off. I haven’t really had a real job so I’ve been doing websites probably since I was like 15 …they weren’t very good back then. Yeah, but still I work part time as a contractor with real companies, you know you have that security and that kind of thing. Probably four years ago my wife and I were like, you know, we just want to go somewhere for six months. Before we just get sucked into people who never leave this town again, and at least try that. We love where we were, but we wanted to at least see something completely different. It was almost literally a dart on a board. It landed on Peru, and ended up here, and actually kind of hated it the first three months, but we realized I wasn’t making quite as much money, but I had my laptop. I was helping a woman publish her e-book and do print on demand stuff, and it all pretty much worked. She thought it was cool that I was traveling.

I thought clients would be like, you know wanting me in the boardroom. I talked to her every morning, and she’d be asking, “Where’d you go yesterday? What’d you see over the weekend? How was Machu Picchu?” It almost made the, in becoming less professional made everybody have more fun, which I was surprised at. Then, it kind of grew from there. I’m now, like, my skills and rates are going nuts, so I tend to take on clients who are doing interesting projects. Like I was saying earlier I’ve now started to get involved with these sort of digital nomad groups. I was surprised that they have these kind of co-labs, or co-working houses.

It’s kind of like a hacker house, but a little more classy. Yeah, you can live like on a beach in Bali. It’s like 140-200 bucks a month. Private rooms, very clean, and with say 60 other designers, developers, marketers. There’s a chef there that caters everything. Free surfing lessons, yoga classes, a pool in the middle, very nice, and then they’re in a shared office space. A lot of people I’ve met who are doing this say it’s actually better than being in a fixed environment, because you might roll in and meet somebody with a great app idea, as rare as those are, but maybe stuff just clicks over a drink. Then great things happen.

I’ve met a few people on this cruise I took. A nomad cruise, we took from Cartegena to Lisbon, and they were just sitting … We had like a hack-a-thon to develop four prototype businesses in 48 hours. They were kind of silly, but I was amazed at what a group of strangers who are all kind of independently minded and just willing to get out of their comfort zones could come up with on a boat with a lot of alcohol and laptops and 48 hours. We had a, what was Michael’s, about phoning your mom? One guy had a, he created a app within a day that on your mother’s birthday it would start yelling at you, “Phone your mother! Phone your mother!”

Chris: That’s good, I could use that actually.

Jack: Yeah, you could see, even a 99 cents sale. I got really inspired by that, and I started thinking maybe next year I might, I like having an apartment, but it might almost be fun to do four weeks here, four weeks there, and soak in some ideas and meet some people with mentalities and different cultures and backgrounds and stuff like that. I’m a real programmer type guy and if I could meet a great marketer, who knows what would happen, or designer. It’s an exciting new frontier. A lot of people don’t really understand it. Some governments are actually … I heard that the-

Chris: No, like how do you tax that? Is that what you’re-

Jack: Yeah, well and actually the other great thing is as long as I spent less than 30 days a year in the states I get a huge tax deduction.

Chris: Are you supposed to do Peruvian taxes or something?

Jack: No, because my bank accounts are all in the states, but if I don’t reside there for any more than 30 days you get a foreign-earned income tax deduction.

Chris: Then digital products are, I don’t know. I’m going to go off my expertise and I don’t know it’s kind of confusing.

Jack: Exactly, so I have customers in 160 countries. That actually makes that a lot easier. Even I have nomad friends in Europe now who are relocating their businesses to Estonia. Talk about Estonia you can get your, they will make you a electronic resident of Estonia over the internet and create your bank account, your business licence, and you get this, I’ve even seen some super fancy bio-metric card you just hold up to your computer and it certifies you for doing your banking activity.

Chris: Okay.

Jack: They want entrepreneurs and creative types to come to Estonia, establish their residency and business there, and the tax rates are super low. I think it’s Malaysia now that’s just started offering seven year visas for entrepreneur types, if you want to come there and do that kind of co-working thing or something and you like it and you want to stay for a few years they’re fine with that. You can’t work legally, but they’re realizing a lot of people are working for European and North American companies and spending that money in the local currency. It’s kind of cool to see some countries are starting to make allowances for that, or being more welcome to people like that. It’s a cool, evolving scene. It’s an interesting time to be in it for sure.

Chris: Yeah, Dan Andrews from the Tropical MBA Podcast, he calls that the rise of the micro-multinational.

Jack: Yeah.

Chris: I don’t know if he’s, he was going to write a book about it. Dan if you’re listening I’m of just what happened with the book. Yeah, so interesting times, and when we work in this space, whether you’re a software creator, a marketer, you’re an expert and you’re creating digital products like online courses or e-books or whatever, it may feel like the party’s over, but in reality I think this is just the beginning. The economy is changing rapidly, more and more people are coming online, there’s parts of the world that are just now coming online. They’re skipping the whole desktop thing and going straight to mobile. It’s a really exciting time, and the tools have never been more powerful.

Jack: With the web technologies now too, especially because we’re moving towards so many open APIs and stuff like that, it’s no longer, “I’m an Oracle guy and you’re a Microsoft guy.” It’s like there may be ten of us with odd little web services sitting at one of these co-working retreats, but if we’ve all got the same REST API, we can just make those work together in ways, or even let our customers blend our tiny components however they like. I guess that’s what we’re trying to do with WP Fusion in a way, is like for every plugin we give you a little bit of power, and then you can do what you like with it, and I think that that’s, yeah I think that’s a … I don’t want to get too philosophical. But you could go into small, good systems that all talk to each other in effective ways, that would be a good future to move into.

Chris: That’s awesome. Well, let me ask you a question related to that for the non-technical person out there …

Jack: I get a little technical sometimes, yeah.

Chris: No, it’s okay, but we hear about it in the WordPress community, or whatever, about the rest API, and moving all to JavaScript. What does that mean for the layman? How does that open up the opportunity?

Jack: I’ve got to actually start studying again. That stuff’s confusing. It is exciting because, I mean, PHP is actually, PHP is the language WordPress is written in, and it’s an old system. It’s been optimized a lot, but you can’t really change the groundwork there. You get some limitations like when you go on Facebook, you never really reload a page. Your notifications slide in, and everything slides in, so that’s your JavaScript layer. Facebook is still built on PHP. PHP’s doing the like, it’s figuring out who your friends are and what pictures you want to see. On top of that, they have pretty shiny layer that makes it cool and hip. What WordPress is doing right now is it’s not getting rid of that powerful under-layer, but it’s just opening it up so that if you want to sit your shiny, pretty layer on top of it you can. I’ve seen some interesting stuff done with it.

Like you theoretically, when all these things come together you could build a Facebook copy on top of WordPress and have it run just as well. That’s, I think, where they’re really focused. Also where we’re moving into mobile applications and things like that your website could behave just like an app. No real reloading, everything available all the time. I don’t fully understand it and it scares me a little bit, but I do think it’s the right direction. It’s also, well, in layman terms, when you click on a page in a WordPress site, the whole page gets thrown away, and the server churns up and figures out what the next one’s going to be, and then it gives it to you. The way things are moving now with these new technologies is if you like your friends photo, just the like button changes. Instead of rebuilding all the stuff, so we’re saving on electricity, we’re saving on data storage space, and it makes it more modular and easier to understand, and easy to stand upon later too. Efficiency, yeah.

Chris: That’s awesome.

Jack: Yeah, it’s exciting and terrifying for me.

Chris: Yeah well I mean the rate of change is accelerating. That’s one of the reasons why I think, like you mentioned in the digital nomad community, when you’re in these networks of other people, in the future, going forward having good relationships and not trying to do it solo, or just having a network is going to become even more important to solve the problems of the future and to keep up with the rate of change, and all that sort of thing.

Jack: Yeah, and I like that because it’s not … I grew up thinking you have to be a businessman, wear a suit, and go to official meetings and contracts and stuff, but you could meet a guy who’s a really good interface designer when it comes to pet websites, or something like that, and have a good time. Two years later you happen to get a, I don’t know, government contract for a animal rescue. You’re like, “Hey, yeah, how are you doing man?” There’s this cool, like organic network of we all have our interests and our focus and our strengths. It’s more organic.

There’s no, “I’m the boss, this is the project, you guys do it.” It’s more like, “I’ve got an opportunity, but I can’t do it on my own and I know some people. I’ll bring together a team, make it happen, and the team disperses.” I think even that’s more efficient in a way too, because you’ve got interested people doing what they want to do instead of a rigid hierarchy of people being told what to do.

Chris: Absolutely, and if you haven’t read the book-

Jack: I like the future, I’m optimistic about the future all the time.

Chris: If you’re listen to this, and you haven’t read the book Rework yet, go ahead and check that out. It’s a good book about remote teams.

Jack: Yeah.

Chris: Well, last question, what is the future for WP Fusion? Like where are you going? What’s your strategy? What can people expect down the road?

Jack: I’m not really sure. We’ve gotten to the point now where it works really well. I got really into making it faster a couple of months ago, and just … Well I won’t even begin to talk about that. It was complicated and I’m happy with the way that it turned out. Now really, it’s just somebody will email and say, “I’m interested in this.” Somebody emailed this morning and said, “I’d like to buy it, but I need it to work with MemberPress.” So we did MemberPress. Because of the way it’s written we could add a thousand integrations and the download size would be a little bit bigger, but it doesn’t affect your site performance at all. Eventually I’d hope, I’m even talking to some other businesses right now. I’m hoping that this might become a standardized framework for communicating with these CRMs, because the CRM industry is expanding.

Chris: They’re all different. There’s no standard, right?

Jack: Yeah, there’s no real standard, but what you want for the most part is pretty much the same. WordPress has just made an announcement. They want to get 51% market share of all new websites in the next ten years or something like that.

Chris: They’re currently at like 27% or something.

Jack: Yeah, so it’s ambitious, but they’ve got a dedicated team called the 51 Team.

Chris: Okay, sounds like WordPress.

Jack: WordPress, I think they could do it, is pushing in that direction. CRM is market, or like total sales, and that kind of thing year over year is growing 20-25%. I think they’re great. When I first saw Infusion Soft I was like, “Why would you need this?” Now that I see how, if you’re running a huge business you can’t have a one-on-one relationship necessarily with a customer, but if you don’t let a customer feel taken care of you lose them. By creating these rules and automations, you can make sure that you get notified exactly right before that customer needs you. You can still have that close, personal relationship, but not be driven insane by it.

I think with WordPress growing, and CRMs growing, one day if we could become a standardized framework so that there doesn’t have to be this fragmented ecosystem of different people trying to connect different things in different ways. If you created a new CRM and wanted to connect everything that we work with to it, you could easily do that as a separate plug-in just interface with ours. If somebody creates a new plug-in that we don’t want to support, but they want to connect to our CRMs they can just attach that in there. Maybe one day it would become kind of a hub that just standardizes. Like what we were saying with rest APIs for example how now services that couldn’t talk before can now talk. Maybe just be like a baby version of that for WordPress. For just getting data out of the website and into the marketing system.

Chris: That’s really cool. Well, Jack Arturo, ladies and gentlemen. WP Fusion. You can find him out more at WPFusionPlugin.com.

Jack: Check it out.

Chris: Check it out, and thank you for coming on the show.

Jack: Yeah, thank you so much. It’s been a great time talking to you.


SEO Basics for Online Course Creators with Scott Magdalein

This LMScast features Chris Badgett of codeBOX explaining SEO basics for online course creators with Scott Magdalein from TrainedUp. You’ll actually gain enough knowledge in this episode to get SEO working to increase traffic to your own website.

TrainedUp is a volunteer training and leadership development tool for ministries that Scott created originally for his own use. It has since become a growing online course platform for training volunteers, missionaries, and pastors. He talks a little about his beginnings with creating search engine optimized content and learning how to rank on Google. Discussion then continues around how to do SEO that will get you ranked without getting Google Slapped.

Unethical practices can get your site banned, blacklisted, and removed from the internet. Focus on creating good content and building a trustworthy reputation through earning link integrity. Stay away from shady or even questionable black or grey hat SEO tactics. You simply can’t game Google’s algorithm. The key is to make sure your content has relevance and authority. Follow white hat SEO techniques using original content to generate organic keyword propagation.

You may have an online course website, membership site, or LMS where your content is restricted, and thus not open to the general public. This kind of content is generally not indexed by Google, so it’s not going to help you – or hinder you – in getting ranked.

One element that will get you ranked is a great blog with SEO-rich content. Each blog post is a new page in your site. Blog posts are searchable, they get real traffic, and they generate linkbacks from high authority sites. You can create blog posts from content in your courses and include previews and teasers to attract interest in those courses. Images and media content on your website also pull in viewers using proper SEO-based titling. Also use good anchor text on all of your links, and remember the blog title itself is very important for SEO.

Chris and Scott also discuss tools like Yoast, Moz, and Majestic, as well as traps to avoid like malicious linkbacks, invasive pop-ups, dead-end pages, and duplicate content. They wrap up with the 3 SEO Basics you need to have in place for success.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and in this episode I’m joined with Scott Magdalein from TrainedUp, which is a online course platform designed to create highly engaging ministry training and to help use online courses to train volunteers, develop leaders, equip missionaries and resources pastors in getting their skills out there. So thanks for coming on the show, Scott.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, Man. My pleasure. Thanks for having me. This is really cool.

Chris Badgett: Good to have you here. Well, the main topic of this episode is we are actually going to get into SEO, but before we get into that, tell us a little bit more about TrainedUp. What’s your story? How’d you get into it? What problem are you solving with your LMS platform TrainedUp?

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, well TrainedUp works on a really really specific problem and that is volunteer training and leadership development in ministries. That would be like churches and mission organizations and faith base non profits, local non profits, that sort of thing. It’s a challenge that is just kind of a budding technology. It’s just now kind of coming around to letting technology solve that problem but it is a problem or at least a challenge that pretty much every ministry related organization has. Most ministries are really have to lean on volunteers and so being as volunteers trained is a big, big job.

We came around it because I myself have been in ministry and I’ve always had the trouble of training my own volunteers in a way that’s kind of scales and is efficient and is consistent across the board, so I built Trained Up originally for myself so I could use it in my own ministry. Then, as some of my other ministry leader friends found it they decided that it was something they could use and over time it kind of turned into a little business that’s now growing into a bigger business. It started out as a tool for myself.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. What does Trained Up do?

Scott Magdalein: Well, Trained Up is pretty simple. It’s an LMS that allows any kind of ministry leader to create a course online and … It’s usually video courses but they can be any kind of content and allow their volunteers to go through it and complete full courses for training. There’s also, we have a couple of other features in there that we kind of say that there’s 3 legs to this Trained Up stool.

There’s the main one which is courses, and it allows you to make courses just like you can imagine. Then, we also have 2 others that are called resources and webinars. Resources is a way to share collections of files, sort of like DropBox but branded and behind the log in domain in your Trained Up accounts. Then, there are webinars which is like a live streaming, live chat kind of tool to be able to do live training in remote areas. A lot of our missionary organizations use the webinar feature to be able to train missionaries over seas without having to site them in for training.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, if you are listening to this and you would like to check out Trained Up, you can head on over to TrainedUp.org and see what that’s all about. Today we are really going to get into SEO, search engine optimization and this is a great topic because there’s so much junk or garbage out there and just bad advice or over confident advice. Scott is somebody who really cares about SEO and can get traction, can help actually create search engine optimized content. This is an issue that I’m really excited about.

I’ve done a lot of the hard yards in learning how to do SEO. I’ve also, when I’ve run an agency, I’ve kind of come on to projects that had involved some kind of SEO agency and I found something that were a little unethical or weird or all kinds of link wheels and really just a lot of bad advice. I understand the promise of search engine optimization, everybody wants it, everybody wants to be number 1 on Google for whatever but the reality is is it’s a lot of hard work but you want to be doing … It doesn’t have to be hard but it takes consistency, it takes doing the right things, it’s not a passive thing that you just throw money at. You have to do the work, create the content.

I’m really excited to kind of merge our experience together here and talk about SEO that actually works. I’ve often, if I had some free time, I’ve always wanted to create a no BS SEO course that teaches people, just beginner, and trust me, just doing the basics can bring you a long way, especially over a decent time horizon. This is not over night success land here. Anyways, maybe one day we can collaborate on a course about that.

Let’s get into it. What’s your history with SEO? How did you get into it? Let’s start there.

Scott Magdalein: Man, I’ve been working in search for probably 8 years now which isn’t as long as a lot of other people but I have what feels like a long history with working around, tip toeing around, Google’s rules. Mainly we say search, we mean Google. I mean, it’s pretty much Yahoo and Bing and even all those others, they still use a lot of the same rules so if you can rank in Google then the others are fine.

My search history kind of goes back to my own business when I started a marketing company, really a mortgage new generation company back in mid 2000s I guess. I didn’t have a whole lot of budget so I couldn’t run ads or whatever so I had to figure out how to get in front of people searching for buying a mortgage. We were up against big banks and all that kind of stuff trying to generate leads for mortgage brokers.

At the time, of course, there were link farms and you could do a lot of whole various stuff and still get ranked without too many penalties. Overtime, of course, those penalties grew harder, bigger, and harsher and tighter perimeters around what you were allowed to do. Over time my techniques really just simplified into what you were talking, the long hard work of content creation, technical SEO, just making sure all of the bits and pieces are lined up properly and site map is generating properly regularly and everything is indexed well and all that stuff. Content creation and building reputation, building authority through link building, link earning rather.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Yeah, I mean, just to give people an idea, SEO back in the day, like if I wanted to rank for the phrase ‘word press LMS’ I could just put the word ‘word press LMS’ 137 times at the bottom of my home page and that would help me but the reality is, you can’t outsmart Google. You shouldn’t try to. It’s not there as a system to be gamed. Yeah, I mean people always find a loop hole to exploit or something like that but over time it’s gotten so much smarter and what Google really cares about these days is relevance, authority, these kinds of these you are talking about.

They have, Google’s algorithm for figuring these things out is not something that you can crack and you hear about it with penguin and panda, all these Google updates that all of a sudden this loop hole that all these people are exploiting like, I don’t know. I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Maybe like using anchor links …

Scott Magdalein: Over using anchor links, yeah.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, all of a sudden you get slapped and now your website disappears from the internet. It’s called a Google slap. If you feel like you are gaming the system, you probably are and I would avoid because eventually it will catch up with you.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, that’s true. Usually what I like to say is in Google search if you think you found a loop hole then you probably found a noose because it’s probably going to come back and hang you. The thing is from with a Google slap as you called it, I never heard that. That was funny. Is that it’s not just that you get un ranked but you get banned and black listed. It’s not just a matter of undoing what you did, you have to regain authority and regain trust with Google and a lot of times it actually even takes contacting Google to prove that you amended your ways and you have rehabilitated. It’s not easy.

Chris Badgett: There’s another couple … We’ll get into some tactics and some ideas here but one of the key things to just realize is there’s something called black hat SEO, white hat SEO, and grey hat SEO. The black hate SEO is all the shady, not cool stuff that you might get away with. The grey hat stuff is things where you are not sure, maybe it’s a little bit shady but it works but it’s not necessarily clean as a whistle. Where as organic content that you wrote yourself that happens to include in a natural cadence the key words related to your business, that’s a white hat technique. It’s very much legit.

We want to talk about really the white hat techniques here but you’ll hear that if you start researching SEO and you hear people talking about black hat or grey hat or white hat. Focus on the white hat, that’s the stuff that’s good and that you don’t even have to worry about, it’s just best practices.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah.

Chris Badgett: Maybe Scott we can get into something, just some specific concepts that people should understand and then give some examples. Before we do, I just want to frame in, a lot of the people listening to this you probably have an online course website or a membership site or a learning management system which gives you a unique SEO challenge in that a lot of your content is protect and restricted so that members only or customers only who have enrolled in a certain course or membership are allowed to see the content, therefore, Google is not going to automatically necessarily index that protected content. They are not going to give you a bunch of … They are not going to rank you for stuff that isn’t openly available to the public.

What Google really likes … They don’t like dead ends and stuff that’s kind of hidden. It’s not bad to have your content restricted to members only, just know that that’s not necessarily helping you a lot for SEO. If you have an online course or a membership site, it’s really important that the content on your home page, on your other pages, like your about page and all kind of feature pages or whatever, that that content you pay a lot of attention to that from a SEO perspective.

Also, I highly recommend that you do something like have a blog that’s free and open to the public which is your opportunity to really create a lot of content, SEO rich content for your platform so that you are not just keeping a secret from Google everything that’s kind of locked in and hidden inside your courses and your memberships.

Let’s get into somethings. What are some key concepts that people should pay attention to? What would be some tactics that they could try to do?

Scott Magdalein: Some key concepts probably would be like you said, you mentioned how important it is to have a blog. Blogs, although they feel chronological to us as humans, they are considered pages by Google, and so every blog post you create creates a new page in your site. Of course you should be, whatever website building you are using should be indexing those individual blog post as well. Blog post are the easiest way to create new pages in your site. I mean, it’s one thing to create a topic specific page on your site like a feature or a service that you provide or some topic that you know about, it just feels more natural to create a blog post.

Blog post can use more natural language generally. They can be a little bit more time sensitive so you write something about something that’s happening right now or happening recently. Keeping up and maintaining a blog is probably my number one content and creation suggestion. If you don’t have a blog it’s tough to rank all your other pages because generally pages on a website don’t get the link back, kind of stuff that blog post usually have.

As far as coming up with content, the hardest part about blogging is content creation. It’s not writing the actual content, it’s coming up with content and then, not just the content idea but how do you feel it out? The great thing is that course creators, people who create any kind of teaching or training content, that’s my clients too, they have a great opportunity to repurpose and reuse and restate all that content that’s inside their course. All those videos and hopefully the transcripts for those videos. They live behind a log in wall so they are not being index so that’s good for the course side of it but there’s no reason that you can’t repurpose that content into previews or snippets or teasers or whatever that can become blog posts, that become pages on your site, that become teaser videos with transcripts on Youtube. These are all highly searchable pieces of content that don’t have to give away all the apples in your course and you don’t have to give it away so that the course becomes less valuable but they are good search pieces that Google can hang on to and chew on and provide for when they are searching for stuff related to your topics.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I’ll give you another pro tip in terms of content which is images. A lot of people don’t pay enough attention to images. Google likes to see multi media types of content and Google … It’s getting better. AI or whatever, it’s a thing and Google might be able to tell what’s in an image but contributors usually can’t tell what they are looking at so you have to tell them what we are looking at here.

For example, even just the title without getting any of the more fancy titles and things like that. If you have a picture, if you are going to add it to a blog post or any where on your site, take 20 seconds and re title that photograph by the name or the phrase or whatever is in the picture so you are telling Google what this image is. For example, if I take a picture off my phone and the title of it is image 0157 on my site, it’s not really doing anything for my SEO but for me, if I’m selling a word press plug in. If I take a moment and take that logo image and re title it from image 0157 to lifter LMS a word press learning management system plug in for online courses and then I upload it to my site, I’ve just done a huge value to my SEO. You can even go back into your media library or word press or whatever, you can redo this stuff later if you need to. Images is often one of those things that can really help you if you get some good habits around that.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, absolutely. All those little things matter. Making sure that you have good anchor text on all of your links instead of just kind of dropping the URL itself in there. Make sure it’s turned into a text link instead of a URL. Add titles to your URLs if you have time to go back … Not to your URLs, to your links. If you have time to go back and do that. There’s also, I mean, we tend to think about the content itself but it’s really also important to have page titles and page descriptions on all of your pages as well as your blog posts.

I personally manually write up a title and description that’s a search title and search description that I want Google to know about and Google to use when they rank one of my blog post. A blog post might be ‘How to train church leaders in 10 seconds a day or something like that but the search title is a little bit more optimized. I make sure that it’s tighter. It fits in within the … I forget what the character length is, Yoast helps mewith that, but it fits within Google’s search parameters and then I write a description that fits within their limits on the description text. Of course, I use WordPress, so the Yoast plugin makes it really easy to add a title description to everything but that’s really valuable because it helps Google to know what to actually show in the search results page.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. The Yost plug in, which is called, I believe it’s called Yost SEO, it’s one of the … I take a mentalist approach when it comes to plug ins but whenever I’m building a site I always put that one in there and use it as a tool to make sure those titles are optimized. A meta description it’s called, so when you go to Google and you search for something and you see that big blue title and that short paragraph in black letters, that short paragraph in black letters is where you can put in the meta description and the SEO title. If you want that to say something else that’s more focused or shorter than the title of the content, you can do that. That’s a really good tip there.

Well, let’s talk more about the difference between in bound and out bound links. In bound links are where other sites link to your site and the authority of the site linking to you, like if the Huffington post links to you or some crazy spamming site links to you, the opposite thing can happen. You can actually get hurt or you can be dramatically helped at the quality or the authority of that inbound link. Let’s talk about in bound links a little bit. What else should people know about in bound links and how to get more of them?

Scott Magdalein: Yes, so I mean, my number 1 tactic isn’t so secret. It’s trying to get in touch with site owners, content producers on other sites and either produce content for them, ask for a back link on one of their pages, tell them about my service so they’ll link to it in their suggestions places. Those old school link roles. You remember, I don’t know if you’ve been around long enough, but those blog roles from back in the day?

Chris Badgett: Oh yeah.

Scott Magdalein: Like the sidebar, those are essentially like my friends, my internet friends. Those things were actually good links to you back, so that’s really good. I also try to focus on high domain authority sites within my niche, what I’m talking about, what we talk about. Domain authority you can use tools. There are probably a dozen tools to evaluate the domain authority of different sites on the web. I use Moz, they’re an open site explorer or something like that, fresh web explorer. I’m not sure, they have all these different explorer tools. It tells me domain authority of the fact that I want to target with content, either as guest content or with links or whatever. I do that, I kind of reach out.

Also, I’ve heard that .gov and .edu sites, if you get a link from one of those, they have natural high authority because they typically have higher trust and so if you can get a link back from one of those it’s really good. Especially if you are a course creator and you are doing your own teaching you might be able to find some sites in your category or your area that might be willing to … Not trade links. I don’t know if that’s even a thing anymore but essentially be able to post content in their space and link back to you.

Also, again, I use Moz and they’ll tell you the standing links coming back. You can check and see if there are links that you didn’t want to create, like someone created a link back to your site and it’s getting flagged for spam because if you get to 8 or 9 or 10 spam flags, Google will start to black list you and penalize you for it. You want to watch out for any links that are triggering Google’s spam alert system.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely and you can go through a process through Google web master tools that’s called devaluing where you can be like, “I don’t want those to count at all towards my SEO or whatever. Just don’t pay attention to those because i don’t like them because they are spam or whatever.” That’s cool.

Another thing, I like your point about guest posting, that’s a really good one. There’s a lot of people out there who, especially if you are course creator, you are probably better than average at creating content, there’s a lot of other publishers out there that’d be happy to have some new fresh content on their blogs or whatever are more than happy to give you are link back to your site.

The other thing you can do is rate some of your own back links. For example, Left your own mess, we have a YouTube channel. All these podcast videos go on YouTube. I think we are up somewhere around a couple hundred videos, maybe 300. Every single one of those in the description has a link to LifterLMS.com, a specific blog post, specific product, or whatever is the context of that video. That creates a huge amount of … I don’t know if they index it in the same way then like somebody else’s site that isn’t open to the public or whatever but what I’m saying is that when I create something somewhere else, if I have the opportunity to create a link, I’m always going to throw a link in there. Not to the point of being annoying but I’m just going to throw a link in there if I’m trying to move traffic in.

In my approach, a lot of times, on that kind of website I usually don’t put social media on the site at all. If I’m on Facebook, I want people to come to my website. If I’m on YouTube, I want people to come to my website. If I’m on Itunes, I want them to come to my website. It’s not bad to have links out to these places either especially if you are pretty active on them. Just think about your link strategy. Really at the end of the day, I think what Google wants is more of an organic web. If your link strategy is too perfect, and it looks …. You are not going to get penalized for linking to content.

Scott Magdalein: No you won’t get penalized for linking to your content from your own social. They aren’t counted at the same weight as general web links but there are some sort of signal in there that counts buzz and social conversation about your content so that helps for certain. Of course, social activity helps. Google can associate your social accounts with your site and will help to effect your domain authority and page rank based on your social activity and social interaction as well. Those are all signals that kind of play in.

There’s also other signals, I was just thinking a moment ago another big signal … Oh, something else we haven’t talked about yet is Google upped … Last year they upped the value of the signal for mobile friendliness. Most websites now a days I guess, unless you are building it from scratch, HML, most websites are automatically responsive. Especially if you are using any kind of modern WordPress theme or a Squarespace site or anything like that for your public-facing site, it’s going to be responsive but, if it’s not responsive Google will ding you to the point of even saying if it’s not a responsive site Google won’t list you because it’s not friendly to the users so that became a big signal in 2015.

Then also, there’s one other big signal I heard about recently.

Chris Badgett: I heard recently there was some issues with pop ups.

Scott Magdalein: Yes, that’s the other one.

Chris Badgett: Go ahead.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, Google started penalizing, not penalizing like black listing but lowering your page rank essentially, lowering your quality, user quality if it detects any kind of interpretive pop ups or any thing like that. Re directs, of course, those have been negative for awhile but now I guess since so many sites are using … Doing newsletter pop ups that overlay the entire page, Google is docking you for those kinds of things. I think you’ll start to see the rise in drop down banners, the 20 pixels or 50 pixels at the top of the screen or the corner pop ups that just kind of get your attention and we’ll start to see the over lay pop ups that kind of cover the screen go away, hopefully, as a result of that.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, at the end of the day Google is trying to protect and respect the end user and that’s what we should all be caring about is their mission is just for people to find what they are looking for and they don’t want people gaining the system. If a marketing company is like, “Okay, if you put this kind of pop up that the user didn’t trigger and you can increase the size of your email list or whatever.” It may help but if it’s also annoying, eventually Google is probably going to cut you up because you are not … You are actually getting in the way of what the user is looking for. I mean it may be valuable to be on your email list …

We have some pop ups on our sites that we use. We haven’t gone away. We have gone back through and adjusted anything since that news came out but we’re also not super aggressive. They don’t pop up everywhere. Just be careful when you are using that kind of thing.

Let me ask you another one Scott in terms of out bound links. I don’t even know about this one, like the technical Google stance on it but I do know that Google does not like dead ends. If you have, let’s say a landing page, also known as a squeeze page or a sales page, and there’s one page and there’s no way to escape besides the back button. The menu is gone, the footer and the links are gone. You are going to have a hard time ranking that page because it’s like a dead end on the internet. What Google likes is like a web and they always want the user to easily be able to leave if it’s not good. If you have it like a dead end on the internet and then a pop up, I mean, you are just asking for … You are not going to get any SEO value there which is okay. I mean, maybe on a sales page you are trying to limit options and I understand the reasoning behind helping your user maintain focus as they are checking out and that sort of thing.

In my mind, I like to be pretty generous with out bound links, even on a product page. If there’s this other piece of information that’s relevant to someone making an informed purchase, I will put a link to somebody else’s website on that page. What’s your take on outbound links?

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, I mean, just what you said. Your pages need to not be dead ends like that. I mean, the way that I work that is I always have our logo in the top of every page and the logo always links back to the home root URL. And I have footer navigation. Those are all pages where I want to not have my navigation distractor possibly pull them away from the page that I really want them to stay on and read through the whole page or take an action on but again, if you make a dead end on those pages because you don’t want them to leave Google will say, “Oh, well we’re not going to send them there if you don’t want them to leave. We need people to be able to come browse through the web.” Yeah, that’s important.

I think also, the little things, like your out bound links being anchor text and not just URLs. That tells Google that you know what you are linking to and also having titles on your links is good structure and all that kind of stuff.

Chris Badgett: Another good one just to watch out for is duplicate content. If you are like, “Oh, I need to create a bunch SEO content.” And you just start reusing something that already exist and you don’t modify it or if you have multiple sites and you think that taking the same blog post and copying it word for word and pasting it on 5 sites, that can actually hurt you.

Scott Magdalein: Oh yeah.

Chris Badgett: Duplicate content is something to be aware of. Think about it, Google just wants everything to be unique and not just plagiarism from somewhere else. It’s not going to help you to copy the best stuff on some popular site.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, some of what I do … You are talking about taking your blog post content and copying it to other sites? That used to work truthfully before they started binging you for duplicate content. I don’t do this for myself. In my space, ministry training, there’s just not enough searching that’s happening or search competition for me to have to really put a lot of work into it but I do some ICO work for some clients and more high search competition on spaces, what I’ll do is actually manage through 4 separate sites that are all peripheral topics. If the topic is drug rehab, I’ll have 1 site that’s the actual company’s website and we do content of course on that site but we have also have an intervention site that talks about intervention specifically and intervention service-

Chris Badgett: Are these micro sites? Is that what you would call them?

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, they are simply just blogs. I may produce 3 pieces of content on the primary plant site per week but each one of those peripheral sites gets at least 1 piece of content per week as well so I might be creating 6 or 7 pieces of content, 300 words, 500 words, not these massive pieces of articles but enough to continue those sites. These other sites don’t have to have massive domain authority, they just can’t be spam sites. They need to link to one another and they also need to link out. These other sites are legitimate websites, they’re not clone sites. They are actually valuable in and of them selves. they are ranked in Google, somebody lands on it, I want them click that link back to my client’s site not just because it’s Google juice but also because I want them to follow the link.

They do help. That is one way if you have the time and the energy to produce that much content. It’s not necessarily always best to produce that good content on one site because you lost the opportunity to be able to build some domain authority by building that content elsewhere and linking it back.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. That’s a really good point. I also just want to say when you are trying to rank for something, if you are a beginner, I really want to drill in the point that having a key word is important but what’s almost more important is a key word phrase. A single key word, like cars would be really hard to rank for but if you would want to rank for the term ‘used Tesla cars’, you are in a niche there so that key word phrase … It’s all about key word phrases.

For me, selling a learning management system software, I like to rank for phrases like ‘how to create an online course’. That’s like 6 words or whatever. I don’t just want the word ‘word press’. I don’t really care about that as a key word. I like the phrase ‘word press LMS’ or ‘word press membership system’ or ‘LMS software comparison’ or whatever. These phrases for me are way more important than individual words. It’s just a cool-

Scott Magdalein: That’s right, for a couple of reasons. I mean, there’s a lot of reason to target long tale key words like that. One is because the competition is lower and so ranking for those long tale key words is easier, takes a little less effort, little less time, but another reason is the search traffic that comes from when somebody searches ‘how to create an online course’ the search traffic is much more focused so it’s different than just ‘online learning’. Or eLearning. Then, you get 10,000 hits in a month for that thing but only 10 of those people actually care about an LMS system or you could rank for ‘how to create an online course’ or rather even better ‘how to build an online course for a learning management system’ something really long and specific and it’s like bam, LifterLMS, but that’s … It comes to your site because that’s exactly what they were looking for. You may get less traffic from it but the traffic you get is much more focused and actually the people you want on your site.

Targeting those long tale key words is good for a lot of reasons and also helps to make your content a whole lot more interesting. If you are targeting short key works, one of the 2 words or 3 words in a phrase, you are going to find that your content gets really boring and you start using that word over and over again instead of a variation or kind of mixing up that long sentence.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, so the basics of using a key word phrase is put the title of the post or whatever, page, preferably toward the beginning, mention it in the first sentence of the first paragraph, maybe twice in the first paragraph, a couple times in the other paragraphs, but don’t over do it. Don’t talk unnaturally, or try to squeeze it in 17 times in each paragraph because then you are kind of trying to gain the system there. What I’m saying is it’s good just to kind of, I call it thinking like a search engine. I like to think like that when I’m like, “What podcast episode am I going to make next? What kind of blog post am I going to do?” I think about key word phrases that might help but more importantly I’m caring about what’s of value to my user base. Once I figure that out ….

For example, this episode, I know that our user base, I want them to have a better understanding of SEO so whatever I end up titling this episode like ‘SEO basics for online course creators’, that would be a key word phrase right there. If I say it multiple times in this video, SEO basics for online course creators, and then this video gets transcribed it’s going to keep coming through but I’m not going to over do it. What I’m saying is, when you are uploading that image, when you are thinking about the title of the post, when you think about the words that are in your first sentence in something, try to think like a search engine. It’s a learned skill.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, there’s some tools that will help even. Again, I use Moz, but for a keyword research I also use this other tool called Jacksie. These 2 tools will tell me not just … Okay, I have an idea for this phrase ‘how to create an online course’ but I can also go search that or do an recent research on that with these Moz or Jacksie and it’ll not only tell me the potential for that particular phrase, the competition there, the number of searches that are happening around that phrase, but it’ll also give me 1,000 variation of that phrase so that I can know what other … What people are actually searching for. That helps me in a couple of ways. That helps me to know how to talk about what I want to write about or produce content about but it also helps me to know what to produce content about. That way I’m not wasting time producing content that isn’t being searched for.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely, and I’m going to give you, everybody watching and listening out there, another free tip which is go and do a search on Google.com and as you are starting to type in your main key words, whatever they are, let’s say you are teaching about horses, training horses, and you are typing in ‘horse training’. Google is actually going to start auto populating the most popular phrases. You’ll see them show up below the search box. There it is, it’s telling you this is what’s in demand. Especially if you get way out on the long tale of some very micro niche, it’ll give you some great suggestions to let you know what’s on the mind of the user like what phrases people are typing in. If you even scroll to the bottom of the SERP, which is the search engine results page, it’s just the page that comes up after you do a Google search. At the very bottom of the page, there’s a bunch of key word phrases down there that you could click on that are like basically relevant searches saying “If you like the results here, you might also like these searches down here. Click on these.”

Just got a slow down for a second and think like a search engine and look at what’s already there for you to help you kind of come up with those phrases.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, that’s actually … I mean, that kind of thing, the search auto complete as well as those other … I forget what Google calls it. The links at the bottom of the SERP page. Those are a really great content idea sources. Like, “I don’t know what to post today. I’m trying to fill out my content calendar for next month and I can only come up with 10 post but I need 15 post.” You can go start a search and Google will tell you what else you should write about is what people are searching for.

Chris Badgett: That’s true and just to give you a personal example of how powerful this is, I wrote a post once about affiliate marketing for online courses and then, just because I kind of think like a search engine and I made sure I kind of optimize it for that phrase, 2 months later I was on a plane to New York to do some affiliate marketing for online course consulting with a company there but it’s all because I did … I just consciously thought about that and these long tale phrases are powerful so, if you are in business you should know what those are for you.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, that’s good.

Chris Badgett: Well, this all sounds like a lot of work Scott and I know you offer some services related to this kind of thing so, if somebody’s not … If they are more like, “This all sounds great. This sounds awesome. Can you just do it for me?” I know you do help out people from time to time, tell us about what you’ve got going on over there.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, so we do … We have our product close to this training platform but I also help with some search stuff for some clients. We don’t take on a lot of clients. We are small shop. We only have a couple of guys and we try to keep our client load pretty light but we do take on some SEO clients and we sort of stopped building websites for clients a couple of years ago just because building websites is so easy to do on your own now. Building websites has become a commodity but even websites found on the web is still a really high in demand, hard thing to do. I mean, honestly it doesn’t take a whole lot. I mean, the knowledge that we gave already in this particular episode is probably just about as much as you need to get going and do a good job if you have the time and the patience to do the research and create the content and to build a relationship with the publishers and all that kind of stuff.

What we do is we focus on 3 things when we serve clients when it comes to SEO. Making sure the site is built the right way and that doesn’t take a whole lot of work but that it’s set up and then a review of all the pages and the structure, that kind of stuff. Of course, making sure that Google and other search engines recognize it. Then we work on public … More like PR really, building relationships with publishers and we go after guest post opportunities. There are ways to find guest post opportunities on lots of blogs. Then there’s the consecrations on site and if you are really in a lot of need, we also will from time to time, if it makes sense depending on the search competition, build a network of sites that are all built to rank well and then bring traffic and build the ranking of the main primary site.

We do that, it’s usually based on a package deal based on the needs of our client when they come to us and we kind of talk about what they want to accomplish and what their competition is but we do that a little bit here and there.

Chris Badgett: Good deal. Well, what’s the best way for people to get ahold of you?

Scott Magdalein: They can just email me. Scott@TrainedUp.org is the easiest way to get ahold of me.

Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, Scott Magdalein, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thanks for coming on the show, Scott. We’ll have to do it again some time.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Man.


Elite Learning Environments and The Outlier 360 Project with Peter Fallenius

In this LMScast Chris Badgett of codeBOX discusses elite learning environments and the Outlier 360 Project with Peter Fallenius, including what defines an outlier, what motivates them, and how understanding them can make you more successful.

Peter’s early involvement in e-business and background as a competitive athlete give him a deep interest in peak performance. He defines outliers as people who are performing on a very high level. He hopes to learn from them in order to boost his own performance as well as teach others how to do better.

The Outlier 360 Project seeks to understand the basics of motivation, meaning, survival, and success in relation to how outliers achieve their elite level leadership, learning, and team results, and then create an environment in which others can learn to work that way, too. Especially for new businesses, outlier leadership, outlier learning, and outlier teams can be crucial to scaling the business.

Three things outliers have in common are a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness that give their lives meaning. Instead of identifying a pain and seeking to solve it as most businesses do, outliers focus on making life more meaningful for themselves and those around them. Outliers also tend to do what matters in simple, yet excellent and elegant ways. Simple, so it’s understandable. Excellent, so that doing it matters. Elegant is efficient, and it works.

In an online learning environment you seek to keep students engaged. Establish a sense of meaning in your learning environment and you’ll create momentum and energy. People want to learn, and they will if you show them how to do things that matter. Outliers imagine what they want to do, then focus on what they actually can do. Through doing that they quickly learn to do more, and that progress motivates them to go even further.

Chris and Peter continue discussion around how outliers think and do things differently from other people. They examine how outliers look at relationships, why companies need to create environments that support people rather than push them to perform, and why a focus on gaining wealth is less effective than seeking to improve people’s lives. They also show how consumer mentality prevents people from being successful, and how outliers learn from failure and acquire knowledge through ROI (Return on Ignorance).

Listen to this information-packed podcast to learn even more about the outlier approach to learning, the Tao of Peter, elite learning environments, and the Outlier 360 Project with Peter Fallenius.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today, we’re talking with Peter Fallenius about the Outlier 360 project. Peter is an entrepreneur and athlete. Originally from Sweden, he’s been an entrepreneur involved in many projects. He was involved in the internet, or e-business, back in the ’90s. He’s even taken a company public from the early days of the internet startups, which he originally got started with in Taiwan, and he’s done business on four continents. Peter’s also an accomplished athlete. He’s a runner. He’s competed at the international level as a running athlete, and we’re going to get into a lot of things in this episode about peak performance and really going beyond that into this Outlier 360 project. I think you’re going to get a lot out of this episode and what we talk about here, but first, Peter, thank you for coming on the show.

Peter: Thank you, Chris.

Chris: What is the Outlier 360 Project? What are we talking about here? What is an outlier, and help set the stage for the listeners.

Peter: Yes. Outliers are people that are achieving or are performing on very, very high level. They are … in some areas you would call them geniuses, and Steve Jobs could be an example of an outlier, Leonardo Da Vinci. Elite athletes are outliers, and so outliers is a term where they are very, very much away from the average. Researchers often don’t like them, because they mess up all the readings. To me, on the other hand, from my background, I was always interested in them because I thought that those were the people I could learn from, and to see how they were doing things. Fortunately, I was lucky to not just model them, which is a very popular way of trying to learn from outliers, but looking at the basics, what created outlier performance.

What we can say is that geniuses or outliers are often achieving things because of superior mental models. We will talk a little bit about what mental models are, and also what meaning, motivation, and success, what they have in common, and that doing meaningful things, and things that leads to success, are really the same things. They just happen to be very motivating, too, if picked the right ones, and if you understand things correctly. Another thing that is important to outliers is that success is not an event, but a process. It’s a thing that it’s not like a lottery where you hope to win. It’s more a structured process, and it can be imitated, or you can do it because imitation is not good in that way. That is kind of some of the background.

Also, the reason I call it Outlier 360 is that many outliers are outliers within one area of their lives, so what they are doing, and then they are quite … Then they may not be at all good in a whole lot of other areas. You have scientists that are having so-so personal relationships. There are also scientists that have great personal relationships, and the other thing is that some people are performing like elite athletes, they don’t understand. They have great coach that help them to become great, but they couldn’t coach anyone else because they never understood what the coach was doing. The great athletes or others that are in an environment where they understand what leads to the success, they can often coach other people themselves.

The 360 part is looking at how you help someone be successful in all parts of their lives, and that is not really as impossible as it seems like. We need to take a step back then, and do it from scratch, because the basic things that are leading to that are a very solid foundation and where you understand things much better.

Chris: That’s great, and if you’re listening to this episode, you obviously care about learning, and helping others, and you need to be operating at a high level yourself, so this is really relevant to you out there if you’re looking to improve your own life not just a little, but do what we’re talking about here to the outlier level. Also, help others get outlier elite level results, and also to create environments, almost more important just creating the environment for outlier results, and processes, and training to happen. Keep that in mind as Peter unpacks this. I’ve learned a lot from Peter about what outliers are, and how it’s different from pretty good results, like what outlier results are, and how that’s something completely different, and also how the process for achieving those and operating at that level is completely different.

Peter: Yeah. I think we go through a whole lot of examples of the difference between what average people do and what the smart way of doing things, and then the outlier way of doing things. We will get to a number of examples of that, and so that is very, very important. Maybe we should start with getting into a thing called self-determination theory. Self-determination theory was a model for research that was done by two great American researchers, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, started in the ’70s, and have been going on ever since. What they found out about people that live meaningful lives were that they were quite successful, and also that there were three things they had in common. The three things they had in common was that they felt like they had autonomy, they had influence over their lives, they felt that they were competent, they had competence in some area, and they felt relatedness, and relatedness is another word of having friends and so forth, and having great social life.

Those things were commonalities that they found in just everyone that heard that they lived a meaningful life. However, the research didn’t give clear directions of what to do, so I rework that a bit from my experience with what outliers do, and what they’re looking at. What I introduced then was that autonomy is really leadership, and competence is really learning, an ability to learn fast, and relatedness is relating, being able to create great reams, both in personal environment and in a professional environment. People can do those things have huge advantages, and people can ignore these and do a whole lot of other things. If you’re interested in motivation, meaning, survival, and success, then you maybe should take a serious look at them. All of those things, leadership, learning, and team, and outlier versions of them, outlier leadership, outlier learning, and outlier teams, are crucial for survival and success.

The reason why they are important for survival is that if you’re not leading yourself, and leadership on the basic level is not leading other people. It’s leading yourself, because if you’re not leading yourself, you can’t lead anyone else. If you don’t want to follow yourself, it’s not really that surprising if no one else wants to. If you’re excited about where you’re leading yourself, then there is a chance that other people will be. Otherwise, don’t try to get anyone to follow, because like someone said, what kind of leader are you? Look around and look who’s following, and there won’t be any outliers or great people following you unless you’re doing something worthwhile. When we get to a few simple rules for what is necessary there later on.

Leadership is a necessary thing for survival, because otherwise you just have to hope for that someone else will take care of you. That’s not a good survival strategy, not even today. Previous in history, it was even worse. Learning in relation to survival and success, in a constantly changing world where jobs disappear and then you show up, and new possibilities, if you can’t learn fast, you will constantly be scared about what is going on. You won’t see new opportunities, and you won’t see the dangers. Ability to learn fast and understand changes is quite crucial, and the alternative is very dangerous, I would say. If you can’t great teams and attract great people, and have a team around you, you will fight or have to do things yourself, and that is not the most effective way. You won’t win anything big, or anything of any significance, or even achieve something or have fun on a bigger scale if you’re doing it alone.

If you’re doing it with people that are just around you for the sake of that they just were too bored by themselves, I’m not sure, but they may not be the most fun people to hang out with. If you hang out with people that they’re, or do things with people that have lots of great alternatives, then they are probably great resources and can be very, very useful. This is some of the ways that the … Also, if you’re building a company, leadership is a bit important. The faster you can learn, the more likely it is that you can innovate, because learning is one of the key things in any great company. It’s the foundation for innovation and development. If you don’t have a team, or a great team that works extremely well together, then you have a serious problem, and the company will not scale.

Create outliers, and outlier teams of outlier learners, and getting them to understand how they can lead themselves, and lead others, is crucial. The way I look at it is that any company that wants to do really, really well, or any person that wants to do really, really well, the more they can help other people get the meaningful life, and become better leading themselves, learning faster, and both lead teams, create teams, and be part of great teams, those would probably be extremely motivated people. They probably will love what you’re doing. For a company delivering teaching services or courses, or for any other company, if they can deliver products and help the people internal in the company become better at at least one of these things that Deci and Ryan pointed at in self-determination theory, getting more autonomous, becoming more competent, and getting better relationships, they probably will have an extremely loyal workforce or associates, and they will probably have great success with the products, because they are actually helping making the lives of their customers more meaningful.

That’s a completely different way of looking at things than looking at a pain and solving that is often looking at something where you’re solving it by addressing the symptom rather than looking at fundamentally helping people become more successful and happy, because they will have the things that makes their lives more meaningful.

Chris: When that meaning is there, it’s just so powerful. It’s almost effortless. We talk a lot about engagement, and keeping things engaging, but if you have meaning in your learning environment, or in the company that’s delivering the training, or whatever, that meaning really carries 95% of the momentum and the energy. You don’t have to try to keep up the pace, because meaning is, it’s like an engine and a fire that pulls a lot of the power and the force.

Peter: Yes.

Chris: As opposed to punishment and reward-based training.

Peter: Yes, and people want to learn. Humans are designed to learn, partly because they had to in order to survive. That fire for learning is kind of getting almost extinguished, but it’s still there in all people, whatever age they have. They just need to do something that matters, and also they need to do something that can work. What unfortunately in today’s society, people are taught that if you can imagine it, you can do it. Leonardo Da Vinci had a little bit of a different view on that. He was focusing on doing what he could do, not what he imagined. Doing what he could do made him learn very, very fast, and he did what most people couldn’t imagine. The thing there about starting with imagination, that is completely disconnected from reality, and what someone’s abilities are, and what the world allows … There is a reason why the first Apple Mac wasn’t as fast as a Mac today. The technology was not there.

In a whole number of ways, the technology wasn’t there, so now it wasn’t because the people were stupid back then, and if one looks at what is written by the chief technologist of Microsoft today, Bill Buxton, most of the people knew 20 years ahead of time a bunch of things that would likely be possible to be done. The building blocks were not there, so if I can do the things that are possible to do 20 years from now, that’s not really that useful. Those guys could imagine it, but they had to help produce the things that made it possible, step by step, but if you focus on what matters, what can work, and what you can do, and doing that on the foundation of what we talked about before with that determination theory, then it’s amazing how much progress you can make, and how quickly you can make it. Progress in that way, in what matters motivates like nothing else.

Chris: What are some examples of that? What do you mean by progress motivates?

Peter: What should we say? When you train, being able to run faster, lift bigger weights. I started with a thing that … I did a thing a couple of years ago that I wanted to see. I want to improve my balance, and so there were some small balls that were kind of dense, that were used in a gym. They were quite so hard, so I kind of figured that, see, if I could stand with two feet on that ball and balance. That was very easy, and then I figured that it should be possible to stand on one foot on there. That was a whole lot harder, and especially that the ball, if you didn’t have the balance pretty good, the ball could just shoot out, and you kind of fell off. When it started to move to the side, and you know you were lost balance, you just needed to jump off before you hit the deck pretty hard and jarred your back.

Basically, I kind of knew the model for how it could work. It was basically just get back and do it, and after half an hour after a lot of not all polite language about the ball not cooperating and me not being balanced enough, I could start to do it for a few seconds. The thing was that I knew that if I can do it for a couple of seconds, then to extend that would be fairly easy. When you can catch the balance at all, then do it for longer periods, that’s just practice. See, that’s more practice. The same thing with learning things. The first thing, I think we both listened to an interview of Heinemeier Hansson, one of the founders of Basecamp, or previous called 37 Signals that was made by Tim Ferris. He pointed out that his programming was the first version of the program was getting it to work, and then after that, it was not just leaving it that way, but to make it better, cleaning up the code so he understood it better and could make it more effective, and also more elegant.

The second or third version usually became a whole lot better and faster. Those things are with everything, and if you focus on what you can do, and learn from the basics of anything, most people can learn very, very fast, and talent for things. People say, “Oh, yeah, but that person has so much talent.” It’s very often when you have a great coach somewhere, all of a sudden, you have a lot of great talent. Coach moves on, and in the place where there was so much talent, there is no talent any longer. All of a sudden, where the coach goes to, the level of talent rises dramatically, which to me says that talent is everywhere. Developed talent, that is what is rare. Most people use the excuse that, “Oh, yeah, but I’m not talented. That person is lucky,” and so forth.

Yeah, that may be the case, but we can either complain about that, and sit and wait, or look at what we can do. Like you said there, yes I’ve been involved in long distance running, that long distance running, and I’m 187 tall, or six foot two, and my weight is, I carry around like 20 kilos, close to 40 pounds more than most of the other guys that were running. Some of them were a little bit heavier, but there were few of the top athletes that I competed against that were carrying around as much weight as I did, which in long distance running, is not an advantage. I knew that my height and my body size was not optimal. However, it didn’t stop me from doing what lots of people told me that I couldn’t do, because I focused on what I could do, and that got me very far. It gave me lots of opportunities, and I learned a lot from it. That’s another thing.

Another thing there about doing what matters. Do what matters in simple, excellent, and elegant ways. The alternative to not doing it at an excellent level, that’s to do mediocre things. Mediocre things, no one cares about. Excellence, and excellent work attracts people, and that is what goes viral. That is what people talk about, so we have talked about this before, and if you look at very successful people, they didn’t randomly get to excellent work. Steve Jobs set out to do excellent things from the beginning. Richard Branson had a standard of excellence when he started most of the projects. He wanted to do excellent things because he knew that if we don’t do it on that level, there is no point, and the chances of success are very slip.

Like Sapos became very successful because excellent customer service, and which generated enormous trust. The same thing with anyone else that has been very, very successful. You start with aiming for doing excellent things, because otherwise you will never get there. If it’s not simple, so simple, excellent, and elegant. Why simple, excellent, elegant? Yes, because if what you’re doing is not simple, you do not understand it. If you don’t understand why you’re doing something, then you might as well buy a lottery ticket, because if it doesn’t work, you don’t know where to look for improving it. It needs to be simple, so you can explain it to others. It needs to be simple, so you understand it and can correct the things that don’t work very well.

I guess like I just said, you need to make it excellent, because excellent … If that is the standard, you can’t do everything in your life excellent, but if you focus on what matters, like I said, then you do the things that matters excellent, and then you will improve in those things very, very quickly. You will compare the work you have just done with what would be excellent work in the area. Elegant, elegant might seem like, who cares, but in most areas, elegant is not for the sake of it. Elegant is in running, for example, elegant running, whether it’s a human or an animal, is energy efficient. If it’s jerky and so forth, there is energy lost somewhere, and it’s not very effective. Elegant things, humans recognize elegant things instantly because it is good.

Elegant code for a programmer is usually very good, and it has less likelihood, if some other programmer has to look at it, it would be easy to look at, easy to understand. If it’s elegant teaching, it’s something that is explained in a way so that people can understand and can use it, can be given models that improve the lives of people. If you don’t do that, you’re wasting … You likely do not understand what you’re doing, and you likely don’t give people information, or something that is useful that is really beneficial for them. That’s kind of some ideas about what I’m working with, and you were mentioning before about engagement. We could talk a lot about that, and we should probably not do it right here and now, but progress, and the other things that I mentioned, creates engagement like nothing else.

Chris: Another way to look at that issue is people talk a lot in learning about gamification as a tactic to make something more engaging. Whereas from the outlier perspective, is gamification necessary?

Peter: No. The reason why people love games, one huge reason is that first of all, they do not … The world that is outside and dealing with people is usually not that convenient, and people prefer the virtual world, and they also make progress. They’re going from one level to another, and if people can do that outside in the real world with other people, people usually prefer to hang out with other people.

Chris: If the meaning is there.

Peter: If the meaning is there, and if they do things where there is progress, and there is a thing about relationship building. We can get into the thing that I can … It’s connected to the how we’re looking at average smart, and outlier way of looking at it. One thing that is how you look at relationships, like the average way is kind of not focusing on relationships, but being annoyed with other people not being bad. We could list a whole lot of names, or labels that people put on people, like narcissist, bully, this, that, or the other, and yeah, maybe there are narcissists, maybe there are bullies. However, my experience is that there are way more cool people out there if you allow them a chance to be cool.

I’ve seen good people do things that, isolated, don’t make them look too good. Have I done that? Yes, probably, and I think most people have. If you look at the snapshot of what someone does and so forth, and the most evasion models that are out there is try to push people, et cetera, et cetera, when no one wants to be pushed. The companies and others have not created an environment for people to give them a chance to do great in life. Where they are doing things that benefit their lives in a way, and that is, in many ways, people are seeing that as, “Yeah, but that’s life.” I’m not sure that it has to be. If we’re taking relationships further there, the smart way is to understand the relationships are very important, so you network, and try to get people to sign up to your email list, or getting their business card, handing out business card, this, that, and the other, and then you try to monetize that in some way, shape, or form.

The reason why people signed up was often no connection to what it is that people are trying to sell them, and I’m not sure that that is a very effective way. Anyway, John Wooden, the famous basketball coach, pointed out that rather than beginning with relationship building, relationships evolve out of getting something done that everyone agrees is important to accomplish. If you get people around doing something that people find extremely important to get done, and you have a path forward where people make progress and eventually successful, if that is in sports, or if it’s in anything else, relationship usually develops very effectively around that. You meet a lot of cool people. It can be a hobby. It can be anything.

Chris: It’s a byproduct of doing something meaningful.

Peter: Exactly.

Chris: Could you say the same thing about wealth?

Peter: The same thing there. Steve Jobs never focused on making money. He focused on helping delivering great products, and when he was successful, that kind of turned into a lot of money. The same thing, Leonardo Da Vinci was developing weapons and so forth, and the fact that he was very good at what he was doing. He was in high demand by people that wanted to get help for creating new things, because he had the competence. If you deliver something that improves the lives of people in a meaningful way, then you have the basis for also making a lot of money. The people that are doing that, they are often doing it for other reasons, because they want to do something exciting, and they want to do something that benefits other people. You look for the intersection of one of those things.

Chris: What would be an average and a smart approach to wealth creation that’s different from what you’re talking about here?

Peter: Okay. Most people are brought up to be consumers. They’re looking for consuming things, and if you’re consuming things, you are looking at what you can get. There is no limit to … You have a serious problem because traveling to exciting places, playing with exciting things, doing all manners of things, what you can imagine that you want to get. You will always be disappointed by what you do not have, and I happened to go to school at Boston, and there were lots of people from really, kids from really wealthy families. Some of them could get pretty much anything they’ve pointed at, and I’ve been around some very rich people afterwards, too. The ones that were creating things, a number of them were really happy about their lives.

Then you had people that were, they could get anything that they wanted, and they were absolutely miserable. Consuming things, I have not seen any connection to happiness. Then you have, many people are starting business, and very many online, or looking at making money online, or creating a product, and so forth. They have as a goal to get to a beach, and lay down on the beach, and so forth. Their goal that’s producing something is to producing something that people will pay money for so they can consume. Most people will not succeed in making so much money so they can afford to go and lay down on the beach, but I’ve also been around people that have had that possibility. Very many of them go and travel, and lay down on the beach, and realize that they are bored to tears soon.

The problem of them is that they have sold the company and so forth, and cashed out, and now what? If they do it young, they may do it in their late twenties or even earlier, or their thirties, and they have 50, 60 years or so to go. Little bit of a problem there. If that was success, they are not that well about it. The outlier way of doing things is, you’re doing things, producing things that have value for other people, that you’re excited about doing, and you’re doing it because it gives you a chance to do something that is good for the world, and work with some really cool people to do it. That very often can generate huge amounts of money, too, but that’s not the reason the people are doing it. That’s another way of looking at it, if that makes sense.

Chris: It does. What if we go to the opposite side from success or wealth, and look at a concept like failure? What would a average way, a smart way, and an outlier way of approaching failure look like?

Peter: The average way of failure is, failure is often something happens and you don’t like what happened, and so forth. You’re upset about it then. Yeah, that’s it. The smart way is something didn’t go your way. You analyze it, and try to learn as much as possible from it. The outlier way would be, you design and experiment, like an engineer will test something for it to be able to know when it breaks, so you design with intention for it to fail, but you have an idea of what will happen, when it will fail, and in what way it will fail. If it doesn’t fail, then you have a serious failure. Usually if it’s something that is tested to failure, if you just push it far enough, it will fail, which may not be a useful thing to do in relationships. You need to be careful in some areas.

Then you learn, you decide on what areas where you could learn the most from and then you learn from designing things to fail, so you can see how it fails, how you can learn the most from it. That’s a completely different way, and it gives a completely different level of learning, and the speed of learning is completely different. It also has everything to do with things that most people, that average and smart people are afraid of. They want to know things. They are afraid of being wrong. Outliers are thrilled about realizing that they were wrong about things, because that very often gives a possibility to have a big leap in performance. They stop doing the thing that they were wrong about, and that delivered probably a whole lot of bad results, but they were unaware of it. That’s mental models that are behaving like viruses, and most mental models we learnt without knowing we learnt them. We don’t know what assumptions they were built on, and they are invisible to us.

Chris: Let’s look at something like ignorance. How would you funnel ignorance through an average, smart, and outlier framework?

Peter: I would say that ignorance is something that is seen as very negative things by most people. People want to know and believe that knowing is great, and being ignorant and not knowing scares a lot of people, and doubting. However, it is the thing that most outliers are friends with. I have an expression that I’ve started to use more and more. Return on ignorance. ROI. Most people refer to it as a return on investment, but return on ignorance. What is the area of ignorance that you have, that would give you the biggest improvement if you could get a better understanding about it? That’s the the way that scientist researchers are discussing. They rarely get together and discuss what they know, because they all ready each other’s papers, and know each other’s things, so they’re discussing about, what other things that, if we could get better funding, the areas of ignorance, that would make us know more about the subject?

That’s where they focus their efforts, rather than randomly try to learn something. If you start to think about what are the areas that I should learn something, that being excellent in them would be of serious value, then you can start to learn must faster. Most learning, and what people refer to as learning, and people looking up things in Google, is they’re getting some facts that means nothing. Yeah, they can parrot it, and sound intelligent. However, if they’re going to use it in any meaningful way or create something new with that information, if it’s just a loose fact, they can’t do it. Understanding and where it fits into other things is crucial, and when you understand something and how it connects to other things in the world, and understand how it connects to other things, then remembering it is very easy.

The things that you understand, and that connects with other things, you don’t need to remember them. They are almost impossible to forget. School is rewarding that you can give the right answer, rather than understanding how it fits into something else, and how it’s connected to something else, and how something works. Without that knowledge, you know nothing, really. Ignorance and not knowing are friends of someone that wants to learn and do great things. The thing where there is the story about Edison and the light bulb, about that he found 1,000 or how many ways of how not to do it, that was only half true. Edison has lots of working light bulbs. The reason he tested all the different filaments was that in order for it to be a product that could be produced, first of all, he needed to have pretty good knowledge to be able to put together a light bulb that would work at all.

The reason that he tested all 1,000 things was that he needed to find a material, a filament, that could last. He couldn’t sell something that lit up for a few minutes. The market for lights that you need to change every two minutes was very limited, plus the cost would … It was just not a commercial venture, so it was not the idea of just getting it to work. It was the fact of making it useful, making it excellent to a level to where it was functional and useful for people to use. That’s a completely different story. It was not randomly testing things, and then happily ending up with the result. It was very targeted, and where he knew where he needed to get for it to have a future.

Edison had also habit to read up on the research that everybody else had done in a new area, and then take his experience that he had from other areas, and see what they had done already and tested, and what were the things that they did not see, that would give him huge opportunities? Because of his experiences from all manners of different areas, so that was the first thing he did. All of that made a slightly different story than many self-help books and other people that are teaching those stories, that the way they have looked at it. Edison was also created an environment, the same way Steve Jobs did, an environment where people did really meaningful work. They worked really exciting things, and they got a chance to work with other great people. They were at the cutting edge of things.

That’s crucial to build something really successful. One of the employees that Edison had was maybe a man that was way smarter than him. Many people may have been smarter than Edison, but one in particular, Nikolai Tesla. He was thought that Edison was stupid in many ways, and he quit, and then ended up working by himself. The difference with Tesla and Edison was that Tesla could not work with other people. He could not create a team. He was absolutely brilliant, but he could not create a team. His ability to work together with other people, and create a culture and an environment where things could be done, like at Edison’s lab, was nowhere close. Both of those men had enormous impact on the world we live in today. However, in very different ways, and Edison had a happy family life. That could not really be said about Tesla. He did not get along with … He got along with pigeons, I think, better than humans.

Chris: What about this concept of self-interest?

Peter: Self-interest is a thing that I find a bit interesting, because most people see as self-interest as, self-interest is really bad. To me, it’s not bad at all. I’m doing what I’m doing for completely self-interested reasons. This may sound bad, but I want to work with, do things with, do really things with really cool people. If I’m going to do that, I need to do things that gives that type of people a great incentive or interest to work with me. If I’m not the person that they want to be around, then they won’t want to be around me. Self-interest, and in doing good things in the world, if you want to be around great people, are really the same thing. You’re doing things that are great for yourself, and are great for other people in the world around you.

In general, it’s not a huge conflict there. You do things with great people that you enjoy doing together, that are exciting. If you only look after, if you step on other people when you do that, then great people will leave very quickly. The people you have left are people that have no other alternatives, and are desperate, and that to me would be a failure. Self-interest, if you really want to have great people around you, learn fast. Then you also won’t have great people around you, and do things in any possible way then that’s the highest level of self-interest, I think. Most people, when they’re smart, they unfortunately end up on the side where they try to manipulate other people, and where they are using games and other ways of trying to get people to do things.

If you offer people a great opportunity that is good for them and for you, they would be thrilled to go for it. The other thing there is that people know and have read books about that authenticity and being genuine is very important. Trying to manipulate, or trying to get someone to do something that is not in their own interest, is not genuine. Then you’re faking genuine, which will never work. The whole thing there, and you have another thing that is very interesting. People are worried about not being their true selves. First of all, when people are doing really exciting things, they rarely think about themselves. The self is not there, and you cannot do something on a high level if you play a game in sports, or competing, or you’re not constantly checking out, thinking about yourself. You’re so focused on what you’re doing, and enjoying that, so self does not really exist.

You’re having a great time, so you cannot really have a self there. What people often find that they are losing, or that they are not themselves, that’s when they are trying to fake, faking who they are, and then you will have a problem. You’re afraid of being exposed about who you are.

Chris: Now we’re talking about confidence.

Peter: Yeah.

Chris: That sounds like maybe an average or a smart way to work with confidence, or fake it till you make it. Make sure you have all the paraphernalia, and the things you’re supposed to do to be confident, and put off an era of, I know what I’m doing. Therefore, I could be confident. How would an outlier approach confidence, or is it a non-issue because they don’t have time, it’s just a byproduct of …

Peter: Yeah. The confidence is a very interesting thing. People try to get rock solid confidence, that cannot be shaken whatsoever. That’s the same thing as having something that will be shattered easily. The truly confident people know that there are limits to things. The best athletes are not certain they will win. They may be convinced that they have a very good chance. Military special forces when they go out on a mission, they know that if they are well prepared, their odds are really good. They are confident in their own skills, they are confident in their training and so forth, but they are not certain of success. If they are, that’s dangerous, because then they will be careless, and not be prepared, and check things, which is, you don’t want to have people like that on your team. You want to have people that know what they are good at, but also know the limitations of that.

Knowing the limitations of what your skills are is crucial, because otherwise, you do things that will end up with really bad consequences. Which is another problem that when you cheerlead people to do things without knowing if they have the skills to do it. It causes serious problems, and if it’s someone that is really good … You have a really big problem, and when you have someone that is telling you you’re doing great work, and you know that it wasn’t that good, that tells you two things, one of the two things about the person that said you did a great job. One, they are incompetent. Two, they are lying. Neither one looks, reflects very good on them, so if you tell someone about something that you do not know about, if it’s someone that is good at the other end, they will just discard you, or dismiss you as someone that is incompetent or lying.

If it’s a great person that you try to impress that way, you have almost certainly disqualified yourself from their interest of having anything to do with you. Congratulations. People that are good, they know that, and they may be polite afterwards when you continue, but they have almost certainly made a note that this is a person to keep at a distance.

Chris: That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. Let’s bring it all the way around, and look at the smart, the average, and the outlier approach to learning.

Peter: Yeah. To learning. Average way of learning is to really try to avoid learning.

Chris: Right.

Peter: Learning in meaningful way because that seems to be a whole of trouble and giving no rewards. Which is a reasonable way to look at it, after having most people have been through school and so forth. Jumping through the hoops there, and trying don’t really deliver the rewards that people were saying. They were told to do things and didn’t see the connection between why they should do it, and then the exams or tests mainly focused on everything they did wrong. That’s not really encouraging. Smart people are looking after looking at, how can I find the shortcut or a way where I can imitate someone to get the result as quickly as possible? The problem with that is that you do not really know … First of all, whatever progress you may make, it’s very hard to understand learning so that, because you don’t know where it fits in, and how it helps you in the rest of your life, or in your business.

Chris: I may have some really advanced mental models I pulled off the shelf, but I’m lacking understanding.

Peter: Yes.

Chris: True understanding.

Peter: Yes, and if you don’t do that, if you don’t have an understanding about what it is that makes them work, you cannot see if they fit where you’re trying to use them, if they are a good fit. Second, even if they are almost right, you only need one step that needs to be adjusted a bit, and if you don’t adjust it, the whole process may fail. If you don’t understand at all, you won’t know to adjust that, and the whole thing may seem like a failure when only a small piece needed to be adjusted. If you understand the whole thing, you don’t need that script, or that model, because you take a look from scratch. What are these steps that I need? Then you design it yourself, and you design it way more elegantly. If you take a thing off the shelf, you usually include lots of things that are meaningless, and in some cases, may even annoy the person or the people that you were trying to do things with.

It’s a little bit like when you have scripted things. I can give another example. I was involved in a bunch of things, and I was looking at hypnosis. A lot of hypnosis that are taught this using scripts. Problem with that is that if you know it works, then you know what to do and what to look for, and you do what makes sense, and what is meaningful in the moment there. The scripts often so clunky, so they are doing some things right, and get a few steps forward, and then completely crashes the whole thing, and then it does not work at all. The same thing in anything. You’re not doing the things that matters, and you don’t know when you can cut out things, or you just build something from scratch, which is what most people that understand the subject, any subject, do because they design, they create the thing that is needed. Does that make sense?

Learning, it’s also looking for a whole lot of, like we said before, what do I not know that could be useful?

Chris: The ROI, the return on ignorance.

Peter: Yes. Yes, and looking at it like Edison did, what is the cutting edge? What has other people done already before? The most effective way is to do the things where you learn a whole lot of basic things about how the world works, and how human nature is, if you want to work with people. So many things that are taught in schools and so forth are completely ass backwards, or are things that they work, but they are simplified models that only work in special cases. Anything outside of that, they don’t deliver.

Chris: The model breaks down.

Peter: Yeah, and people don’t know what to adjust. Considering that everybody else uses the same model, it doesn’t need to work that well to look great. Until someone comes around and do what Sapos did, or in any number of other cases, or look at things like Apple did with how they built things under Steve Jobs. All of a sudden, it changes the game completely, and everybody else tried to imitate the outside appearance of things without understanding why it was created in the specific way, how it helped people, and how it made it easy for people.

Chris: In that light of helping people, if we look at the Outlier 360 project, and we look at what you’re pointing to here, the concept of helping build outliers from scratch, you also have a concept called the Tao of Peter. What is that? What are you referencing? The Outlier 360 project is a spin off or a part of the Tao of Peter. What are we talking about here?

Peter: The Tao of Peter is basically … The Tao is referring to ancient Chinese, and there’s a book called Tao de Jing, and there’s another book called The Art of War. Both of those are coming from the same area, and I said many, many years ago that those two books, if people understand them, they don’t really need to read any other books. The Tao is basically the nature of things, reality. If you work with the Tao, and understand what that means, you will be … You have mental models, and then understanding that makes it easy to leverage things, and see new opportunities. The Art of War is still seen as the best book ever written on strategy, after two and a half thousand years, but few people understand what’s behind it, and the thinking that lays behind it.

It’s read, and I would say very rarely understood, but the concept of the Tao and reality, and understanding that in a better way, that is very powerful. I’m basically, it’s a playful way where I bring my perspective on how you can understand that better, and I’ve used it my whole life. Now I’ve started to help other people see it, and when I tried starting to do that, the success was very, very limited, because I thought it was obvious, many things I said, and it wasn’t. I needed to find a way to help people see what I saw, and when people do that, then they usually change a lot very quickly. A lot of things that they did before doesn’t make sense to do any longer, and that’s a very, very … It has very little to do with intelligence.

Someone said that, not in relationship to my work here, but with mental model, says that mental models that are closer approximation of reality. Someone that understands that better and improve that a lot, that’s worth 50 IQ points, and that’s a lot. I think that that’s also, that’s very true from what I’ve seen.

Chris: The Tao is this ancient wisdom coming from China, with a focus on ultimate or true reality, which is the world that the outlier operates in, and looks for feedback from, and runs experiments, and takes things to failure.

Peter: Yes.

Chris: The Outlier 360 project is through you, and the Tao of Peter is a application of this ancient wisdom to help people rebuild from scratch, or become an outlier from scratch, potentially 360, all the way around in their life and work.

Peter: Yes, and the reason it is from scratch is that otherwise you’re trying to unravel piece by piece of things that are not working, and …

Chris: Peeling the onion, as you say.

Peter: Yes. It’s onion peeling, and one layer after another until you get closer to the truth.

Chris: Or deconstruction.

Peter: Yes, and it’s onion peeling, and I’ve said that about searching for the truth or searching in history. It gives you lots of reasons to cry, like peeling an onion, because you take one later off, and you believe you’re close to the truth. You probably are, but you have lots of layers left, and lots of reasons to cry, because … Doing it from scratch and focusing on what is meaningful in life, what matters, like from self-determination theory, is a much, much faster way. When you start to look and compare to, “Does this help me learn faster? Did I learn something today that is really meaningful? Did I do something that I was getting closer to become excellent? Did I learn or be better at working in a team?”

If you look at it that way, and then you have something to compare with, and you can improve very quickly. Also, you can work with other people by learning together in pairs, and learning ways where you look at things and get a better understanding. When you do that, you can do it online, or around you, and when you do that, things can change very, very quickly. It doesn’t mean that you will be ready to compete in and win the Olympic games in two years’ times, winter games or, that’s less than two years, or win summer games in four years’ time, or get a Nobel Prize for something. However, the odds will definitely increase, but even if you don’t get the whole way there, I think that it can change your life in dramatic ways, both personally and professionally. That is what I’m focusing on.

Chris: If anybody listening to this, you want to find out more, I’d encourage you to check out the Tao of Peter dot com. That’s T-A-O-O-F-P-E-T-E-R dot com, and also Peter Fallenius dot com. That’s P-E-T-E-R-F-A-L-L-E-N-I-U-S dot com. What do you want to send people off with, Peter? What’s your closing thought for getting into outlier learning and Outlier 360?

Peter: Check with yourself if you’re doing things that truly matters in your life, that helps you getting better relationships, and enjoy time with great people, and doing great things. The only way to get there is to look at starting with excellence, and starting focusing on what is truly meaningful and matters to you. Otherwise, you will probably end up regretting a lot in your life.

Chris: Peter Fallenius, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming on the show, Peter. We’ll have to do it again sometime.

Peter: Thank you very much Chris.