An incredible 31 day sprint

The inaugural session of altMBA wrapped up last week. I’m still in awe of how quickly the weeks flew by, how many projects our students shipped, and how tightly-knit the community quickly became.

We had a rhythm: on Mondays the prompts would be released, Tu/Thu/Sunday had group meetings on video, the in-between days were for writing comments for your peers and reflecting on feedback…. We were running in the same direction and the momentum was infectious.

Because the altMBA is an online program, I originally had doubts about how deeply we could create bonds and foster connection between people.

It took only two days for me to change my mind: I am now fully convinced that the internet world is as real as anything else.

With high-def video conferencing 3x per week, Slack chat rooms for direct messages and group chats, and a variety of real-time ways to connect, we were able to get people from 13+ countries around the world to feel like colleagues and friends, because we really did become colleagues and friends.

We had high expectations about altMBA from the beginning. I was doubly impressed during the program because with each project, I’d scan through the student work on our Featured Projects page and think, wow this is good. And the next project deadline would come along, students would publish, and though I didn’t think it was possible, everyone kept raising the bar.

Our students created 13 projects in a month, and given the complexity and ambiguity of each prompt, the work could have easily taken weeks to complete. But they rallied to get quality work out of the door in 2 days. This required doing creative work at a fast timeline, with constraints, within groups or individually, filming videos, creating slides, writing articles, deconstructing ideas, asserting arguments, etc. What an incredible body of work and trail to leave behind.

All of this was on top of the people component: working with new people each week, learning when to push or relent, getting to know working styles that may be really different from your own.

Since we were doing this for the first time, there was a lot of co-creation with our inaugural class. I’m so thankful for everyone’s involvement, feedback, and mainly, for caring so much.

It takes emotional labor to want to make something better and to take initiative to make it happen. Our inaugural class did exactly that, and proved that this wasn’t about being a cog in an industrialized educational system.

One student created a survey to capture the skill sets of all the students, so there could be a knowledge exchange within the community or for side projects.

A small but mighty group contributed regularly to our #techtips channel in Slack, helping to answer questions from other students and offering pro tips about the technology we were using (WordPress, Zoom, Slack, Disqus).

Many students started interest groups surrounding certain topics — writing or film-making, for example — and hosted webinars or listservs that benefited everyone.

We had students on the corporate side (Fidelity, Google, Kate Spade, PwC), non-profit sector (charity:water, Planned Parenthood, Bay.org), as well as entrepreneurs, small business owners, artists, filmmakers, teachers, a military captain, and more. The fact that we drew such strong, driven, collaborative leaders to leap with us despite knowing little about the details of what altMBA would be like, is a true testament to the trust that Seth has built over the last few decades. It’s also a nod to recognizing that there are ruckusmakers out there who are in a hurry to make a difference, comfortable with ambiguity (a rare trait), and simply unstoppable.

There were times during the planning phase when I wasn’t sure if this would work. I’d get caught up in the nitty-gritty and become overly literal. Of course, I had faith in Seth, and he’d say, “Trust the process.” It’s something we said to students, and students said to one another, during the program. And sometimes I had to remind myself of it too.

Trusting the process feels natural when you respect and admire the people involved in the process, and I’m thankful that this was the case.

What I’ve learned boils down to is this: when you are surrounded by people who are going places, the forward momentum is magical.

The sense of possibility, the contagious energy, the palpable inspiration. It’s hard to find, and so precious. If and when you find kindred spirits who spark something in you, go forth with gusto together to create work that matters.

I know we had magic during that 31 days in altMBA and beyond, from what I’ve seen with alumni meeting up in person and continuing to interact. It’s been a great experience getting to know our ruckusmaker students, working daily with five amazing coaches behind-the-scenes, and learning from a boss who teaches me something new every day.

Here’s to the next section of altMBA. If you’re interested, check out Seth’s blog post, or you can find program details and apply.

Hope to see you on the flip side — we’re just getting started.

altMBA: It’s not a MOOC

The web has transformed the way we work, play, live, and communicate. And I believe it will transform the way we learn, too.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Seth Godin and Willie Jackson to help bring a new business school-type experience to life.

Yesterday we launched altMBA, an intense 31 day sprint, with 100 curated students per session, online, by application only.

The goal is to help leaders create change more effectively, to amplify impact, to fight through the discomfort that often comes with true learning.

Traditional online education and MOOCs tend to feel optional. Optional homework, optional projects, optional deadlines. And because you don’t have to do any of the work, many times we opt out because no one is watching.

altMBA is the opposite: everything about it is about making big promises and keeping them. We’re about group work, hands-on projects, and producing a body of work that you’d be proud of by the end of the course.

And most importantly, doing it with a community of ruckusmakers who are here to challenge ourselves, and one another, to grow.

I hope you’ll check it out and consider joining us.

Design considerations for launching the Your Turn book on Instagram

Seth Godin’s newest bestseller, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, is about choosing yourself and not waiting for permission to stand up, make a ruckus, and do work that matters.

One of the channels we used to to rally the tribe for Your Turn was Instagram. This was Seth’s first official Instagram channel and he asked me to own the project. From December through April, we posted a set of 27 slides, gained over 6,950 followers, and earned 7,210 likes.

I created a branding system for creating these slides and a learned a lot in the process. Here are some things you might find helpful: Continue Reading

Shipped: Seth Godin’s Freelancer course on Udemy

I’m so excited to launch Seth’s course on Udemy. I’ve been leading this project since February and it’s awesome to see it come to life.

Within 24 hours of going live, we have 3,000+ students enrolled – making this one of the fastest growing courses in the history of Udemy. [Edit: 7,300 students and counting within four days of the course going live.]

The course answers some burning questions I’ve personally thought about in terms of how to be sought-after in a crowded market of people who do what you do, so I’m glad that the insights here are now captured in a course.

For every field, there are a ton of designers/consultants/copywriters/filmmakers/content marketers/translators/available-hands-for-hire out there, and it’s hard to get clients to realize why you’re different and BETTER. It’s painful because many solopreneurs and freelancers do what they do because they love the craft and are good at it.  Continue Reading

The Automation / Customization Matrix: How Good Morning Love re-imagined drip emails

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I believe that technology is most powerful when it:

(a) brings people together

(b) enables people to do things more easily

Good Morning Love embodied both values, and I’m proud to see the many couples who enjoyed the product.

Too much email…

Most people get way too many emails and it’s overwhelming. Sometimes you subscribe to an email list because you want to know what the brand is up to, and all of a sudden you’re getting emails from them twice a day, every day. It’s just too much. Continue Reading

The Complex Psychological Hooks I Used to Build a “Simple” Side Project

I recently shipped a product for Valentine’s Day called Good Morning Love. It’s a seven day drip email campaign where you write lovey-dovey notes that get sent to your partner every morning from Feb 14 – Feb 21, 2015. If you want to sign up, it’s not too late – click here.

The concept might seem fairly simple, but there were a lot of decisions that went into shaping the product and user experience. I want to go behind the scenes to share how I built psychological hooks into the product and why it’s important to do so.

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Continue Reading

#YourTurnChallenge wrap up video

I recorded a 3 minute finale video for Your Turn Challenge last week and wanted to include it here.

During the week, I started playing a game I call “blog post roulette.” Basically scroll and click on anything in our blog archive – it’s almost a guarantee that it’ll be worth your time.

You can play the game yourself here: Your Turn Challenge Tumblr blog archive.

PS. I’ve gotten some incredible emails from many of you over the past few weeks. I love your stories of how YTC has changed you for the better, and it’s a privilege to hear from every single one of you.

Your Turn Challenge Wrap Up from Seth Godin on Vimeo.

Just the beginning

This is the last day of the Your Turn Challenge, an initiative to practice the art of shipping by writing one blog post every day for a week.

What a week.

I couldn’t have imagined 7 days ago that we’d end up with 4,500 blog posts, new friendships, and a community where it feels safe to be who you are.

You should know that you’ve definitely changed me – and a lot of other people – because you took a chance and shared posts that were brave.

I hope you’ll continue to ship. To create. To start. The world is a better place when you do.

Learn, do, learn, do, learn, do

This is Day 6 of the Your Turn Challenge, an initiative to practice the art of shipping by writing one blog post every day for a week.

Day 6: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.

I’ve always been the kind of person who liked to be prepared. I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Winnie, you should have prepared more for this.”

When I’m doing something new, my typical plan looks like this: learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, do.

I realized that it’s overkill to prepare so much for certain things, and that it’s actually a way of hiding from taking action. So I’ve been making a conscious effort to take action sooner.

I want my process to look more like this: learn, do, learn, do, learn, do.

When the Your Turn Challenge was announced last Thursday, I realized that I didn’t know how to use Twitter as well as I thought I did. In previous roles, I had managed people who did the day-to-day of Twitter, so I knew enough to set high level goals, but I never actually interacted with people on the platform despite having an account for 4 years.

The idea of actually having to tweet myself was a little scary. Twitter seemed so…so…public. And permanent. Yes, new tweets come in and push old ones down, but my tweets would be on my page forever. If they were bad, someone could look it up and see that.

I wouldn’t have time to learn as much as I needed to in order to tweet with confidence with Your Turn Challenge participants who I wanted to meet and talk to on this platform.

I asked a few social media savvy friends some questions I had. I read a few articles. I had a general grasp. But without actually doing any tweeting, it was hard to really know what I didn’t know.

On my first day of using Twitter, I retweeted 35 posts in a row within a few minutes. I thought retweets were like “likes” on Facebook, and I liked what those 35 participants had said.

A friend noticed and told me, “You’re flooding people’s feeds – they might unfollow you for that. You should use the Favorite button instead.”

I was really glad he told me. Then I started to feel guilty for making the mistake that I did. I thought, “If only I had just read more about this before starting, this wouldn’t have happened. If only I had asked my friend about this, I could have avoided this mistake…”

Then I surprised myself. I told myself that unlike before, this time I wasn’t going to continue down that path of beating myself up.

I learned the lesson. I learned when and what to retweet. I learned that including both links and hashtags is useful. I learned how to trim content to fit 140 characters (I’m still working on this one).

More questions came up as I started doing, and then I would look up answers or ask people.

I reached out to a Your Turn Challenge participant, who then showed me the ropes on Twitter. Since then, Joyce and I have become friends. She has an uncanny ability to craft awesome tweets and trim them to fit the word limit.

If you’re scoffing, let me tell you that this is no small feat. I was talking to another marketer friend today and we both reveled in the art of a well-crafted tweet packed with insight and worthy of favorites.

I’ve learned a lot from Joyce – I’m lucky that she’s generous with her knowledge. I would never have thought that a stranger would be willing to patiently explain and encourage me to try, so that’s been surprising too.

It’s uncomfortable to do the “learn, do, learn, do” approach, even if the action is small and I can go back to learning to take the next step forward.

It feels risky. I don’t feel ready and I want to read more about something before doing it, so that I can do it perfectly the first time around. I’m glad that this time, I let myself make mistakes on Twitter. It wasn’t as risky as I had built it up to be. 

I tweeted more in the first 10 minutes of the Your Turn Challenge than I had in the previous 4 years combined, and I also learned more in those 10 minutes than I had in the past 4 years when I didn’t tweet anything.

By the second day, I had gotten a sense of the unspoken rules and norms of Twitter. I started noticing tweets I liked and incorporating those elements into my own tweets. I’m still learning about the platform and am not a power user. But even in my week of tweeting more often, it’s empowering to know that I now have Twitter in my toolkit as a marketer and better understand how it works in execution as well as in theory.

Yesterday I put out a tweet and a few minutes later, I realized that I could have written it better. My old self would have agonized about this and maybe even deleted it.

My new self thought, “You know what, I’ll just retweet a similar message later and it’ll be okay.”

And it turned out to be okay. 

Inspirational articles are depressing and you should avoid them

This is Day 5 of the Your Turn Challenge, an initiative to practice the art of shipping by writing one blog post every day for a week.

Day 5: What advice would you give for getting unstuck?

I recently read about a 16-year old girl who started her own jewelry business. She made necklaces with magnets on them, and within a few years, she had grown the company to be worth more than $1 million dollars.

What an inspirational story.

Was I inspired? No. I found it incredibly depressing.

First of all, how do you sell magnet necklaces and turn it into a global enterprise? Who’s buying these things? And if it’s lame, why wasn’t I smart enough to create this and trick people into buying it?

I don’t understand how reading about how a 16 year old figured out the keys to the kingdom is supposed to make me feel good about myself.

And yet the conventional wisdom presumes that if you read stories of people doing big things and learn their tactics, you’ll think, “I can do it too! I’m going to try.”

Except what you end up saying to yourself is:

“Ugh, I could have done that. I could have been her. But I’ve already wasted so much time and am behind. What’s the point in even trying?”

My advice is going to sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

You should avoid stories of people doing great things.

You should avoid friends that make you feel jealous.

You should avoid reading work from people who make you feel like you could never see yourself being that good.

Let me explain. I very much value quality and I’m not saying to choose to surround yourself with mediocrity. Quite the opposite. I only read material that is high quality and have no problem ditching a book part way through if it’s a waste of my time. I love literary short fiction and smart, organized nonfiction. I think you need to understand what superior quality looks like so that you can raise the bar for yourself.

However. 

If you want to produce and ship, it is crucial that you remove anything that prevents you from feeling confident enough to ship.

You need to find people and things that make you feel like you can and want to take on the world. 

Notice which friends you talk to that get you fired up. Where every time you hang out or tell them about something, you get enthusiastic and can’t wait to get started. Your mind is just swirling with ideas.

You want to find people like that. Because what’s scarce aren’t tips and tactics on what a 16 year old did to create a business. What’s scarce is the excitement, urge, and I-can-barely-sit-still excitement that gets you to want to attempt anything in the first place.

I have a good friend in mobile gaming who’s a prolific writer and doing big things. I love hearing what he is up to. But last week, I unsubscribed from his status updates on Facebook.

This might sound weird given that I respect him tremendously and consider him a close friend. But every time I told him an idea, he would tear it apart ruthlessly playing the devil’s advocate. My seedling ideas didn’t stand a chance. There’s certainly a time and place for constructive criticism but each time we talked I felt a little more discouraged about my own path and projects.

I don’t see his stuff anymore. I’m more focused, I write, I’m able to do my thing without getting distracted. That’s a good thing.

I still talk to him, sometimes. But it’s definitely a contained thing, it’s not a frequent daily interaction, because I don’t want it to be. We catch up and we part ways, so that both of us can do the work.

Inspirational articles, inspirational people – they’re good if they actually inspire you. But if they make you feel discouraged…

Then find people who make you feel strong and capable.

Choose to do things and spend time with people who make you feel confident and purposeful. Once you feel that way, you’re going to want to act and you will. That’s how you get unstuck.