Why you’ll never get what you really want from a digital course and that’s okay

In February 2011, I signed up for Marie Forleo’s B-School.

By that point, I had been reading and watching Marie’s content regularly for a few years. For longer than that, I’d been dreaming of starting my own business. And I was finally ready to be serious about my dream so I forked over $2000 — the most I’d ever spent on a program.

I have no real memory of what made me go for it.

Based on other courses I’ve bought since, I know one thing for sure. I believed it was possible to change, to get the transformation that was being sold to me. Sure I had doubts but ultimately, this thing was going to make a difference.

Decisions are rarely fully rational

Sure, we can sit down with a pros and cons list. We can talk it out with trusted friends. We can feel like we’re actively making a decision. But it’s a deeper emotional and psychological need that will tip the scales.

We are strongly influenced by our fears and desires like:

  • Fear of missing out
  • Fear of staying stuck
  • Wanting to belong
  • Wanting to become a better version of ourselves
  • Wanting what they have

We want the transformation

“I hate to write, but I love having written.”
(attributed to Dorothy Parker but likely from novelist Frank Norris)

When we sign up for that course, we can’t help but go to the having written part. The stage where we are transformed. This is why copywriters focus on the transformation. Show people the gap between where they are and where they want to be and how your solution is the bridge that will get you there.

They understand that’s how our brains work. Even as we all continue to tell ourselves we are making rational decisions. Of course we acknowledge that there is an emotional component but this time it will be different. And sometimes it is.

Although not in the way we really wanted.

What we get is something different but still worth it

What did I get out of B-School?

I didn’t start a business. I played at it sure. And that felt nice. I made some good friends who I’m still friends with today. But it did not give me what I really wanted. And there are many more b-schoolers who didn’t get what they wanted either, even if they did the work.

It’s never as simple as a course or program. Rationally we know this but as Dan Ariely says, we are predictably irrational.



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Lynn Rivest

I talk about building a minimalist biz + aging boldly as a midlife entrepreneur.