I need a pep talk. I spent the last year building the Early Exit Academy. Last week, I launched my first course (for Young Escape Artists) to an audience of ZERO. My $200 discount expired last night, and I’m still teaching to an audience of ZERO. How incredibly discouraging! Did I just waste a year of my life creating an extraordinary product that nobody wants? Am I destined for business failure? Is time my friend or my enemy? I’ve got to get my game face on to finish the final unit and get ready for the Memorial Day launch of my next course – for Midlife Dreamers. Yes, I definitely need a pep talk.
Passion carries a price
This is not the first time I’ve taken a risk to follow my passion. It started by majoring in sociology and falling in love with social science research. I followed my passion to graduate school, where I eventually earned a PhD in sociology. Great investment … right? I earned the PhD right after I was downsized from my job at the University of California. I found the unemployment line waiting for me. It turned out, my off-topic dissertation and practical experience in institutional research was not valued in academia. As the job market tightened, I was left to find my own path.
The next three years were a struggle to survive. I worked at Target for $6 an hour – yes, with a PhD. I came close to being homeless and I was crushed by life. But survive I did and eventually, I was drawn to a job that would move my career in an upward trajectory. I became a Crime Analyst for the Atlanta Police Department – a job that opened up amazing doors and opportunities. I followed my passion and it eventually paid off – but it took time and perseverance.
More recently, I bet my career on another passion-driven project – reforming court processes and policies to better address elder abuse and adult guardianship matters. My colleague and I started with almost no funding. But we were passionate and determined to one day build the Center for Elders and the Courts. At one point, I began looking for a new job as the prospects for grants addressing elder issues was dim. Yes, I had again bet on a long shot. And yes, it paid off in the long-run. I was able to build the Center and become a national authority on the subject.
I’ve never experienced an overnight success story and I have never pursued money for money’s sake. Following my passion, and accepting the risk that comes along with doing so, is part of who I am. The single factor that eventually contributes to my success is this – I NEVER GIVE UP. And I’m certainly not giving up now.
How do we define a “waste of time?”
Waste of time – the devotion of time to a useless activity.The Free Dictionary
By that definition, my year of building the Early Exit Academy was anything but a useless activity. I feel like I spent the year writing another dissertation – only this has been tougher! Sure, I’ve had to absorb a ton of new information. But more importantly, I’ve built a number of skills that can help me succeed in the future. Skills like curriculum development, creating interactive courses (Articulate software), time management, and how to become an entrepreneur. Skills that I can use over and over again and skills that I can even sell.
In the United States, we place an over-emphasis on income and wealth as measures of success. If you don’t make money, you won’t be a success. While I’m confident the Early Exit Academy will eventually produce a healthy income stream, today I have to remind myself of other measures of success. Here’s my short list of successes:
- I was true to myself and followed my passion.
- I set goals and met them.
- I created courses that I am incredibly proud to share.
- I am doing something I believe in by helping people build their dream lives.
- I have grown as a person and as a friend.
- I turned something negative into something positive.
It’s okay to swim upstream!
People drawn to the financial independence (FI) movement have to be okay with going against societal expectations. Instead of the big house, they opt for a duplex and rent out the other unit. While their friends are buying new gadgets and carrying credit card debt, FIers make intentional purchases and avoid debt. Rather than complain about the job, FIers create side hustles that increase their income. It’s a counter-culture. And this is my tribe! Since I encourage people to take calculated risks, how can I not do so myself?
I’m buoyed by all the information I gathered in the process of creating the Academy. Sure, I compiled and created engaging materials for others to learn from, but the truth is, I’ve learned a lot myself. And if the Academy doesn’t become the income-producer I hope, it won’t be the end of the world. I’ll spend time on the Side Hustle Navigator I drafted for the course to explore more options. Or perhaps I’ll join the minimalist movement? And as a last resort, I can return to the traditional workforce.
Marketing is my kryptonite
Course creation is a full-time job. I continue to put in long hours to craft a beautiful product. There’s only one of me and I have failed to find the marketing magic I need to get people to enroll in the Academy. I hired a Facebook expert to help me on the marketing front. I’m told it takes time as I have to “warm up” a cold audience. I’ve posted ads in LinkedIn, with very little success. I have an Affiliate Program that I haven’t promoted as I should. My marketing efforts have not been working – yet.
Marketing is an experiment, and unfortunately, one that requires time and money. I need to test the artwork, copy, and target audience for the Academy before I can find the winning message. It has been a discouraging process, but I know I may need to dissect each part of the sales funnel to determine what does and doesn’t work. And I need to give it time.
My immediate task is finishing the final unit of the Early Exit Academy for Young Escape Artists. And I need to get started on my Bonus session. Each unit requires several weeks of intense work and I have a break in the action coming up as I head to Germany in early May to visit family. Germany is my reward for a year of incredible effort in the face of adversity. When I return, I’ll be turning my attention to the Midlife Dreamers course and getting it ready for its May 27 launch. In the meantime, I hope my Facebook expert can find a winning formula. Once the courses launch, I’ll turn my attention to marketing and promoting the course. It’s time to practice patience and persistence.