PODCAST TRANSCRIPT, EVERYTHING IS TEACHABLE

22: Digital Productivity

with Tiago Forte, Forte Labs

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Tiago Forte:

That's an early step is to just recognize that you know so much you have so much to offer. And people are choosing right now between so many different options so many different online programs Zune calls different things that they want to I think they want to hear from the person that is doing it boldly and doing it confidently.

Melissa Guller:

That's Tiago Forte. The Productivity Expert behind Forte Labs, and their signature program, Building a Second Brain. Although Tiago recently welcomed his 10th cohort of students, his largest yet. He's doing a lot of things that may surprise you. For one thing, nothing is self paced, the cohort goes through the material at the same time, all together using live Zoom calls, instead of creating perfectly pre-produced content, which is what most new creators assume must be done. So, in this episode, Tiago shares why he believes pre-produced videos aren't necessarily the best approach for courses of any size. He'll share the story of how his initial product - a book club - eventually turned into a workshop and then an online program, and he talks about how he looks at creativity, practically, instead of perhaps mythically or like some magical force and true to his expertise Tiago also offers a ton of great tips to improve your own workflow and productivity as a course creator. So grab a notepad, better yet, a virtual notepad, and let's meet Tiago.

Announcer:

Welcome to Everything is Teachable, the podcast that takes you behind the scenes to learn how everyday creators have transformed their skills and passions into online courses and businesses. To introduce this week's episode, here's your host, Melissa Guller.

Melissa Guller:

Hey everyone, I'm Melissa from Team Teachable. And today I'm thrilled to be here with Tiago Forte, Tiago is the founder of Forte Labs, and has taught more than 20,000 people worldwide. How to radically improve their productivity and personal effectiveness, using technology in his Building a Second Brain course. He trains students in how to build a reliable system for knowledge management, known as a "Second Brain," so they can leverage the power of their ideas, and unlock their creative potential.

Well Tiago Welcome to the podcast.

Tiago Forte:

Thank you so much, Melissa I'm so happy to be here.

Melissa Guller:

I am thrilled to interview you. I identify as a bit of a productivity and excel nerd myself so I'm excited to see what we get into today, and I think I just have to start by asking, how did you become a Productivity Expert and what does that even really mean.

Tiago Forte:

Yeah, it's it's a funny title because it's sort of self bestowed.

Melissa Guller:

Yeah, right.

Tiago Forte:

It all started it's kind of coincides with how I started with courses, which I know we're going to touch on probably later but I read this book. It all started with a book called Getting Things Done. And this book was first published in 2001, I discovered it in maybe 2012, but it really sort of created this, this concept, this term called personal productivity and I fell in love, it really changed my life changed my career. And to this day I still kind of self identifies as being in the productivity space and my expert status just comes from all the people I've taught and helped really

Melissa Guller:

well I love hearing that because I do think a lot of aspiring course creators assume you have to have some kind of certification or degree and I think it's refreshing and maybe inspiring to hear that you don't necessarily need that and you can become an expert, by doing.

Tiago Forte:

You really can't, it's it's sort of the secret unknown path, there's there's the path of the certifications of diplomas of all those things, and for certain fields such as medicine I would say that's absolutely necessary and you should stick to that path. But then there's all these other fields that are sort of, you could describe them as more subjective or as more like soft skills that there's no one established authority, because there's no one right way to do it, things like how to learn how to, how to work, how to plan, even things like how to cook. And I think that's the domain that online courses really are perfect for.

Melissa Guller:

Well said. And speaking of I'd love to hear about how you started getting into both online courses and business so can you tell us more about how you started 40 Labs and what did that look like in the beginning.

Tiago Forte:

Yeah, you know, my first project probably two weeks or so after I left my last job which was a consulting job this is now way back in early 2013. Wow, that's kind of crazy it's been seven years. You know I left that job I had zero savings no runway, I had no, I didn't have any, any established, you know, curriculum or anything like that. I had done a few like little sort of workshops in the CO working space that I had worked in just for my colleagues I think it started as a book club and the book club slowly morphed into a workshop as I realized I was the only person reading the book. And so I had a little bit of a teaching experience but I just when I left that job I thought let me just take a few weeks and do with this little project which is an online course on that very book that I mentioned before getting things done. And I really, I can't express how low my expectations were. If I made $1 I think I would have been happy that had you know three students in my class but it really hit a nerve. I think it was a combination of pre existing interest in that book. It was a combination of I mean 2013 was, I mean it's still the heyday of online courses, but in a different way. I had just taken my first online course a few months before, and that course just exploded it just was taken by many thousands of people. Back then I was on a different online course platform, but I just took it one month at a time and I said you know what, I'm just gonna keep doing this until I completely run out of money. And it wasn't for two or three years that I thought I'm starting a business I'm self employed, it was really more just like can I figure out a way to pay the rent for one more month and keep this thing going.

Melissa Guller:

And obviously things are much different in 2013 when it comes to like online marketing and finding students but how were those early students finding you.

Tiago Forte:

It was a combination just like today is a combination of things that was really the the era where you had to basically go through the course platforms like the marketplaces there really wasn't another way. And that was good because I think tons of people got introduced to creating online courses and taking online courses during that time. But then later on I as I sort of wanted more control and I wanted to try more innovative things I needed to move to my own platform, this was maybe two, three years after that first course. And that's when I moved to Teachable because I just realized I can't have a marketplace determining my prices telling me how I need to offer my, my products, or. Most importantly, standing in between the customer relationship you know I didn't have anyone's email addresses so I had no way to contact them no way to reach them. So that was a big turning point.

Melissa Guller:

And at that moment where you did decide to create your own online course. How did things shift for you then in your business.

Tiago Forte:

So, my first course that I had on on Teachable. I just poured it over. I just migrated that first course it did super well from what I had been doing before to the new to the my new school, but the first course that was really at say like Teachable like centric that I really was able to do it my own way and express how I wanted to teach is called Building a Second Brain and Building a Second Brain is our, we offer a range seven or eight different courses but it's really our flagship. It's the one that we spend the most attention on and we have a whole course staff we have alumni mentors, it's kind of like the the flagship program.

Melissa Guller:

When you started Building a Second Brain. What was different about the first time you launched it compared to maybe how it's evolved over time.

Tiago Forte:

It's changed so much. We're now about to kick off the 10th cohort. So this this course is a bit different, it's not self paced, it's not something that you take you know by yourself it's highly community driven, you actually join a group, a cohort of peers and then we take you through a series of live Zoom calls over five weeks, and different question would almost be how has it not changed I mean we've changed every unit of the curriculum. We have added kind of new features like now we have office hours that we do every week, we have an implementation period where for two weeks after the end of the cohort we remain available. We've created an online discussion platform that we're going to be expanding, over time, it's really been this this intense process of iteration and evolution. And we continue I mean there's a list of a dozen or two new things that we launched for every cohort. That's the cool thing about doing it in groups is like you can sort of pivot quickly. And if the last cohort people said, Oh, the call this actually happened the calls were too long 90 minutes it's hard to find 90 minutes in my day. And so we pivoted this time to 60 minutes, and so each time we're looking at all the feedback we receive choosing the ones that we can act on and then directly implementing those changes into the next group it's really, really pretty cool.

Melissa Guller:

Yeah that's such a nice benefit to doing the live approach the way that you are where everyone is in a cohort. And I'm wondering, maybe for listeners who haven't considered delivering that way. Maybe they were assuming all along. I'm going to create videos, I'm going to upload them, it will be self paced but maybe what are some of the other benefits or reasons why people could consider doing more of a live cohort style approach.

Tiago Forte:

Yes. Okay, so this this is an important topic I talked to a lot of course creators a lot of fledgling course creators and that what you just described right there. This Mount Olympus of effort that they think they have to undergo completely recording writing producing publishing an entire course, that's ready on day one is is I think the single biggest thing that keeps them from actually ever getting started. And so I want to I want to pull back the curtain a bit here so. So a couple things okay so first I talked about the huge success of my first course but I think that's a huge anomaly. And I want to contrast that with my second course so basically after the first one I had this huge ego. I just thought I am a genius, everything I whatever I produce people will flock to it and they want to buy it.

Melissa Guller:

Of course yeah that's exactly what happened there yeah

Tiago Forte:

Yeah I think I sort of with the first one I I didn't consider that I had based my course on a best selling book and so therefore I had benefited from more than 20 years of the author's experience. So the second course which is called design your habits is still available, but it was a miserable failure. So I basically did the, I call it the caveman or cavewoman style of creating courses where you know you you go into the into the dark cave of your office or your room. And basically for six months or so. I just labored away on this thing I just poured so much effort and money and time into this thing. And then I launched it and within hours within days of launching, I saw that it was completely wrong. The title was wrong, the framing was wrong the marketing was wrong. Like, it wasn't something that was salvageable the whole concept of what the course was offering was not something people wanted. I had basically never tested it, I had never shown it to someone in any event in a basic form and said, Is this something that you would pay for I just assumed that they would. And, and so I don't think I ever made my money back even the cost on on some audio equipment or the video I made that actually was so hard that I stopped doing online courses for a couple years. I thought you know this this isn't for me, I can't make this work. This isn't profitable I don't know what I'm doing. I tried a few other things like corporate training and different things but so contrast that that sort of disappointment with Building a Second Brain. Here was the trajectory wrote a post my first post was actually a rant one day I, I just got annoyed at how I thought people were doing note taking wrong. I think I had I'd seen like a number one article on medium that was being uploaded and shared and I read it I was like this is terrible. I totally disagree with this. So I went I had no intention of any long term thing I just went on medium at the time and wrote my rant, and it did so well, it's such a powerful reaction from people because I think I had found this group of people like me that were just were not satisfied with the traditional approach of organizing their knowledge, so I'll I'll kind of, kind of accelerate the timeline but I wrote that first post. Two months later three months later said okay well if that's how not to do it. Here's how you should do it and I did a more productive, more positive more how to post called How to use Evernote for your creative workflow which is still online Evernote the note taking app which is the one that I use and recommend saw it asked me to republish the posts on their blog and so they did another huge reaction, and months pass so this is now maybe 678 months since my first post. A friend of mine wrote me and said, Have you seen the comments on that, that Evernote guest blog post, and I was like I didn't even know there were comments and so I go in there and it's like, every comment is just glowing, and I'm just so appreciative of this post that I had written. And I think that was the moment where I said okay, I don't just have a few disagreements here with the standard approach. I really have a new way of thinking about it I have a new philosophy.

Melissa Guller:

And from there, what did you do next.

Tiago Forte:

So, more time pass i like i said i was so slow to warm up to this idea, and really throw myself into it after my previous experience, maybe another six months later, I had to actually get a job during this period because I did run out of runway. And so I'm working at this company and then I left it after a few months wasn't a good fit. And once again I it's funny, there's a burst of energy I think when you leave a job that you're not really happy with where you suddenly have all this time. And so I left that job this is now like November of 2016. And I just walked into a Wholefoods cafe one morning in early December in Oakland, California. And I said let me just try to make an outline, I'm still not committed. And in one or two hours just put all my ideas into an outline like what are the main points, what are the supporting points is maybe two pages long. And that's that was really the beginning once I saw this outline how much I had to say how much I had to offer on this subject. My next step was to email about, I think 15 friends and ask them to be part of a beta cohort. So, beta is this term from from the tech world which is like your. It's like your prototype it's like the first test of something. And so I said, Look, I'm not going to charge you but if you'll just meet for 90 minutes once a week for four weeks I'll present to you the course. And then in exchange you'll get access to any future versions and they're like sure I'm happy to do that I think maybe eight of them said yes. Yeah,yeah. Not bad right 50% turnout.
And then that's what we did and the amazing part is you know I produced these lessons which were just voiceover slides. So I had, I didn't deal with any video had no lighting, no cameras, no editing none of that it was just me on a video call I think back then it was like Skype or something, just showing my slides and talking. That was it. and over the four weeks I actually I couldn't produce more than one week in advance so like I would deliver them one like week one content, then I would ask. Okay, what's your feedback, get all their feedback, and in the next seven days I produce, I actually created the second week's content, and I did that for four weeks.

Melissa Guller:

Well that's so valuable because in the moment you're learning exactly what they want next or what questions that they have so I'm sure it ends up being more valuable to them than if you had made it all in the beginning.

Tiago Forte:

Exactly. I mean, this is this is what people don't get okay this is this is a point I really want to make is for your early days, like for the first version of your course for the first cohort for your first students. This is really hard to believe until you see it. So I get it but the unpolished nature is actually a plus for them. Okay. And here's, here's what I've discovered it's the most amazing thing for early adopters and, you know, the people who first take whatever you're offering are going to be early adopters, what they value is not this slick polished perfected product. What early adopters like is to be part of the process. They like to feel like they were the first of their friends to know about it. They were the first to try it. They look giving you feedback and seeing you implement that feedback is like the best thing to them they feel like they contributed to you, they feel like their ideas actually are part of the course that you're creating. And so I saw like each week I would apologize like guys I know this is unpolished I know it's very shaky but I'm sorry and they're gonna no we we love seeing behind the curtains we love seeing how the sausage is made. And to this day that those first couple groups are some of my most diehard fans because they were they were there from the beginning.

Melissa Guller:

That's such an interesting perspective, I've never heard it explained that way but it makes so much sense that they feel like they're a part of something and what I love too is just the overall focus on the content, and I think you're right that people, maybe are impressed initially by like the glitz and glam and the editing, but unless they learn something they're never going to succeed and then they'll never recommend the course to anyone and I don't know, I think it's just from our team. She always says that it's not students who recommend your course, it's success stories.

Tiago Forte:

Yes Very true. Very true. You can think of it like this is a very funny thing. If you look at coaches coaches are expensive people pay a lot of money for coaching. The typical rates that you see are easily hundred dollars an hour like people don't blink at such prices. And then I talked to course creators who are like creating their first course which of course includes like the best of what they've learned, it's everything they know packaged into this course. And then they feel embarrassed or they feel shy to charge 50 bucks or 100 bucks and there's like 100 hours I went into that course. And I just, I just say, think of the course in the beginning as a sort of structured coaching program. What would you charge someone for not one on one but small group intimate private direct interaction with the, the instructor coaching you charge a lot for that. Now think of the course in those terms and suddenly the fact that you don't have everything figured out and pre prepared and perfectly polished. That's how coaching is people don't expect, you know, coaching is a relationship, it's a back and forth, it's kind of a collaboration. And that's how the early. The early versions of your course should be as well,

Melissa Guller:

How people are taking notes, even the words you used that could immediately be used in marketing materials like intimate conversations being very interactive, those are things that will immediately create a more high value offer than just saying, Oh, I guess it's just me on Zoom, if you want to pay for this, here I am.

Tiago Forte:

Oh my gosh okay thank you yes this is driving me crazy right now.

Melissa Guller:

I'm ready, I'm ready for a rant he told me that this all started with a rant I'm ready for a rant.

Tiago Forte:

My best ideas arise in rants. So, you know, we're living in this moment right now that online education is is undergoing a quantum leap, everything happening in the world with the, the pandemic and all that. And we're jumping 10 years into the future I didn't expect to see this level of sales interest traffic engagement, until 2030, honestly, wow, it's like it's like time traveling into the future. I mean, just as one example of the cohort that we're about to kick off, is there's still three days left in the, in the enrollment period, and it's already more than four times as large as any other cohort we've done. That's insane. Like it's just it's unbelievable I we're having to hire people and to expand various support options just to handle the inflow. So, you know, online all these people are are jumping into online education which makes me so happy, but they they downplay it everyone that I see they say like you said, I'm just going to be on Zoom from this time to this time, or they say they sort of downplay their experience like oh I know a thing or two about online marketing and they're actually like an incredible marketer that has 10 years of experience so they go oh I know a couple things about meditation they've been meditating for 15 years it's like, people think that I think it's a way of sort of lowering expectations and making it easier to deal with failure because they fear they're going to fail but they're not going to fail. I mean, so much of this process is standing powerfully in what you know owning what you know and standing from that place of confidence because people can feel it like you said that the language the feelings The, the sort of background thoughts that you're having inevitably link leak into your marketing into your teaching into everything. So I'd say that that's an early step is to just recognize that you know so much you have so much to offer. And people are choosing right now between so many different options so many different online programs Zune calls different things that they want to, I think they want to hear from the person that is doing it boldly and doing it confidently.

Melissa Guller:

That's such great advice and kind of speaking of things that, you know, I know that you recently launched a podcast the Building a Second Brain podcast and in one of those earliest episodes you do outline 10 principles of building a better brain, and if you don't mind, I have a few in mind that I'd love to share with our listeners and then maybe have you elaborate so that our course creators or aspiring course creators can take this back to their own work. So does that sound alright. Perfect. Let's do it. Alright so I'm about to quote you at you, but the first one, I'd love to talk about is borrowed creativity in other words what other people are doing, take a look and use that as maybe a starting point. So, how do you think that that principle can apply for our course graders.

Tiago Forte:

Yes, this is I think the first of the 10 principles and I did that because I think there's so many myths around creativity. Creativity is treated like this mystical kind of supernatural phenomenon that just arises or emerges out of, I don't know the depths of our subconscious I don't know what that's about. And my background on this comes from growing up with, with two parents that were artists My dad is a painter, a professional painter of paintings. And my mom is a musician, and I would see you know if you only see the final product if you only see the song when it's already practiced and ready when you only see the painting when it's hanging perfectly in the gallery you don't appreciate that creativity is a practical process. It's a practical process of gathering your influences. So depending on the medium you know gathering sketches snippets of songs, gathering notes on whatever mentors you have thought leaders you listen to other course creators, books, articles magazines podcasts webinars like, the list goes on. You just gather those. And then when you go to create your own thing. That's your creative fuel. That's like the Lego pieces, it's very much like Lego, you know, what do you do with Lego pieces, you don't just pick one or two, you get a whole bunch and then ideally you pour them out on the ground so you can see them all. And then you just start like mixing them up like kind of passing your hand over them and like bunching them into little groups and moving them around and then you see what emerges you see what you notice what patterns you notice.

Melissa Guller:

I think a key part of this whole thing is that you're starting with Legos, instead of a blank slate.

Tiago Forte:

Exactly. Exactly, I would say, it's not your responsibility. I think course creators take in a weird way they take on too much responsibility like they have to personally come up with some totally groundbreaking idea or framework or method I mean that happens once in a while but you can't wait until that happens to share what you know with the world, start by just being a curator before you're a creator, be a curator, is what I like to say, and just think about if you know if you've just spent a little bit of time reading on a topic, let's just pick something like, I don't know, art history. If you've read a one or two books, been to a handful of museums and really paid attention and read the things you have a few maybe art books on your coffee table that you're interested in. If you've taken a class. So, that small group of things you already know more about art history then 99.99% of the population. Right. And that 99.99 is your market, everyone who knows, less than you, which is almost everyone. And so, just think of think of yourself as a curator you know you've probably found in your own consumption of content that some stuff is way better than others. Some things you have to understand first before you can understand other things like, just think of yourself as saving people that time, whatever, whatever time it took you and whatever effort you have to spend if you can give people that same knowledge or that same outcome in one 10th of time, what is that 90% of time that you're saving them worth, I mean just converted into an hourly rate, and you're going to come up with a sizable number, and that's the price of your course.

Melissa Guller:

And I have to ask to kind of the opposite end of the spectrum. So on one end, we have the. I have nothing we're teaching, who am I to do any of this, and then as we start to gather our Legos and our pieces from different points of expertise. What's the tipping point where it becomes copying like where is too far on this spectrum.

Tiago Forte:

Great question. Yeah, I think you have to cite your sources, comprehensively, and you know that's that's really kind of the main thing. What I found I borrow from so so so many different people, every unit of my Building a Second Brain course. I have a I put a post in the discussion forum where it says you know unit one source notes Unit Two source notes, and there's like probably one or two dozen sources for each and every unit. I've never I can't think of one disagreement or problem or complaint from anyone. In fact, almost always if that person even notices which is rare. They Thank you. You know, we live in an attention economy. When you surface and you promote and you sort of signal boost the work of others. You are promoting them you're driving more attention to them. I've encountered nothing but gratitude as long as I'm just very diligent about citing where it came from.

Melissa Guller:

I think what's so great about that advice too is that it's so simple to include a citation, but maybe not something that many of us have considered and so even if people only take these small notes away like, Oh, I can borrow creativity from others and then as long as I cite their expertise. Already I think that that'll get some wheels turning.

Tiago Forte:

I think so. I think so it's just, you know, it's how creativity really works. No, no one actually this is another one of the principles no one actually starts from scratch, even if it looks like you're starting from scratch, you know, think of the the great people that you admire in your field, the people that you really look to look behind them, what, what giants shoulders are they standing if they're honest and if they're, they're good at what they do, they usually I've found freely acknowledge yes I borrow this person's framework I was really inspired by this person's business model, you know this reading was very formative on my career. It really doesn't take this is what I want to leave people with is, it does not take away anything from what you've done it doesn't detract from your credibility, if you have your own teachers and mentors in fact it increases it because if you had teachers and mentors, then your students are also going to want teachers and mentors and that's who you are. So, actually, the more you talk about your, your own mentors, the better the case is that you can then be a mentor to others.

Melissa Guller:

That's a great point.

Tiago Forte:

The more you talk about your, your own mentors, the better the case is that you can then be a mentor to others. That's a great point.

Melissa Guller:

Now I did want to talk about another one of your principles, which is what you called intermediate packets or, as you said, Don't try to build a cathedral in one go. And I think for course creators that must be huge. So you want to share a little bit more about that principle.

Tiago Forte:

Yes. So, this is an idea that whatever you're considering creating, it's probably a course because you're listening to this podcast. But, so, a course is not fixed in size. I think I've noticed this when you different people say, I'm going to create a course they secretly have in their head, a very fixed idea of how big that is that idea might come from college, they might then they might think okay it needs this many classes at 16 weeks semester has to take place over this amount of time, it might come from of course they've taken it might come from. I don't know where it comes from, actually, but any concept for course can be scaled down is what I call it scaled down to a tiny tiny tiny little version, or it can be scaled up. So with my Building a Second Brain course let's use as an example right now it's a it's an intensive in depth five week program. Right. But if necessary and I do do workshops and corporate trainings, I can deliver a version of it in half a day in two or three hours and we've done that. And then in a way you can think of that early post that I wrote as a guest post for Evernote, really if you read that post all my main ideas are there, that post is like a. It's like a, it's like a digest of what would eventually become the full program. And then, even in my first post in the my rants my original rant. You can see it's, it's kind of all there the essence of the ideas there. And so what I encourage people to do is start with the tiniest version of what you're doing, can even be a conversation. Take a friend out to coffee or to lunch and say, listen, can I just talk through the main points from this outline that I have, and see their reaction, I encourage people to do this it's hard now with the quarantine but you can also do it over video conference but see their facial reactions what parts, do they go, Oh Tell me more. What parts do they kind of their eyes glaze over it's very easy to tell, as you're talking through the things how people are responding. Even something as simple as a conversation with a friend or a potential client can be an early test of whether your course is going to be attractive.

Melissa Guller:

I'm noticing a theme too that we keep talking about building in small pieces but also collecting feedback so it's not just about doing this in a void it's about actively consuming creating listening and then kind of repeating.

Tiago Forte:

Yes, yes exactly it's it's it's funny that you picked up on that because this is the process that I teach is called code co D, which is the creative process it's the process of turning consumption into creation, those letters stand for capture, so you have to write it down my courses on it's on digital note taking. So how do you capture pieces of text, screenshots bookmarks, pieces of video quotes from audio from different sources. The O is organized, how do you put that in a, in a series of groups of categories that makes sense and that are actionable. Third is distill Saudis summarize and and kind of identify within those notes one of the pieces that are most valuable and useful to you. And then he is express, which is actually turn it into your own your own version of it your own interpretation and share it with others that's that's exactly what you just described is the system I teach, and it's essentially having your creative process be something concrete, and and consistent and reliable, rather than sort of just this mysterious thing that you hope will happen.

Melissa Guller:

Well, I love that and I'm thrilled to hear that your expertise is already rubbing off on me so I'm going to take this further when. Now, since I have you here. and I know that productivity is certainly a pain point for a lot of creators, I think I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you for some tangible advice. So when we think about our listeners who have online businesses or courses of their own. What are maybe some of the earliest steps that you would recommend that they start to take or. On the other hand, what are some things that you think that they should avoid or pitfalls.

Tiago Forte:

Yes, so I'll kind of customize my advice for course creators. Since that's that's the audience here a few things. I think a lot of the. A lot of the advice out there the basics is is sort of a first step, things like time blocking if you're going to, if you're going to create a new piece of work if it's a new video a new podcast episode a new set of slides, sit down and just decide that you're going to finish something before that time is done. So, and it doesn't matter how much time it is it can be 30 minutes two hours, three hours, whatever it is. The important thing about finishing about sort of closing that loop getting to the end of what you said you would do is you can then share it. You can think of feedback I try to end all my work sessions, as I said, if it's 30 minutes or three hours with a some sort of sharing, whether that's an email to a teammate hey can I get your thoughts on this, whether it's, you know, then talking to my wife, or one of my teammates about it, or even sometimes just just kind of putting it up on your screen and going for a walk and then coming back can be a form of feedback. So I'd say time blocking with just one specific thing that you're going to create in in a block of time. I would say definitely to manage your energy. This is a big one with, you know, as course creators we're not just sort of transmitting information or transmitting something from ourselves something personal. You are not just a, an expert you are kind of a role model you're potentially a mentor. They're into to some extent, they're looking at you to sort of model and exemplify the very thing that you're teaching. So that's where things just like getting enough sleep, and working a reasonable number of hours, and just having good self care is really important, especially for creators because you can't you can't transmit those those ideas that you that you know so much about if you are running on fumes,

Melissa Guller:

that advice is so valuable, I don't think many of the creators that I've asked similar questions have really focused on that you are the where the energy is coming from and as a course creator people in the information economy, this is a big big part of what we do. And I love that you just took some time to mention that instead of, I think what a lot of us tend to do is say, alright. Step one is this and then step two is that and then kind of forget to take stock.

Tiago Forte:

Yes, I think that is a common, it's a common pitfall and one that takes some time to kind of fully understand which is as teachers. We are so fixated on the content. Like what is the information is it exactly right. Is it correct is it precise is it all these things and we, we, it's sort of like us as the creator as the as the role models sort of fades into the background. It's kind of like we're just getting this information and just throwing it over directly to our audience but the thing with knowledge is that it's embodied, it really depends on who is saying it. Right. If you're really successful influential important person in your field says something it's not the same. If someone else says that that doesn't have that background right it's that the context really really matters. So over time I actually think that the precise content is less important. That's kind of kind of blasphemous to say I think in this in this profession but really it's more about the community it's about the stories the examples the case studies. It's about the calls to action, it's like content you know you can do a Google search and find an infinite amount of free content on any subject imaginable. So that's not where you're going to differentiate yourself you're going to differentiate yourself in the experience you create. And it's hard to create an experience if you're running yourself ragged.

Melissa Guller:

Well said.

I do have a couple more questions, and what I want to do is actually taking it to ask some questions from your audience so you told them you were coming on this podcast which I absolutely love, and a few of them had some great questions that I'd love to cover so someone asked, How can an online course creator, make self paced content more engaging so what do you think,

Tiago Forte:

yes, I think this is kind of the, one of the big questions right now in online education is, you know, the first couple generations of online courses were mostly self paced, the standard model is you have a website, and you have videos and audio and text and different kinds of media. And then the person logs on, but you know by themselves at their computer and they go through it. I think that that model is gonna stick around for certain situations for certain kinds of content. At the same time, I think there's some disillusionment I'll be completely honest I think if you look at, you know, there was a study at San Jose State University that showed that something like less than 5% of people taking self paced courses were completing them and those people are the people that already had the most advanced degrees. I think a lot of people have kind of bought and signed up for different courses that they didn't end up finishing which can be very discouraging. So I think the the outcome of this is, you know, very straightforward, how to content. You know how to set up a web page on WordPress how to bake these specific kind of cookies, things like that that the process from beginning to end is very known. It's very standardized are going to continue to be self paced, but I think for for what I call transformational education, where you're really like digging deep, you're changing people's mindsets and beliefs and perspectives. Those are increasingly increasingly going to be delivered via all these new live tools like Zoom. But to answer the question. So I think, half of the, the answer is. Think about the kind of content that you're delivering and is self paced, the right format for it now that we have different options. And like I said, I think it's going to be the How to stuff.

Melissa Guller:

And the other really helpful framework,

self paced for the how tos and engaging or even like different mediums and delivery for the transformational because I had never thought about those differences before that even like the brain work and how much thought or care or creative output you might be using would affect the medium the platform that you're learning on.

Tiago Forte:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, yeah, you know we're living through this kind of cornucopia of new online education formats I just saw one there's now audio only courses, people who really love to listen to audio and don't really want to sit and watch a video can now take complete courses, only in audio form. You have email based courses, I know a lot of Teachable creators do this where the entire course is delivered by email. You have courses as books, you have courses as live webinars I mean there's every kind which is amazing, but as a as a course creator, it can be hard to know which one to choose. And I think, yeah i think i think sticking to how to is good for self paced but the other thing to fully answer the original question, I think, really distilling really distilling things down what is the essential need to know, and I work with a lot of course creators I've helped a few of them get started on their first courses, and I noticed that they, their usual filter for what to include is what is everything that these students could possibly ever, maybe need to know.

Melissa Guller:

So basically no filter at all,

Tiago Forte:

basically no filter. Yeah. And they just start piling things on as if it as if they're compiling an encyclopedia. But then this, you know, as the expert as the teacher they know why that's all useful, you know they understand why these tiny details are very important and interesting, but as an expert we have expert blindness, this is the thing I always tell people, we literally cannot remember what it's like to not know what we know. It's impossible. We can't return to that beginner's mind that we had when we first started, and so therefore we pile all this stuff on so what I asked teachers is okay what is the outcome to this course, like what is the course promise you're giving people a shortcut to an outcome. Right, some practical concrete outcome in their life, what do they absolutely need to know for that outcome and nothing else. And suddenly, that is such a, such a more tight filter that you can remove so much of the background research and the edge cases and other stuff which they can all access later in fact that should be your next course, or that should be your premium upgrade or your follow on program or something, right, but the the basic course itself, especially if it's self paced where people have such short attention spans. And it's honestly kind of hard to sit by yourself and watch really really really long videos and things keep it to the absolute bare minimum, and I think that is inherently engaging right instead of tricks I see people sometimes use tricks like special effects or kind of surprises and things that can work in the short term, but in the long term. What is engaging and keeps people's attention is the disc, the most distilled actionable insight packed version of what you have to teach.

Melissa Guller:

And that's great advice because it would be easy to assume that the word engaging means like pizzazz when in fact as you also touched on earlier what people want from you is to save them time, and a big way that you're going to save them time is by making shorter consumable content, it's by cutting out unnecessary lessons that maybe you love, or are super interesting to you, but are not the most important thing that they need to achieve their transformation in the end so at Teachable we often get questions like how many videos or how long should my videos be when in fact we want to encourage people to remember that people want what comes at the end of the course, and if you can get them there as fast as possible, even better.

Tiago Forte:

Yes, so true it's, we're really changing this consumption that more is better. You know, that's how people both creators and sometimes students they, I see these conversations online like oh this this course was a good value it had 40 units, or it had, you know, 60, hours of video as if as if learning was something like you know like lima beans that you go to the market and you you measure out by the pound, you know, no one wants to by learning by the pound. It's very simple. It's time savings it's effort savings it's pain savings and it's mistake savings. And so often you don't need to actually you know to to help someone avoid a mistake, especially say one you've made that doesn't require a lot of information or content you don't need to explain all the reasons it's not going to work and all the bad things that happen you can often just say hey, don't do that.

Melissa Guller:

And well, that sounds simple,

Tiago Forte:

yes that's that's not that's not a heart you know they trust you, otherwise they wouldn't be in your course. And so helping people avoid pitfalls. I mean, think of what that's worth. What is it worth to save the pain, the frustration the disappointment, what would you pay yourself to save those things in pursuit of a goal that matters to you it's practically priceless. And that's how you should frame your course as helping people navigate the path that you've already walked, rather than delivering them the encyclopedia.

Melissa Guller:

Exactly. And I think while we're on this theme of kind of pricing or even. This may be false assumption that more videos, equals, both higher price, and also better outcome, which you've already kind of debunked but you did get some more questions from your audience about pricing in general and I think one of the more interesting questions was talking about this notion of price inflation, or how the more expensive something is doesn't necessarily correlate to the quality. So maybe just to kind of broaden this. How do you know what a right or a fair price would be for a course especially in this world of like you said in the beginning like soft skills where nobody's really an expert in these things anyway.

Tiago Forte:

Yes pricing is one of the hot topics these days. So a couple things. First, I think we are seeing a wave of premium online courses. Clearly, I think this is what the the the question asker was referring to is the sort of standard price point or what you typically saw used to be. I remember when it was $30 and then 50 and then 100. And now when I look at the best programs in most niches it's very common to see $1,000 $2,000 $3,000. And I think that's happening for for a number of reasons. The main one being that the quality is getting so good. You know, these course creators, these courses couldn't they wouldn't be priced at that point if they if it didn't sell. right, it would just be, it would be business suicide. So people are buying these courses and they're doing it because I think online education used to be this this kind of little brother, it was the. It was the worse alternative to traditional respectable institutions. But now you have these courses like some that come to mind or Alt MBA by Seth Godin B school by Marie Forleo I think my courses are part of that. These are not just some videos on a web page they have incredibly engaged communities they have an entire course staff of coaches and mentors and logistics people and people answering questions they have follow on programs where you can then get more coaching or you can go to something more advanced, they often have in person events I went to an event by Marie Forleo who I'm a big fan of, and there was like 1000 people in a conference room in Los Angeles. And it all started online I was just amazing to see that you can now start a community online and go offline. So I think as these programs, go toe to toe with any, you know certificate program or professional program from the best universities in the country in terms of life impact in terms of the, the, the results they produce that they're going to be priced accordingly and actually if you think of it in that context, they're cheap. I mean, compared to a six figure MBA, or a five figure, you know, professional graduate program, it's really, I think if you if you put them on the in terms of the results they produce that doing it all online, is, is a more effective and cost effective way. What I would say is that you have to deliver. Because it's so here's the other trend is it's now a complete expectation that you're going to have a money back guarantee. that's become the new standard if you are not satisfied with the course you're going to ask for your money back and they're going to give it to you. So you can't just inflate this massive price, take people's money and then kind of never talk to them again you have to absolutely deliver on your promise. And actually you have to over deliver is the truth.

Melissa Guller:

I think the key part of all of that is you mentioned things like life transformation, or result. And I think it's easy to, as we briefly mentioned, look at a course and think about it in features like videos, instead of benefits, like, improving your health, starting your own online business, having a real tangible life changing outcome. How much would that be worth to you, maybe that's a way to ask the question.

Tiago Forte:

Exactly. Exactly, yeah.

Melissa Guller:

Well, in terms of wrapping up this interview I know have already learned so much. And I'm excited for people tuning in, but I'd love to hear what's next for you with your own business.

Tiago Forte:

Yes, well, we're going to continue teaching our courses. I have my Building a Second Brain program, I have a business partner David Pearl, who teaches another five week intensive course called rite of passage, which is on modern writing. We're going to keep doing those we have a few other courses in the works that I'm not ready to announce but those will be coming soon. And actually, the future is really building on the course that I have on Teachable and extending into other formats you know I just launched the Building a Second Brain podcast where I just take the best ideas from the course and I turn them into a podcast. I'm in the process of I have a book proposal out that I'm looking for a publisher for. So turning the Building a Second Brain course now into a book. So really, I'm extending and expanding the second brain brand. And it all started. And I sort of tested and developed these ideas in a course format, which I'm so grateful to all of you at Teachable for for allowing me to do that, but that's that's really what's next.

Melissa Guller:

Yeah, well, thank you for the kind words throughout the whole episode and I'm so excited to see where your knowledge, takes you next so where can people connect with you or learn more.

Tiago Forte:

They can find out more about my course I've Building a Second Brain calm, they can find my company website with everything else that I do at Forte Labs that's fo r t la bs.co, not calm just not SEO, and I'm most active on social media on Twitter, where my handle is at 40 Labs.

Melissa Guller:

I think that must be why you and our CEO encore get along. He's huge on Twitter and we'll love the fact that we're about to give him a shout out to follow him as well. Yes, absolutely. Well, before we wrap up just any last words of wisdom or inspiration for our listeners.

Tiago Forte:

Gosh, I just want to tell you to go for it. It really, we're in this this window of opportunity there's been literally, literally no moment in all of human history, then the exact moment you're listening to this, no better moment to create an online course to get into online education it's only going to grow exponentially. And I know a lot of people say this, but it really is the best time it is possible, there are people out there that want to hear from you. And it is the most satisfying work that I've ever been a part of

Melissa Guller:

Amazing well, Tiago thank you again for joining it's been such a pleasure learning more about you, and I hope that our listeners loved it just as much as I did.

Tiago Forte:

Thank you so much for Melissa.

Melissa Guller:

Thank you again for joining us this week. You can learn more about Tiago, Building a Second Brain, and Teachable in the show notes at Teachable.com/eit22. That’s E I T TWO TWO. Before you go, make sure you subscribe to our podcast, so you can receive new episodes right when they're released. You can either subscribe right in your favorite podcast app, or via email alerts at Teachable.com/podcast. And if you’re enjoying the show, I hope you’ll let us know! We love reading through your reviews in Apple Podcasts, and if you have a minute to spare, we’d love to read yours, too. So on behalf of Team Teachable, we hope you enjoyed this episode about productivity with Tiago Forte. We’ll see you in the next episode of Everything is Teachable.

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