The Guru Teaching Fallacy – Why most ‘big box’ courses fail.

today I have an important distinction for you that’ll help you

  • choose the right courses for your own education,
  • create better ‘courses’ when teaching others, and
  • focus on the one thing where YOU get the most leverage (out of your time and effort)

… and at the end, you’ll find a quick announcement of my new “email marketing” course.

So, without much further ado, distinction-time:

When you look at any real skill you’ve acquired in life, you’ll have to agree that the knowledge/skill-acquisition-process typically comes in one of 2 forms: either

  1. you already have a solid background, and you simply acquire a new, fairly tightly defined skill.

    Like: you already know how to cook, and now you pick up the new skill of making fermented pepper sauce. (note to self: don’t screw on the lids too tightly, all that CO2 wants to go somewhere….)

    … or you’re already pretty handy with a Dremel … so it’s not too hard to pick up the skill of turning your kitchen knives into blades so sharp they can cut time & space.


    … or you’ve already done plenty of marketing & selling … so it’s not very tricky crafting emails that connect & are truly helpful.
    — OR —

  2. you are absolutely NEW to a field, and there’s no pre-existing background you can build on.

    For me that was things like scubadiving, jetskiing, paragliding, parenting (13 years ago) and of course online marketing (9 years ago).

    With any of these “heck, I have NO foundation to build on”-things, you either attend school where an instructor shows you what to do, so you can try it out and see if/how it works for you.

    Or you (try to) teach yourself.

    Either way, you WILL fall off that jetski, you WILL get water in your scubadiving goggles, you will (at least in the beginning) start to wonder if you’re made of lead, and surely paragliding can’t be that difficult, you will make mistakes with your kids you’ll regret later on, and so on. (ah yes, you WILL mess up marketing projects you thought were absolutely going to fly).

    And it’s precisely that ‘falling off’ that gives you the one and only thing that really matters: experience!:

In the “just add a skill to your arsenal” case, all that prior knowledge helps you understand and master that new skill fairly quickly.

In part because you understand what the reasons for ‘failure’ are, so you quickly recognize what NOT to do or don’t even do it in the first place (you wouldn’t use the Dremel diamond-cutter-blade to sharpen your hand-crafted Japanese kitchen-swords, no would you?)

In the “need to learn this from square 1” case on the other hand, you don’t have that prior knowledge, and hence no basis for making informed decisions.

In most cases even “common sense” doesn’t help.

Meaning this: if you really have to make decisions, you have to make those decisions based on hearsay, wishful thinking/dreaming and conjecture (my favourite being the typical “goal-setting” exercises so common in the personal development world, and of course the Internet Marketing world: “hey, think of your income-number, then divide that by 365, and that’s your daily goal”.

Fer cryin’ out loud, if you’ve never ‘made’ that daily goal, and don’t have a system for achieving that goal with a high degree of confidence, then, er, … it’s conjecture, it’s not goal-setting)

The opposite of this is of course true: rather than set truly unrealistic goals, people’s “negative self-talk” gets in the way: “this is never going to work” … “people are never going to buy that” … “I’d never sign up to that myself” and so on.

In other words: as a beginner, you shouldn’t, heck, mustn’t make ‘decisions’ that may have a significant impact down the line.

Simply because you just don’t have the necessary information and experience to make that decision.

(the upside of this is of course that you no longer have to beat yourself up about being ‘unable’ to make decisions and getting stuck ‘overanalyzing’ things…)

Instead, your sole focus should be on acquiring the necessary experience and knowledge as fast as possible.

And yes, ‘experience’ includes failure.

Which is why all those lovely ‘big-box’ courses basically set up 95% of all buyers for failure:

they purport to give you everything you need (which MUST include the experience of what works and what does not work for YOU, YOUR circumstances, YOUR personality, …) yet what they really do is teach “skill-set” style (“hey, look over my shoulder and just copy what I do”)

And looking over someone else’s shoulder is (hardly) ever the same as actually doing it yourself.

Think about it:

where in real life do you find schools where they serve a bunch of videos where you can look over someone’s shoulder, observe how they do it, and then without ever actually implementing ‘the thing’ yourself acquire a new skill?


Not a problem if it’s a hobby, a tad more problematic when you’re learning to be a fighter pilot, and (personal experience included) soul-destroying when trying to set up your first own business and you’re being led down the wrong path by some big box product launch for… mhmmm … uhh, la, la, … product.

Good teachers give a bit of input, then exercises so you can try it out, and see if/how it works for YOU.

Because YOU have a different way of learning, understanding and integrating with your previous knowledge than everybody else.

So, time to get real with yourself:

where do you need new, *specific* skills that are expanding your existing skillset, and are based on things you have already *experienced*?

and where you do ‘hope’ that this latest new thing is going to make the big difference, and make things happen for you, despite the fact that you (deep down probably already know) still lack the necessary foundation, aka: real hands-on experience?

(hint: if you still tell yourself things like “this is never going to work for my audience” and as a result never test even the most stupid sounding ideas, then you definitely lack that hands-on experience, because as any seasoned marketer knows: the stupid simple stuff almost always wins;-)


Leave a comment below

over’n out


PS: ah yes, my upcoming “email marketing” course is going to be an “experience” based course, for those who are completely new to email marketing.

What I’d like to hear from you is this: would you need an “experience ‘marketing'” course first (as in: do you not have any ‘real world’ marketing experience and would like to get that as quickly as possible?)

Let me know here:

Create your own user feedback survey




  1. As usual Veit you make absolute sense I remember the first time I heard you was on someone else’s webinar and you got stuck into them for wasting everyone’s time with useless ramblings on how good they were. I am looking forward to your email marketing course.

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