Why ‘Better’ Matters

better-sqI believe that ‘better’ matters.

In a lot of ways, this is the underlying theme of what I do, every day.

But lately, I’ve run into a lot of naysayers; people who don’t see the point of ‘better’. They want to get a course out there: they want to throw together a sales page, they want to toss together a website, and they don’t care if it’s a rush job. They just want to make money from it.

They don’t want to do the research. They don’t want to understand their market. They don’t want to identify the intersection between the promises made in their marketing materials and what they deliver in their curriculum. They don’t want to figure out how to change their teaching mindset.

They don’t want to do the work; they just want the result.

But here’s the secret (and, frankly, it’s not really a secret):

You don’t master the business of teaching online by doing a rush job, or by going through the motions, or by teaching the way you’ve been taught.

You do it by pursuing better.

There are many different reasons for this, of course; today I want to just focus on two.

Better Means Business Growth

The first is that if you settle for being average, your business will stagnate. But if you focus on being remarkable, you will see disproportionate results.

This is true, regardless of what type of business you are operating. For course creators, student success is the cornerstone of business success: if your students don’t get results, you won’t get results. That’s why, every time I cite a study or share some research, I always tie it back to two things: how it helps your students, and how it grows your business (more on that in The Satisfaction Trap).

I like the way that Ramit Sethi phrased it, in a recent blog post:

And there’s a simple reason I don’t talk about revenue: I prefer to focus on your success, not mine. Not because I’m running a non-profit, but because if my students do well, my business grows. The way I’ve structured my business, your success comes first.

That’s why I give away 98% of my material free. And why I spend hundreds of hours sharing success stories about students building online businesses, finding Dream Jobs, paying off debt, etc. When you win, I win. And if you don’t, you ask for a refund and I don’t put food on the table or pay my team. Simply put, your success is a better measure of how I’m doing than revenue. That’s why it’s in my interest to build the world’s best material. (Source; emphasis added)

Better Means Personal Growth

Business growth is certainly important, but it’s not everything. Even more important than creating a remarkable business is creating a remarkable life.

Better matters, because it is a reward in and of itself. It is gratifying. It is fulfilling.

Chris Guillebeau recently reflected on his own journey toward ‘better,’ and put it this way:

I know I’m my worst critic, but isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? We should always be looking within, questioning our failures and seeking to improve. I have a restless heart and I’m disenchanted with slow progress.

These days I’m working on things that are built in stages. I’ve experienced a shift in “just get things out of the door” toward projects that require more time, in some cases multi-year efforts. The outcomes aren’t always apparent from the outside, and the fix isn’t always a quick one. (Source, emphasis added)

Perhaps one of the best explanations for why better matters comes from the inimitable Seth Godin. I have long been a student and follower of Seth’s work, and I find his ethos aligns very much with mine. So rather than try to summarize what he said, I’ll just excerpt a bit of it here for you:

He says,

Instead, the restaurant makes the menu longer instead of figuring out how to make even one dish worth traveling across town for. We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality.

Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners. (Source, emphasis added)

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