The Crucible, Redemption and Rebirth


Read part 1 – Confessions of a DIY Addict

Yes, my dear readers, I was on a downward spiral in this brave new world of online teaching. My need to do everything myself was taking me further and further from my true love, the students and teaching. I could not see how far I had fallen. I was a shell of my former self, utterly consumed by the many tasks to master. But thank God, I discover my final epiphany. Please read on and at the end of the next two levels of my personal hell, I will share the new world I discovered.

Our story is rejoined at sea…

The ship to success called SEO (search engine optimization) took our hero to Facebook and Twitter. Common knowledge among all DIY enthusiasts is that you must go “where the action is”. The action or buzz was said to be the lifeblood of any online entrepreneur. Being exposed to a vast audience creates the market engine of new blood feeding into our business venture, right?
Our hero never quite got the hang of this shifting-market sea. There certainly were indicators of its potential but the currents were so fickle and many days were lost on dead seas with no wind to propel his little ship closer to a goal. A friend Jason (not the Argonaut) finally got through to him. It is an endless sea of relationships, not a path to a destination, said he. “You can spend your entire life sailing that sea and not get anywhere.” Jason also gave a name to the sea, it is called the Ocean of Perpetual Hope. The need for all of us in relationships are much as the syrens in Jason/Ulysses journey. We hear the call to relationship and mistake it for our destination. There are untold numbers shipwrecked on those shores still mesmerized by the song. But our hero was able to jump on another vessel before it was too late.

A passing ship (André’s Learn English Online fan page) gave our hero berth on his massive vessel. Many assume that once a FB or Twitter account reaches critical mass, life will be easy. Captain André had over 25,000 likes with 2,000 daily shares and a staggering 6.5 million audience exposure. Hero was sure that easy street was just over the horizon. Unfortunately, the good captain had some bad news. The ship was a modern day “Flying Dutchmen” and the crew was doomed to travel the seas forever. Never making port nor achieving the outcome that SEO promises, student conversion to paid classes or products.

The relationships developed on FB were and probably always will be, superficial. Now there is nothing wrong with casual friendships and light social learning. That type of relationship can even be healthy, if it is recognized as such. The problem is that most on that sea think they will make it to a final destination. As Jason shared earlier, a relationship (even platonic) is not a destination, it is simply a companionship while on a journey.

Hero still berths and shares duties with Captain André and the friends on FB. The good Captain/Mentor also introduced him to a secret portal called Teacher Index. If this little thing works, it bodes well for Valkyrie Kirsten’s ideas (later in this tale).But, Hero has severely curtailed both his time and expectations for the FB ship’s use. There are powerful aspects of FB and Twitter, Jason is experimenting with some mega experiment even as we speak, but it is NOT the destination. Captain André imparted much wisdom to our hero. He is a true mentor, but even he had fallen into another DIY trap. The self branding mantra of one’s own blog/website. While true for some, it is not the path for most.

The Golden Path that was a sure investment of time has always been assumed as one’s own blog or website. From day one (almost 4 years ago) our hero followed the conventional wisdom that a great blog was similar to building up a large investment portfolio. One day you could reap the rewards. So, like a good Monopoly player, hero poured his heart and time into a blog. It certainly worked for SEO purposes. Whether he posts in a given week or not, he has a consistent 100 visitors a day on key terms that should reap rewards. With careful strategy and FB integration daily spikes can reach the 500 level.

The problems remained though. Not many students and a terrible burden of responsibility maintaining the blog remained. Mind you, the discipline and writing skills were a good thing. The learning how to game the system by cross blogging and making alliances with other bloggers was also good. Still the internet and the vast universe of competing sties for learners was ever growing and keeping his marketing goals out of reach. Hero was desperate, to return to the tribe or to found his own tribe (student body) he still had not found the way. Even the strongest hero must, at last, find an answer before his willpower comes to an exhausted end..

Then the final piece of the puzzle fell in place. An Epiphany. Not an Eurika moment, rather the final culmination of years in the making. Hero let go of this last bastion of DIY control. He was ready to give up personal control. Truthfully, he was learning this all along. Each path was taking him closer to the final lesson in small steps. But the dearest part of what he considered all his, was his blog.

He elected to work with others. He died to his self directed and lonely existence and chose to devote his blogging expertise in a community. A Valkyrie named Kirsten had long been on a kwest of her own. Hero had passed her several times as they mutually walked the paths to destiny. Her path was definitely not his. But the lessons she learned could be transferred. She had found that working within a community of bloggers was a powerful way to expand her influence and vision. Her reach to find her audience was exponentially broadened by humbling herself and cooperating with others of like mind.

Hero has now laid down his last vestige of prideful self determination and joined in a cooperative blog. This blog. His journey is not complete. He has yet to achieve his goals but he has quit the self destructive practices of DIY addicts. He has passed the crucible of self will and found a better way by cooperation and work within a true social network. I can’t tell if or when he will achieve his final goal of successful online teaching. I can tell you, dear reader, that he smiles more each day. He walks on his path with a livelier bounce. He even sings more and he is so happy that he no longer must carry the burden alone. By sharing the load of others he actually lightens his own.

– The End (for now) –

Post script OMG! How I do go on. If any of you are still reading this, I have tried to build a community of learners/teachers for a long, long time. I realize now that even at that, I was still trying to DIY and create the thing myself. Not a bad thing, but at every level one must find others to share and even lead. I firmly believe that we were divinely created to be communal beings. There are human societal laws at play here. Even more important is there are spiritual imperatives that we must adhere to in order to achieve our most noble callings. If you believe in spiritual giftedness, then you must acknowledge that they are given to be expressed in service within a community.

There are extremely few who can find success via the mega DIY model. It certainly sounds nice, but we are not wired for it. Even for those who achieve a true DIY model, most end up alone and exhausted. I am very happy to have found many of you on our mutual pathfinding. I ask you to accept my lesson from my journey. We need each other in every aspect of our lives and goals. The DIY addict and lonely business models are a false path. Choose to humble yourself and find a clan to walk within.

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  • Literally ‘epic’! The story of Hero opens up the great chasm of self determined individualism in the social web. It’s a tension field that doesn’t necessarily need to be resolved but can be seen as a generator of creative solutions. In other words, it’s not about DIY vs Community but rather about an integration of the two, i.e. a DIY addict without the context of friends, family and colleagues is just as dysfunctional as a community that walks and talks without the disruption of wayward spirits. P.s.: your own site/brand is a means to an end. The clearer and simpler this end is defined the easier it becomes to evaluate a site’s usefulness and to correct/change its course accordingly. That’s the survival component of DIY. In the relationship aspect, however, there are no such mechanistic formulae. There, serendipity rules unchallenged. The process of integrating these seemingly disparate world views without resolving their creative friction is the journey we share.