I love flying around the world teaching and sharing my approach to life, work and visual thinking — reflections on content, experience and pricing after a week in Australia
This is the work I would do without any pay. This is the work I’m supposed to be doing.
But there is something in my life that is more important than flying and teaching. Perhaps I should say someONE. Her name is Pernille and she is my lover. My best friend. My biggest fan and my harshest critic. My wife and mother of dinosaurs.
Whenever I go away on an adventure she is the one who is stuck at home. And not just stuck at home alone. Alone with two young kids, who are each confident and independent thinking toddlers. And it’s not just that she is home alone with the kids. We also happen to live in a different country on a different continent than our own parents (and the grand parents of our kids) so it’s not like our family will just stop by and help cook a meal or change a diaper or just give her a break. It’s pretty much all on her. All day. Every day. That. Is. A. Lot. A LOT!
When I first announced the idea for this project a few months ago it was just a crazy dream. I had no idea if this would ever take off. Would anyone sign up? Would I ever have enough signups in one given city to actually go? I wanted to keep ticket prices as low as possible. I wanted to set a realistic minimum target. I figured that even at a low profit or break even I would be better off running at least a few classes as proof of concept, rather than aiming too high to begin with and never getting any class off the ground.
And then the classes started happening. Sydney. Melbourne. Brisbane. Then London reached the minimum and Zurich set the record of reaching minimum in less than 48 hours after being announced. Eventually Sydney sold out.
I have now done the first five classes. Two in NYC and three here in Australia. And every single class has been a success. Even the first one which was imperfect was still a success.
I know it works. I know the material I teach is inspiring and useful. I have seen how the way I teach builds confidence and awareness. I have seen the smiles on people’s faces at the end of the day. Forever changed, they smile because they see the world in a slightly new way. Things that were fixed and given before are now potentially negotiable. New opportunities exist. There is an excitement to go out and explore this new world inside of them. I can see it in their eyes. I can feel it when they hug me before they leave. It works. I’m pretty damn proud of that.
I also know now, that people signed up for this course without much information about it. For some people it was “an easy choice” they told me, since they had followed my Think Clearly work for months or years and when they heard of the class they knew they wanted to learn more. Many others knew nothing about me or my work. They knew little about the class, just the high level idea (“visual thinking”) and then they had been recommended by someone who enthusiastically told them that this would be great. Think about that for a moment. No real marketing material. No sleek video promo. No agenda. No “learning objectives.” They bought an unspecified class based on their curiosity and a recommendation from a coworker. Think about that the next time you believe that you must first make a cool flyer, and a lecture plan, and full specifications before you can begin selling something.
Mike, the man who really took the lead on bringing this class to Australia, by convincing his coworkers and people he knew to sign up, told me that he found it so much easier to sell it because it didn’t feel like selling at all. It didn’t look like a sleek product. It was more like joining a movement. More like this:
Less like this:
This showed in other ways too. People were not so much buyers of a product as they were co-creators of an experience. Everyone were so helpful with big and small. Finding the right restaurant for lunch. Helping find a good venue. One person even offered to host the 15 person workshop in the communal area in her residential building.
So the content works. The experience works. The not-so-defined product can sell by word of mouth. Co-creation works.
But what doesn’t work is for my wife to be alone with two kids for nine days. And the way I have done budgets for the classes, setting ticket prices and minimum participant numbers so far, there is a reasonable chance that she would have to be home alone a lot. I have basically set the minimum based on each class taking me away for 4–5 days (with international travel and a buffer day this is what it takes to deliver a 1 day class) and therefore calibrating minimum profit to cover our family’s cost of living for a week, and that’s with very optimistic cost assumptions. In the event that most courses only exactly meet the minimum I would therefore have to travel 4–5 days every week just to keep us afloat. As mentioned above: that might make sense initially to prove the concept. But it is not sustainable for long.
That is why I will adjust my budgeting template. I will increase the minimum to ensure that I can either afford to travel less often and/or hire some additional help for my wife while I am away.
This means that it will be harder to make certain classes happen. It might be harder to reach the minimum. The people on the ground, getting up to dance and trying to get others to join will have to do even more.
I know that I am asking for a lot. And I don’t blame you if you think I’m asking for too much. But as much as I must do this work, I can’t and won’t do it at the expense of the well being of the woman I love the most in this world.
Mathias Jakobsen is the creator of Think Clearly. He is currently on world tour teaching his methods and habits to other creatives, entrepreneurs, software engineers, facilitators, educators, managers and business people. He loves bread and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two kids.