Friday, March 22, 2013

W12.05 Case Studies: Karen Loving in Culpeper, Virgina USA. Part One

My overwhelming impression is that Karen is basically content with the way things are in her teaching life at present. Sure she’d like a few more lessons if possible, but she has an interesting practise worked out with lots of different kinds of work - I don’t pick up any urgency or need to change. She is like an Eileen Troberman of the East Coast with one big difference: she is not living on the financial edge every month. At least it doesn’t feel that way. Is her back-up plan a partner? Savings? Or her own inner confidence in her?

So today is going to be about how to work the steps, as much as it is about Karen’s practise. I am not trying to make Karen wrong - although I understand it could be heard that way - it is about showing you how to work these steps so they will support you transforming your practise… For the next course I am running, this is the skill you can develop…


Step 1 – Recognize Success Drivers
Karen is not a person who discloses her Self - at least not to me. She says she is driven “…because I have been an AT teacher for 15 years.” Hmm. The point of this step is to dig deeper than that. Why is she an Alexander Technique teacher? I don’t know, she doesn’t say. When you are working the 12 step plan, this step needs honest enquiry. I am not saying Karen can not do that, she just did not do that for me.

I can’t support her, or you, unless you really get real about what your psyche is all about. The more I wake up, the more I see how neurotic I am. I believe we are all mentally ill - so this step is about seeing how are you mentally ill, and how you can turn that to your advantage.

Or are you still believing you are sane…?

Step 2 – Find Your Niche
Karen writes: “My niche (which I am still developing in my mind) are men and women over 50, who want to age by learning they can with comfort and ease; mostly helping them "know" this, that they don't have to buy into "I'm getting older therefore I must slump, shuffle, and on and on."

This is huge - a horizontal market, not a drilled down vertical niche market. Basically it’s aging baby boomers. Karen writes “men and woman” and she just doubled her workload. Why do you think there are “men” health magazines and “woman” health magazines? Because they think differently about the same health issues, because they also worry about different things, because, well, they are woman and men. Different. My guess is that Karen has mostly woman, so she can acknowledge this and more consciously focus there. Don’t worry - the wives will drag along some of their husbands.

This step is about focusing down into a community of people, not a broad cross-section of the population. No Alexander Technique teacher, not even BodyChance, has the money to effectively target this group. Karen certainly doesn’t, which is evident in that fact that she does not pull in many new people right now. My advice is for Karen to find a community that is behind this general profile. When we get to Step 4, you will see that is exactly what Karen has done.

Step 3 – Location of Community
Now we get to why Karen has opted for a generalized approach - she lives in a small community of 50,000 people. Niching vertical becomes too exclusive to be financially viable if you stay local in a market that small.

I say to young teachers just starting out that niching horizontal is hopeless. Unless you are in New York or London (and that’s about it as far as I know) going for the Alexander Technique niche - which Karen is effectively doing - means spending years building a reputation, and then you’re chained down to one location for the rest of your life. Is that OK for you?

Step 4 – Develop Service Product
Karen has had to branch out, I guess because Alexander Technique by itself does not sustain her living. I understand this may be a personal preference for Karen, but my blog is devoted to showing people how they can find financial success through teaching Alexander Technique alone. Karen also teaches Yoga and practices CranioSacral therapy with some of her clients.

I think she is smart to do this - her CST work is like a table turn on steroids. When you teach in private practise, and have many aging stressed students, they are going to come to love their time on the table. It is recuperative, nurturing and peaceful - there is nothing wrong with that. Except - for me - that is not about evolving human consciousness, that is more about taking a nice warm bath. Why come to me for that?

I am not saying there is anything wrong with this either - I love a warm bath! In fact I think it is smart. When you are in Karen’s situation with only a small local population, the most critical thing is not gathering students, it is keeping them. You are going have to work 2 to 3 times harder to get one student, so the ones you do catch you want to keep, to “stick” with you.

The way BodyChance develops “stick” is by building a community - but if your Service Product is private lessons, then you need another way to help your students “stick” with you. Giving them a luxuriated experience as part of your service achieves this.

Karen writes: “I see what my client needs, a lot of them are so stressed that we need to do some "getting into their body" CST work before we can be more active.” I would question that, but interestingly, Eileen Troberman told me she takes an alternative approach - her tablework is a “reward” at the end of her activities-based lesson, leaving them floating on the air as they leave. Either way, this strategy works to keep private students coming back.

Step 5 – Put Together Your Team
Karen has mentors to develop her work, but no mentors to develop her work. Can’t make sense of that sentence? Karen writes: “My mentors are other AT teachers, who I have lessons with regularly, a Feldenkrais pract friend and we trade ideas, do retreats together.”

What do you think it means to “develop your work”? Take a look at the 12 steps - how many are focused on how you teach? Your team needs to include thinkers and information from multiple areas. Again, it may be true that Karen has other influences - she reads my blog avidly for example - but she doesn’t write about it.

This step is about noticing mythical thinking that you have been carrying around for years. It’s about finding people who know more than you do about certain things, and sucking it up. If you can’t find a fire in you, the next best place to get it is via someone else. When you humbly (and safely) surrender to that person - they will show you how to do the job you are not getting done.

Step 6 – Build Your List
Karen writes: “I had my website redesigned this past year,, it is much more user friendly and appealing to new folks.” I still haven’t got that job done at BodyChance, so it is wonderful that Karen is on this. Next - is there a list that people can join?

TOMORROW: What if Karen started all over again. What would that look like?

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CAVEAT: Remember what Alexander said: “They will see it as getting in and out of a chair the right way. It is nothing of the kind.” Is this case-study about the “right way” for Karen Loving to go ahead? It is nothing of the kind. It’s intended to demonstrate a way of thinking, not a set of proscriptions, even when they read as proscriptions! My true intention with these case studies is to provoke you into finding another way to understand the same ideas.

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