Here’s something we take for granted and don’t think about often enough: for about 10$ a month, you can have unlimited access to what is possibly the largest and most diverse learning platform in the history of mankind. Over 15 thousand courses are available on the platform today and it’s only growing. We’re talking video courses that teach you about crochet knitting, programming in Java, cooking, photography, trading stocks, social media and a whole lot more. It’s crazy. Some of the courses are even taught by industry leaders. You can learn logo design from Aron Draplin himself. Simon Sinek is on the platform too for crying out loud and it’s 10$ a month. That’s just ridiculous.
Now when I say skillshare, I don’t mean skillshare per se, I’m referring to all the other online education providers out like Udemy, Coursera, Edx, Lynda, Masterclass, Udacity and more. These are all platforms that I have massive respect for because they are indeed democratizing education in ways that were never possible. The reason why I take skillshare, in particular, is because it’s the most aggressive in terms of pricing, even if not by a very significant margin.
I don’t know what country you come from, but I will not allow you to tell me that 10$ a month for that huge library is a lot. Think about it like the Netflix of learning. But instead of watching a bunch of Spanish people rob a bank, you get to learn something actually useful from someone who’s been there and done that, at least hopefully.
Now when I say hopefully, it’s because I’m perfectly aware that many people on the platform do not have the skills, let alone the credentials to be good teachers. That’s a whole different subject. Because basically, anyone with enough time can sign up to teach a course on the platform, it has become a place where people go to to get validation. It has grown into something that people might put on their resume and I’m sure you can see how that might turn into a problem. However, that’s not what I would like to talk about. What interests me is a problem that I call the Skillshare syndrome.
So, what is the Skillshare syndrome? Put simply, It’s when people basically take an online course about a certain subject and instantly proclaim to be experts. You see these people out there, don’t you? They’re everywhere: Online marketing expert, Brand strategy ninja, SEO god, and many other exaggerated titles. You don’t appreciate it when someone that is just starting to take their first steps comes in and claim to be an expert in a skill that you spent years of your life perfecting and still don’t consider yourself an expert in. I want to argue that the reason why we do resent this is plain old insecurity, nothing more and nothing less. I also think that I know exactly why we feel that.
Just like any insecurity, it has more to do with us than with them.
Here’s the reason put very simply: If something can be taught on Skillshare in a few hours, odds are it’s inherently a pretty easy thing to learn, and deep down, you know it and it makes you uncomfortable. We don’t see a lot of doctors teaching brain surgery on Skillshare. It probably has a lot to do with regulations and what have you, but the even bigger reason is that they just can’t, not for 10$/month. It takes a whole lot of effort to become anything resembling a doctor. And I want to tell you about a second layer to this issue.
The reason why you can’t just watch a rerun of Dr. Phil and claim to be a psychiatrist is that it would be very obvious that you aren’t. But you can sure as hell take a logo design class on Skillshare and claim to be an expert in logo design because it would be very possible for you to make logos that are indiscernible from the ones that the true experts make, at least to the untrained eye.
This is where the problem originates. I was thinking about this, trying to empathize with these “imposters” and see things the way they might see it and I must say that I totally get it. You take an online course on graphic design and you spend a few weeks trying things out and it is likely that you come up with very nice looking stuff. I would excuse you for thinking you have it all figured out and that you’re a natural and that you just gamed the system and became an overnight expert. I mean, at that point, all the evidence points to the fact that you indeed are.
It’s because you simply still don’t know what you don’t know yet. It’s the ultimate liability.
The thing that makes it even more compelling is that your potential clients or employers also don’t know what they don’t know so it makes perfect sense.
So, seen from this perspective, the skillshare syndrome is not about people claiming to be experts in a certain field after taking an online course, it’s about all the other people who are in that field who know deep down in their hearts that what they’re doing isn’t really that complicated and that someone with a decent internet connection and some time to spare can get pretty good at it very quickly. So they feel threatened because someone is “proving” it, at least as far as the interested parties can tell.
When you put the Skillshare library into perspective, things start to make a whole lot more sense. There aren’t a lot of theoretical physicists or constitutional law professors on the platform. It just wouldn’t work. But there sure are tons of courses about graphic design, and web development, learning how to play the guitar and how to solve Rubik's cube. It’s because all those skills are easy to acquire. What I mean by easy to acquire is that you can make stuff that, to a potential client, is undiscernable from what a true expert would make.
I don’t think that molecular biologists are as worried about imposters as graphic designers are. Do you know why? It’s because they know that their potential clients or employers can very easily tell the true expert from the imposter. So if you’ve been feeling the hate towards these skillshare students stepping on your toes, I think it’s time for you to up your game and do something where you wouldn’t have to worry about that.
But to expand even further on the subject, I’ve been leaning towards a very scary idea lately? When you think of it, nothing really is that difficult to learn anymore, especially in our space. Experience is basically the only parameter that is still relevant. When you have a certain amount of intelligence, nothing is that hard anymore. I think that human beings have evolved enough in terms of mental capacity to be able to handle most of the tasks that life demands with relative ease. I don’t know many people that are doing things that I can’t get very good at in a few months, given the time and willingness. I think that many people can get very good at what I do if they put their hearts into it. Experience is the only factor.
There will always need to be people who deliberately challenge that and go to the limit of their mental capacity. Those would be your innovators and scientists and what not. But for the rest of the people who don’t choose to do so, we’re pretty much covered. But that has to mean that many other people will be able to do our job instead of us if they chose to, which isn’t a comfortable situation to be in. The only thing that would guarantee that comfort is if we would go out of our way to push the envelope on our mental capacity and position ourselves to not be very replaceable, to position ourselves in a way that no one can put what we do into a Skillshare class.