The Special Sauce for Leveling Up Skills

My "Master" Robin Griggs Wood created this wonderful Achievement Certificate. What a wonderful innovation to make the experience more personal!

My "Master" Robin Griggs Wood created this wonderful Achievement Certificate. What a wonderful innovation to make the experience more personal!

Yum! More Dog Food!

Our mission at The Arcanum is to build a Magical Learning Experience that is the most personal, fun and effective way to Level Up your skills.

I mentioned this in a previous post, but I'll recap.

I am so dedicated to our brand promise that I want to feel the experience, not just read and write about it.

So I became a customer of The Arcanum, the service Trey Ratcliff, Curtis Simmons and I are building with the help of dozens of world-class Mentors and Artists. Then I got "invited" to Apprentice with the phenomenal Robin Griggs Wood and her amazing Mastery Cohort chock full of wonderfully passionate and motivated people!

What better way to ensure we're building the best possible learning experience!?

When Learning Feels Like Falling in Love

The Learning Experience in The Arcanum is magical in part because of the "Ah ha" moments that happen again and again as you move along your personal learning path. Some Members of The Arcanum say it's like falling in love.

The Arcanum is an overwhelming passionate experience. It’s like falling in love. You are busy doing whatever it is that you usually do, and then all of a sudden, BAM, you are hit by a freight train that turns your world upside down.
— Jacob Surland, Member of The Arcanum, August 2014

Like an "Epic Win", these magical moments are shocking, exhilarating, and quite addicting as you realize that you're skills keep improving beyond what you thought was possible.

Epic Win - An outcome so extraordinary you didn’t know it was possible until you actually achieved it. An outcome almost beyond the threshold of what you think is possible and when you get there you are truly shocked at what you are capable of.
— Jane McGonigal, Author and Game Designer

The Ingredients of a Magical Learning Experience

If you take a step back, you'll find there are three main ingredients to this Magical Learning Experience. I talk about each ingredient in more detail below.

  1. Mentors
  2. Spheres & Levels
  3. Community 

From Masters to Mentors

You can read our website and learn that we are inspired by the time-tested and proven Master and Apprentice learning method.

One key upgrade we made to this ancient learning method is to Level Up Masters to Mentors.

The insight is that masters teach along their path and Mentors guide you along your path

Within The Arcanum, your Master mentors and guides you along mutually agreed upon goal for your current learning path. This is all done within the context of your current Sphere. I describe Spheres below, so keep reading!

My future-self has written a blog post on the importance of Mentorship in the Learning Process. If you'd like to satisfy your interest right away, check out this video interview with Robin Griggs Wood and Ron Clifford, two incredibly talented artists and Mentors within The Arcanum. 

Spheres & Levels

Within The Arcanum a Sphere represents one cycle of learning. The cycle of learning happens through the completion of 10 Levels within each Sphere.  

So Sphere 0 and Sphere 1, the "Foundation Spheres", contain Levels 0-9 and 10-19, respectively. Sphere 2 is the first "Focus Sphere" and it contains Levels 20-29. Sphere 3 contains Levels 30-39, and so on. 

This might sound like your traditional education routine, the higher the number, the more advanced, etc, etc.  But not so within The Arcanum. This where the learning experience within The Arcanum is *completely and utterly different* from every other education offering out there.

How's that you ask?

Each Sphere is Like a Story...Written by the Master and Apprentice

Each Sphere has a story-like structure:

  1. Introduction
  2. Rising Action
  3. Climax
  4. Denouement

The Introduction. At the beginning of each Sphere the Master (Mentor, remember ;-) and Apprentice discuss and and agree to SMART Goals for the Apprentice. These goals set the "Quest" for the Sphere. Remember, Apprentices take responsibility for their learning. 

Rising Action. After agreeing to one or two SMART goals, the Level Challenges begin. I describe Levels below in more detail. Suffice it to say that the Levels create forward momentum and increase specific activities oriented around your goals. Masters within The Arcanum play their strongest role in this part of the story and the next one, the Climax!

Climax. Level Challenges tailored for you by your Master have prepared you for this moment where you must share your best work with your Master. During this event, you must be vulnerable and open yourself to constructive critique. At it's best both Master and Apprentice Level Up quite a bit by this point. 

Denouement. The Level Challenges can be well, challenging. And taxing. But this is good stress, the kind of stress that when you're in the middle of it and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel you realize you're moving toward an "Epic Win". In this part of the story, it's time to rest a bit and reflect. Many Members post their learnings within the Community at this point. It is within this synthesis, reflection, and introspection that the learning "happens"

And this cycle continues about 2x per Sphere. 

So in this way, completing more Spheres is mostly about completing more cycles of goal setting and achievement. 

Unlike other education systems that impress a framework on you, The Arcanum puts you in the position of responsibility for your learning and your learning outcomes. 

Levels: One of the Secret Ingredients that Make The Arcanum Personal

As I mentioned before, there are 10 Levels per Sphere. Continuing the analogy that a Sphere is like a story with a Quest, then the Levels are the stepping stones along the path to complete the quest. The Levels create momentum that keep me moving forward with my skill development.

This is another key area where The Arcanum Learning Experience is so utterly personal.  

Spheres are like a story with a quest, and the Levels are the stepping stones along the path to complete the quest.

Within The Arcanum, The Leveling Guide provides Masters and Apprentices with a malleable framework of challenges.  Masters tailor the Level Challenges to each particular Apprentice. These personalized challenges help the Apprentice build specific skills they need achieve their Quest for the Sphere (the goals the agreed to at the outset of the Sphere).

In short, The Levels within Spheres are NOT a rigid curriculum that someone else or organization curated for me. On the contrary, each Level is a stepping stone on my own unique learning path. 

Unlike other education systems that impress a framework on you, The Arcanum puts you in the position of responsibility for your learning.

An amazing outcome is that although I'm in the same "Cohort" as my fellow Apprentices, with the same Leveling Guides, my experience within each Level of The Arcanum is completely different from any other Apprentice

I choose my goal and completing each Level gets me closer to my goal -- Not someone else's idea of what I need to learn. 

That is just one of the ways The Arcanum is so personal.

Education is what people do to you and learning is what you do for yourself
— Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab

Community Makes Learning Fun and Effective

Everything I've talked about above would simply not be possible without the support of an incredibly passionate Community. The Members of The Arcanum are bound together through  the Level Challenges within each Sphere. Indeed, many of the Levels can only be completed by working together.

Within The Arcanum we're building a Community of Service, where the Members "lean in" toward each other. Always looking for opportunities to help one another Level Up. People are building real relationships and in doing so, a support network. Support networks are critical in stressful times when we're pushing at our maximum to Level Up.  

Suffice it to say for this post, that Community is nothing short of a social and emotional bond that keeps you moving forward. 

The Arcanum is like having breakfast with really good friends every morning.
— Member of The Arcanum

Community is a topic that deserves it's own blog post. Yes, my future-self has already written it. 

Stay Tuned!

Wrapping it Up

I think this way of learning is more personal, fun and creates outcomes that are much more meaningful to me.

I now realize that I experience "Bad Stress" - the kind that makes you feel sick - when I am under pressure to complete someone else's curriculum or idea of what I should learn.

On the contrary, I experience "Good Stress" - the kind that makes you improve - when I am completing challenges that help me complete my goals.

I have a feeling the same is true for a lot of others. I guess that's why I am building The Arcanum in the first place. 

If you'd like another perspective from the "inside" read Greig Houghton's blog post about his experience within The Arcanum. Thanks to Greig for posting that!

I'll leave you with this image: The Arcanum is like a personal trainer that coaches you through challenges that build skills that help you reach your goals. All the while a wonderful and supportive community cheers you along the way.

If you want to learn more about The Arcanum, please visit the website or our Facebook or G+ pages.  

Thanks for taking the time to read and please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!