3 Things You Can Learn From Free Online Webinars

(ESL learners – click on the bolded words to see explanations and notes. 🙂 )

This week, something odd happened.

Amidst a schedule jam-packed with classes, social appointments, and to-dos, I actually found some free time.

So what did I do?

I lay on the couch and stared off into space. Then I clicked around on the internet. And while I was clicking around, a bunch of ads for free online masterclasses popped up. How to Start a Successful Business, How to make 6 Figures with Social Media Marketing, How to Easily Close High-Paying Clients, How to Travel the World and Make Money… you name it.

Well, all of those things sounded vaguely interesting to me. So I thought “why not?”. I went on a rampage. I signed up for them all and I did 10 free masterclasses over the last week.

Truth be told, these classes are often sales pitches thinly disguised as free “miracle” education. But some of them do offer several valuable tips first – social media strategies, how to improve your LinkedIn profile, etc.

I’ve also noticed a few pieces of advice that were repeated in every single class, no matter the topic. It was almost uncanny. Maybe they all followed the same sales script? Possible. But I think there’s more to it than that. These pieces of advice all lead back to a few universal truths that everybody “knows”, but at the same time doesn’t want to believe. So whatever your opinion on free online webinars, I think there are a couple things we can take away from them.

Everything Takes Hard Work

This might seem a bit obvious to you, put like this. But uncannily, whenever we see a glimpse of a rich or famous celebrity or influencer, we seem to just assume that they had their success handed to them. “They have it easy,” or “they were lucky”. I’m sure that luck had something to do with their success, but nobody gets rich or famous or successful just like that. If you do nothing, nothing is exactly what you’ll get. You don’t see the hours and days and months and years of hard work and time and effort that went into that person’s success, before their faces start filling up billboards and glossy magazine covers. But just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. If you want to become successful in anything, you’re going to have to make it happen too.

Success takes failure

Well, to be more specific, it takes grit and failure. But the bottom line is, everybody fails. Even if someone is born rich, or is handed the reins to an already successful company, everybody will fail in one way or another. Guaranteed. It’s like the common cold. You might not get it at the same time as your colleagues, or even in the same season. But you can bet your bottom dollar you’re getting it eventually.

There have been lots of texts written about failure, and many of them say it better than I ever could. One in particular I really enjoyed was “Why Failure is (Actually) a Good Thing” by Cristian Mihai. I think everyone can create their own personal philosophy when it comes to failing. The conclusion I’ve come to myself is that, you’d think that you can’t succeed with failure, but the truth is you won’t succeed without it.

Life is Not “One Size Fits All”

Many sources will try to sell you on the idea that their way is the best or the only way. If you want to make money, the only way to do it is dropshipping – or social media marketing – or selling digital products – or teaching. It kind of reminds me of when I was trying to get my residency documents in Spain, and every time I went to the town hall, a different employee would insist on a different set of rules and requirements that I absolutely needed to follow.

Many people learning English ask me a similar question: “what is the best way to learn vocabulary? to increase fluency? to improve grammar?” And lots of websites and courses will each have their own thing to say about this.

Honestly, I think they’re all right. All of these things are the best thing — for someone. One person might be more gifted at learning from listening, another from reading. One person might need to work more on memorizing, another may need a more creative approach. We are not all made the same, so naturally we cannot all follow the same path to success. One person’s stepping stone will be your own slippery slope. (In fact, if you listen closely to the webinar presenters’ backstories, you’ll notice that one person’s success was another one’s failure.)

But thankfully, life is not one size fits all. It’s tailor made. By you. What this means, though, is that you have to know yourself and evaluate what would work best for you, your strengths, weaknesses, goals and needs.

Well, that’s about it, in a nutshell. Those were my three biggest takeaways. If you’ve taken a free webinar before, I’d love to know what your thoughts are — leave a comment down below.

ESL notes (29 words/expressions)

Odd: some of you will know this word already, but I’ve noticed many of my students aren’t familiar with it. Odd has a couple meanings — one of its uses is for numbers. Odd numbers are 1, 3, 5, 7, etc… numbers that cannot be divided by two. Odd also means “strange” (like in this text). (Back to the text)

Amidst: this means “in the middle of” something. If you are amidst a forest, it means the forest completely surrounds you, it’s all around you. (Back to the text)

Jam-packed: extremely crowded. (Back to the text)

Lay: this is not a new word, but I’ve noticed lots of people confuse the conjugation. “lay” is the past tense of “lie” which is what you do in bed. “Lay” is also another verb in the present tense with a past tense of “laid”. To lay something means to put something flat. For example, you can lay a baby down in its crib, and then the baby will lie in its crib. To summarize:

Lay (past tense laid): to put something down. Transitive (you do this to a person or object).

Lie (past tense lay): to be flat on a surface. Intransitive (you can lie in bed, you cannot lie someone or something in bed). (Back to the text)

Stare off into space: to look at nothing in particular, while deep in thought. (Back to the text)

Pop up: appear suddenly and out of nowhere. Often used for ads on the internet. (Back to the text)

You name it: I mentioned this expression in a previous blog post too. When you put this at the end of a list, it means the list goes on and on, there’s everything you could possibly imagine on the list. (Back to the text)

Go on a rampage: Usually, rampage means “a period of uncontrollable behavior by a group of people” – that is, to go on a rampage would mean to move through a place in a violent or wild way. For example, “Demonstrators went on a rampage through the city”. Of course, in my text, I used it metaphorically, to give the idea that I took a lot of masterclasses in a very short time. (Back to the text)

Truth be told: This is another way to say “the truth is that…”. (Back to the text)

Sales pitch: Pitch has two meanings. In sports, particularly baseball, the person who throws the ball “pitches” the ball. When it comes to sales, it means a speech that tries to persuade someone to do something. (Back to the text)

Thinly disguised: poorly hidden. (Back to the text)

Piece of advice: Lots of ESL students, particularly Spanish speakers, try to say “an advice” – “he gave me an advice”. Advice is actually an uncountable noun, you cannot use it with the article “an”. We always say, “he gave me advice” or “he gave me some advice”. If you really want to emphasize the fact that he told you ONE thing, you can “quantify” the advice with “a piece of” — “he gave me a piece of advice”. (Back to the text)

No matter the: “no matter the topic” means the same thing as “no matter what the topic is”. It might sound incomplete to some non-native speakers, but it’s actually a more high-level way to say the same thing. (Back to the text)

Uncanny: Strange or mysterious. (Back to the text)

Take away from: if you take some knowledge away from a course, it means you have learned and absorbed that knowledge. (Back to the text)

Put like this: to “put” something means to say or convey something. You might here people say things like “let’s put it like this” (meaning, let’s describe or say it like this), or “well, when you put it that way, then I see your point” (when you say or explain it like that). (Back to the text)

Uncannily: strangely, in a strange or mysterious way. (Back to the text)

Glimpse: to see briefly or partially. (Back to the text)

Glossy: Shiny and smooth. Think of a completely new magazine. The top page (and often even the pages inside) will be shiny and very smooth. (Back to the text)

Grit: Courage, perseverance, strength of character. It’s the quality that keeps someone motivated and working hard even if they have lots of difficulties. (Back to the text)

To be handed the reins: the reins are the long piece of fabric that control a horse when you ride the horse (you pull on them to make the horse stop and change directions). If you are handed the reins to a company, it means you are given control of the company. (Back to the text)

You can bet your bottom dollar: “Your bottom dollar” is a way to say your last coin, the very last money you have. (Imagine you have a bag, and in that bag there is one single coin. The coin is your last one, and it’s at the bottom of the bag.) If you can bet your bottom dollar (your last remaining coin), it means you have to be very certain of the bet you are making. Therefore, “you can bet your bottom dollar” means that you can be absolutely certain of this, it’s guaranteed. (Back to the text)

Come to a conclusion: this is a natural way to say “make a conclusion”, or “conclude something”. (Back to the text)

Sell you on an idea: this means to convince you that an idea is good. For example, “The filmmakers sold me on the idea that my book would work on the screen.” (Back to the text)

Stepping stone: literally, this is a stone that will help you walk across a river. A stepping stone is thus something that will help you to reach a goal. (Back to the text)

Slippery slope: this is something that is likely to lead to something bad or disastrous. For example, “You’re on a slippery slope once you start lying about your age!” (Back to the text)

Backstory: a person’s history or background, what happened in their life in the past. (Back to the text)

In a nutshell: This is an expression which means “in summary” or “using few words”. (Back to the text)

Takeaway: This is the noun for of to take something away from a course, which we saw earlier in this list. (Back to the text)

Thank you for reading! These ESL notes, links and exercises each take several hours to make, so if you found this useful, the kindest thing you can do is to like the post, leave a comment, or share with anyone who needs it. Have questions about any other words? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply! 🙂

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