This is a fascinating guest post from CopyHour member Samuel Gentoku McCree of MindFitMove.
“Imitation is the first instinct of the awakening mind.” – Maria Montessori
What if I told you Jeff Bezos and a dead Italian woman convinced me to sign up for CopyHour? You’d probably think I was crazy, right? Except that’s exactly what happened. Let me explain.
I started my company MindFitMove, a mindfulness based fitness and self improvement business, back in September. As I got things going I had the same problem so many small business have. How do I get people to check out my services?
I had lived 2.5 years at a Zen Monastery and have trained as an endurance racer so I knew I could help people get in shape in a sane and balanced way.
Mindfulness had helped me go from a pack a day roadie pothead to a business owner and tri-athlete. But how could I convince other people I could help them?
If I could talk to them, I could convince them. But I knew if I couldn’t find leads, I couldn’t get clients. And then I heard about CopyHour through the blog Hack the System.
The Curse of Cursive
At first, the idea seemed crazy. I mean learning to write copy by handwriting old letters seems a little like detention. Not to mention, I hate writing things out by hand. I had to have handwriting tutor in middle school, because my cursive was so bad.
But just as I was about to dismiss it, I remembered my time working at a Montessori pre-school.
I didn’t teach there long, but the kids blew me away. They were independent, cleaned up after themselves, and learned crazy fast.
In that moment, I realized that the idea behind CopyHour was very similar to the basis for the Montessori method. Once I figured that out, I couldn’t wait to give Derek my money. (Derek’s note: Smart man.)
Who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori started the first school back in the early 1900’s. And her approach was based on the idea that children had naturally absorbent minds.
The job of teachers – or “guides” – was to support these young minds using observation and gentle instruction that honored their independence and own desire to learn.
Dr. Montessori first developed her techniques when she was working with mentally handicapped children.
One day she noticed some young patients playing with their food. She realized that despite their condition, these kids exhibited the same curiosity that all children do.
She thought that perhaps she could harness this curiosity. And teach these children to learn in a new way. She developed new methods and using her techniques achieved amazing results. Many of these children were able to pass tests similar to ones given to normal children.
She could have stopped there but instead she realized that if these techniques could help handicapped kids, maybe they could help other kids as well.
Based on this belief she started her first school in 1907 called the Casa. And much of modern Montessori education is based on what she learned during this time.
Coming to America
The results at her schools were so remarkable that news of her work spread worldwide.
Ever since, Montessori schools have educated thousands of children and some of the world’s brightest minds.
Some Famous Montessori Students are:
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin – founders of Google
- Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon.com
- Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis – former first lady (John F. Kennedy)
- Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs – singer
- Prince William and Prince Harry
- T. Berry Brazelton – pediatrician and author
- Julia Child – author, chef, TV cooking shows
- Elizabeth Berridge – actress
- Kami Cotler – actress
- Melissa and Sarah Gilbert – actors
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Nobel Prize winner for Literature
- Katherine Graham – ex-owner of the Washington Post
- Anne Frank – author, diarist from World War II
Connect the Dots
Now that you know a little bit about Maria Montessori. You’re probably wondering what it has to do with CopyHour.
It relates via a technique that Dr. Montessori used to help children learn to read and write language. Specifically sand paper letters.
Montessori Language Learning
In the fall of 1907, Dr. Montessori began experimenting with cursive letters cut out of sandpaper, moveable letters, and labeled picture cards.
The children would use the sandpaper letters to trace each letter as a way to integrate language into their minds.
This process was so effective kids as young as four and five learned to read and write far beyond others their age.
“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” – Dr. Montessori
Why it works
Though spoken language and written language are connected, they are also fundamentally different.
Spoken language is learned by human interaction, but reading and writing must be learned intentionally.
Studies have revealed that when we first learn to read we use two distinct parts of the brain. One part takes the letters and turns them into sounds. Then another part takes the sounds and turns them into words.
This is why young children often read slowly sounding out each letter as they go along.
Eventually a third part of the brain takes over that begins to recognize meaning in whole words. When this happens the ability to read accelerates quickly.
Write First and Ask Questions Later
What Dr. Montessori discovered is that writing actually precedes reading. For a child to write they only need to turn sounds into letters.
Which is much less complicated then breaking the letters apart into sounds. And then translating those sounds into words.
By teaching children to write first using kinetic exercises she improved their ability to process complex information and thus accelerated their ability to read and write.
The theory behind CopyHour functions in very much the same way.
When we read great copy, we know it’s great, but we don’t understand why. One reason is that much like children learning to read, we break apart the ideas slowly and clumsily.
But the CopyHour technique forces us to write these ideas out before we read them. As we write them out, we see how the ideas are put together.
By recreating the process of each line, we see each piece without having to understand the whole. As each piece becomes clear, we are able to learn how to use those pieces to construct new brilliant pieces of copy.
Go Your Own Way
Another advantage of this technique, is that person learns at their own pace and ability.
If we all took a class on great copy letters, we might be asked to draw certain conclusions. Some conclusions would make sense but some wouldn’t. Because we all learn differently.
But when we write the letters by hand, we can focus on what interests us the most. We learn to draw our own conclusions and to use the pieces that come easiest first.
In this way CopyHour adapts to whomever is copying the letters. Because the process meets each student, where they are.
“Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding.” – Maria Montessori
This has certainly been my experience of CopyHour. At first, I found the process challenging, but as I’ve gone along more and more has become clear to me.
I started to see how my own mind stuck to certain parts of each letter. I was able to feel what was happening long before I understood it.
The more I wrote, the more of it came into focus. And eventually I was able to generate better and better copy.
Using the techniques I’ve created a new subscribe link for my blog that far out performed previous versions. And I learned to create great headlines that increase my clickthroughs from Twitter and my email list.
Even though I’ve only been doing the program for a few weeks and I write slow as hell, I’m sticking with copy hour to the end.
Dr. Montessori revolutionized they way that children learn and CopyHour is changing the way most people learn to write copy. Both techniques rely on the absorbent power of the mind and provide an amazing opportunity for growth and the realization of hidden talent.
Samuel Gentoku McCree is a Mindfulness Based personal trainer and life coach in Portland, OR. He is a writer, blogger, and thought leader in the Mindfulness Based Fitness and Self Improvement Industry. Toku received intensive mindfulness training as a resident and staff member at Great Vow Zen Monastery where he lived for over 2 years. During that time he studied under Zen Master Jan Chozen Bays MD (Author of ‘Mindful Eating’) and Zen Teacher Hogen Bays and attended many classes and retreats on subjects like non-violent communication, mindful eating, voice dialogue and meditation.
His philosophy is based on the understanding that awareness alone is the most powerful catalyst for change. All diets, exercise plans, and self help systems work because they make you pay attention, but they all fail to some extent because they focus on rules instead of awareness. While rules can help you be more aware, they often mask the power of your own mind. He works with clients locally and over the Internet to achieve their goals of life long transformation using the tools of mindfulness and movement.
You can check out more from Samuel here: http://mindfulfitnessmovement.com