Tuesday, January 30, 2018

All That Glitters is not Fairy Dust

My Experience Inside Leonie Dawson's Shining Biz + Life Academy: A Review

A year from last September, I joined The Shining Biz + Life Academy created in 2010 by Leonie Dawson as a resource for people who want to live their best life, and run and grow their best business ... Mainly because I couldn't get away from her (yay, marketing!), and because other creative, driven businesswomen whose hustle I respected, highly recommended her courses and business philosophy. So I took the leap!
Addendum: Critique ≠ Trolling

The Rundown
What Was Promised:
 - Over 100 courses divided into three separate categories, Business, Life, and Creativity & Soul (valued at $15,750).
- Access to Biz + Life Mastermind, and workbook groups comprised of thousands of knowledgeable, and supportive women (valued at $2,000).
- One monthly group coaching call with Leonie herself (valued at $8,000).
- $2,000 worth of discounts from her network of favorite businesses, healers, and suppliers.
- Access to the weekend-long Shining Retreat hosted in Canberra, Australia exclusive to academy members (travel + lodging responsibility of attending member above the  $200 event ticket price).
- New workshops, courses, and content added monthly.
- Complete 2017 Shining Year planning system (including 1 business focused workbook, 1 life focused workbook, 1 twelve-month daily planner, 2 giant wall calendars, and 1 to-do list note pad) .  

What Was Delivered:
- Over 100 courses, I think?
- Access to Biz + Life Mastermind (condensed into one group).
- Network of discounted supplies and services (overpriced products I still don't need).
- Shining Retreat. CANCELLED. 
- New workshops, courses, and content.
- Complete 2017 Shining Year planning system (including 1 business focused workbook, 1 life focused workbook, 1 twelve-month daily planner, 2 giant wall calendars, and 1 to-do list note pad) .

Shortly after purchasing my membership, several changes took place.  One of which was the price of the annual membership more than doubling, which only effects new customers, or members who previously let their enrollment lapse.  On one hand, I understand, the Academy is this woman's life's work, with more content added annually so, it only makes sense that the price would go up for new members who join a fully stocked Academy as opposed to when it only offered a small handful of courses or workshops.  On the other hand, it is policy to "retire" courses, and content that the company feels it has outgrown, or that no longer fit the current ethos or vibe.  Which leads me to what I can only refer to as the Scrubbing of all Traces of Grant Andrew (former General Manager, Co-Instructor, and COO of Leonie Dawson International), after his early Spring departure from the company.  Considering he was in the majority of the removed content, I don't know if this was per his wishes, or an agreement they had upon parting ways, or something else, but it was a shame to see it removed.

To me, Grant was a grounding force, and major reason behind my decision to join the academy in the first place. 

I really liked his energy, his knowledge, his delivery, and his common sense approach to business.  Another problem with content removal is all of the videos, and audio files in the remaining courses that refer you TO the removed content.  So you find yourself (more than once) following along with course material when suddenly in the audio discussions, or recorded coaching calls you're pointed to look into other courses, and resources within the Academy that simply no longer exist.  It's a little difficult to reconcile the notion of how much this content no longer "fit" the ethos of the company anymore with the glowing praise of its importance in the recordings recommending it.  Like, how could people be absolutely raving about something that is suddenly so wrong for the Academy, and then leave members to go on a wild goose chase to find the missing content?  I felt this aided in creating a disjointed atmosphere.

Because of the price hike and the elimination of extended payment plans, along with the Life-only membership options (for non-business owners) one popular method members were looking forward to in order to recoup some, most, or all of their Academy membership price (depending on how much effort they put into it) was the affiliate program.  This, I'm beginning to understand, is what kept the Leonie Dawson brand on my radar.  I had been aware of her, and her products for about a year and a half before joining the academy, and I'm realizing this was not only due to her enthusiastic marketing techniques, but also those of her affiliate partners.  I follow several small and micro businesses, especially those owned by women, across multiple social media platforms who were most likely part of this program.  

I was seemingly bombarded with talk of Leonie Dawson, and her Shining Biz + Life Academy, and how her methods transform businesses

... Until they inspired me, or finally wore me down, and I made the purchase.  It was announced early January 2017 that the affiliate program would be disbanded by the end of the month, with no indication that it would be reintroduced at any point in the future.  Almost suddenly the chatter began to wane.  Sure, there was still some buzz because people were excited about their new workbooks, and starting a fresh year with them, but as soon as the new car smell dissipated the hype took a nosedive.  In fact, aside from Amazon reviews for the 2018 workbooks, I haven't found any recent, independent, glowing praise for the materials, or the Academy posted outside of websites, and social media accounts operated by Leonie Dawson International in the volume I had seen leading up to, and through 2016.  In hindsight, I've really begun questioning any and all excessively positive reviews of the Academy for the duration of the affiliate program, which is too bad.  Maybe they were all honest and genuine reviews of a beloved product, but it looks like it was all just marketing, and people scrambling to make (back) a buck off of the popularity of her brand.  If that's not the truth of it, that truly is a shame, because it really is the impression I'm left with.

Another, almost immediate, change was the cancellation of the Canberra, AU Shining Retreat because not enough people had committed, and bought tickets by what seemed to be a totally arbitrary date.  It is possible that the date was not at all random, but I couldn't ever recall seeing hard deadlines posted concerning ticket sales.  In fact, as of the January 2017 blog post notifying the public of changes coming to the business, the Shining Retreat was still on the schedule.  It could very well be a topic that was extensively discussed before I ever joined the academy.  However, the fact remains that the convention was abruptly cancelled, much to the chagrin of the members who had purchased tickets, and were stuck with non-refundable travel, and lodging expenses with the only compensation being a rather paltry, and hasty apology.  In lieu of the retreat, we were promised oodles of new courses to be added to the academy within the year to make up for it.  It appeared to me that the academy went largely ignored in 2017 with the exception of new micro-programs most of which featured guest hosts, and other people within the company that were hurriedly loaded within the last few months of the year, but most of them, it seemed, were slated to be added after my membership expired.

Many people felt that the launch of the essential oil Multi Level Marketing branch of Leonie's business was possibly taking up the time that could've been used to create the oodles of new courses we were told about.  At first, I believe, people took the news of the MLM launch in stride, a new Facebook group was formed for it, so it didn't overrun the current Mastermind, and it didn't seem to be distracting Leonie from running the Academy.  We were also assured (and reassured) that this would not become her main focus, and that the Academy would not suffer.

I wondered if "the lady doth protest too much,"

but decided to go with it.  Before long, I was reminded of Austin Powers when he's yelling "IGNORE ME DOING THIS!" as he's snapping his fingers on one hand, and snapping away with his camera in the other.  Uhm, we can't not see it, dude.  And so the posts began, and the new how-to-run-an MLM business course dropped, and then the newsletter emails with information, sign up offers, and links to MLM webinars came.  Finally, the actual email name was changed, so when you email customer support and they respond, instead of coming from "Leonie Dawson" or "Support Team" it's now coming from "Essential Oils with blah, blah, blah..." it doesn't even matter what follows because it's cut off in the preview, and extremely easy to overlook the entire email when it's plopped into your junk-mail box.  Don't get me wrong, it's not like it's that big of deal, I just think a lot of people would've had fewer negative feelings about the whole endeavor if there would've been a lot less denying that it was actually happening ... And it's a little difficult to deny it's happening when it's literally the first two words in your new email identifier-name.  Additionally, I don't think it's entirely ethical to use your Rolodex for purposes you weren't up front about.  When other members brought up the fact that they wished not to be constantly updated about the essential oil business, but still wanted to remain on the mailing list for Academy purposes, we were told in no uncertain terms that Leonie will use her mailing list in exactly any way she wants to, encouraging those who were uninterested in the network marketing aspect of her business to unsubscribe completely.  That said, I think members would've embraced the new branch of business if it hadn't been an MLM, which are notoriously annoying to many people existing outside of the network-marketing-bubble, especially when you can't seem to wave a stick these days without hitting someone punting essential oils, scented wax, or miracle skincare products, so I, for one, truly don't need ONE more cluttering my field of vision, and I definitely don't want to be steadily invited to join up and peddle products to make someone else richer, chiefly when the person I'm making richer isn't necessarily presenting all of the pertinent information that is crucial to understanding the operations within Multi Level Marketing business models.  Read more, here.

One of the final changes in 2017 was the consolidation of the two Mastermind groups hosted on Facebook, as well as the auxiliary workbook group by lumping them altogether as the Shining Biz + Life Academy (plus workbook) group.  Even though this effort to streamline is favorable for the moderator, this was easily my least favorite adjustment.  Initially, I joined all the groups available with membership, and quickly discovered the best place to focus my energy was in the Business group.

With the Life group flooded with posts on nasty custody battles, and people incessantly whining about how bad their husband, wife, or partner is, and how unfair life is all of the time, I had to ditch to save my sanity.  

I think it's wonderful for people to have spaces where they feel safe and supported enough to discuss their problems, bounce ideas off other people, gain insight, and begin to piece together a solid plan for moving forward.  However, when these types of groups are spammed by the same handful of people just dumping all of their baggage post, after post, after post ... It's exhausting, and frankly too much emotional labor to expect strangers to go through for you.  The workbook group was a veritable Scrapbook-palooza, that seemed to be used as a big distraction with people "jazzing up" and making alterations to their workbooks so they could avoid doing any of the actual work of filling them out.  I found it to be a huge waste of time sifting through workbook glamour-shots to find worthwhile interactions, and I found that I didn't need that much hand-holding to fill out sheets of paper, so that was easy to dip out of.  Meanwhile, the Business group was full of lively conversation, useful information, lots of vibrant, business-oriented minds eager to interact with others, and I loved it!  When all of the groups were combined, the bottom fell out.

All of these changes, I felt, impacted the overall quality of the Academy experience.  With the Mastermind group now a mere shadow of itself, the conversations about anything remotely significant to business or entrepreneurship have dried up to a meager trickle.  Simultaneously, low-level complaints about everything from the unfairness of day-to-day life, to the airing of grievances about Leonie Dawson International's business practices have overtaken the space (no matter how quickly they are removed).  It seems obvious that if members are unhappy with the direction the group is going, that it is up to them to create the kind of group that they want to belong to, but this is easier said than done once an entire forum takes on a new edge, or unfriendliness resembling that of teenage cliques.  One person can post all of the interesting posts, and questions they want to, but once the overall audience has lost that lovin' feelin' these posts simply slip further and further down the page into oblivion.  There needs to be a concerted effort comprised of multiple members, and the moderator to turn it around at this point.  I also believe, Grant Andrew was a calming, and positive force in the online forum whose absence has been felt.  Even if he wasn't the most active member in the Mastermind, there was a fun, and easy-going quality to the group that has since diminished following his departure.

I mentioned earlier about the removal of content from the academy that Mr. Andrew had part in creating, hosting, or participating, and I feel that this, as well, has been a factor in the declining quality of Shining Biz + Life Academy courses.  Not only did he have a pleasant speaking voice, and superior recording equipment, but also a cool temperament that brought balance, focus, and order to the content.  One of the more frustrating elements inside the Academy is the lack of sound-quality consistency, not only across the entire Academy, but even within a single recording.  Okay, so what's the problem if you've got a volume toggle?  It's distracting, and annoying (never mind painful if wearing headphones) when blaring intro music drops out to quiet, muffled, static-covered dialogue that bounces back and forth with a louder, clearer co-host, followed by blaring outro music that makes you leap out of your noise-cancelling headphones because you had them pressed tightly to your head, with the video's volume set to max, along with your cranked up laptop volume toggle to even be able to hear the topics being discussed.  It's something that maybe wouldn't be worth bringing up if we were talking about free YouTube videos, but for paid course material you at least want to be able to hear, and understand it so you can actually learn from it, and implement the lessons.  So far, the biggest lesson I've learned is the exact opposite of what is often parroted throughout the academy,
"An imperfectly finished product in the hand is worth two perfectly finished products in the bush."
-Leonie Dawson
I do realize that there are a lot of people who struggle with failure to launch either personally or professionally because they are constantly chasing the idea of perfection, and refusing to make a single move until all the appropriate stars align, four psychics are consulted, and a blood sacrifice is offered.  However, knowingly releasing a sub par product in exchange for money sets off all sorts of alarm bells in my head.  It's one thing if you're selling a tangible object that the customer can inspect in person before purchase, like, if you know the blouse you're about to buy has a snag, or makeup stain on it, you're at least making an informed decision, or able to ask for a discount for the damaged item.  But this method doesn't exactly work, or is entirely ethical if you're selling a product that can not be properly investigated or scrutinized before time of purchase.  I like to believe the intent is actually to show people that at some point you need to have confidence in your product, or creation, but I do know there are business owners who can take it to the extreme, and think that releasing any old junk is better than nothing.  Create, create, create.  Release, release, release.  Because if it's good enough, it'll resonate with someone, somewhere.  Not happy with your purchase?  Too bad.  Boundaries.  No refunds!

That's just not a business model I can get behind, support, or recommend, and it's something I ran into more than once in the Academy.  From the audio / video problems, the misdirection of old recordings guiding members to "retired" materials, to the hastily uploaded, promised oodles of content (or micro-programs) added after the retreat cancellation, and also the phenomenon of the phantom-curriculum-echo wherein material has been plucked from the much larger Academy courses, and presented as their very own, separate course, which makes the entire Academy appear more extensive than it is, to the overall disorganization of the whole thing, I was often aggravated, and repeatedly discouraged.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get an official count of how many lessons were just highlights, clips, or bullet points of more comprehensive workshops dressed up as stand alone courses while my membership was active, but it was certainly enough to be noticeable.  This is very confusing to new members who are especially overwhelmed with the appearance of the sheer volume of the Academy that offers no outline to follow or order of recommended courses.  In tandem with reorganizing the Academy course layout, I would've loved to see more structure brought to the monthly Coaching Calls.  As they are now, it's basically an hour long rap-session of just whatever comes up, and whoever says "hi" or has a question in the comment section.

The plus side is Leonie will answer literally any question you ask her -- time permitting.

She will go out of her way to help you in any way she can.  I've never seen her purposely blow anyone off, or dismiss questions deemed "lesser" than where her expertise lies.  She will discuss an-y-thing, and routinely do website critiques for anyone needing input on their corner of cyberspace.

I feel the hour could benefit from laying out a 12 month syllabus, so to speak, that will outline the Coaching Calls so people can ruminate on the subjects beforehand, and formulate questions whose answers will truly benefit the businesses they're pertaining to.  That way, everyone who shows up for the call is all on the same page, and every question that's answered has the maximum potential to help every listener on the call.  Otherwise it's just a bunch of people sitting around struggling to hear something pertaining to them through random conversation, and the cacophony of household sounds, including those of small screeching children.  Personally, I wasn't bowled over by the whole experience.  I'm pretty straight forward when it comes to learning ... Read / listen - understand - implement, so I never had an excess of questions to bring to the calls, and when it comes to aesthetics, I wasn't interested in seeking anyone's input.

I've already spoken about the consolidation of the online forums that were created to give Academy members places to cultivate meaningful relationships, and a beneficial network of intelligent, focused, and forward-thinking business owners.  The Mastermind as it's now advertised is, "thousands of vibrant women from all around the globe to support you," this couldn't be further from what I experienced.  As of today, the Mastermind sits at population 2,754 (several members fewer than my final day) and out of those thousands, I recall about 30 of them being "active" on the best day - including showing up for live Coaching Calls.  On a typical day, this number dropped off significantly.  I remember seeing a small handful of active participants on any given day, even fewer of them were successful business owners I'd be moved to take advice from, and even fewer of those were actually supportive ... or polite for that matter.  It is not a place where people can express opposing, or alternative views without a good old fashioned donnybrook breaking out.

2017 was not the year for making connections in the Mastermind (possibly more accurately characterized as hive mind).  

I'm sure the group had a heyday once upon a time, when Leonie's own popularity exploded, and everyone enlisted themselves as Academy members all excited, happy, shiny, and new, looking forward to meeting new people to go on this business and life development journey with.  Last year, however, after the excitement of the fresh recruits died down in the first few weeks, entering the Mastermind started feeling like walking into a high school lunchroom with everyone staring at you like you've entered the room without pants.  I found most of the active members (with the exclusion of about 5 or 6 of them) to be haughty, snide, unhelpful, and always ready to pounce and attack someone they viewed as "weaker" or "beneath" them.  This was most notable in the women older than me taking it upon themselves to school / scold those younger than me for things as silly as how they structured a question.  Shaming young women based on assumptions instead of simply asking for clarity is akin to singling out the runt of the litter.  I'm not impressed by people who feel it's their place to knock others down a peg, especially for sport.  Overall, It was not the kumbaya, women-helping-women, sisterhood, lift-each-other-up kind of experience I had always seen it advertised as.  In my opinion, it became particularly worse with the rise of the Debbie Downers after all of the groups were combined into one.
The highest law of the Mastermind, always leave behind more than you take was all but tossed out the window, it seemed feedback was less and less appreciated, integrating with the "hive mind" was more, and more expected, dog-piling on those who didn't conform became the norm, and boundaries were often crossed both by members, and Leonie herself.

Boundaries are a big deal to Leonie, as they should be for everyone, I think.  The problem is, the boundaries only seem to flow one way; a lot of expectations are put on members, and their behavior within the Academy Mastermind, when contacting Support, or interacting on live calls, but it's not reciprocated.  There is now an aura surrounding the entire business that permits one person to act literally any way they please, toward anyone in a captive (and I don't exactly mean that figuratively) audience, and anyone who doesn't like it can leave, or in some cases, find themselves removed. 

There's a lot to unpack here, so I'll start by saying I understand (and agree with) the purpose of having boundaries.  Constantly hearing how other people think you should be running your own business, or complaining about perfectly reasonable practices, and offerings would be exhausting to say the least.  I also think business owners shouldn't be overly concerned with being "likeable" in such a way that forces them to pander to an audience in a phony, insincere, or exaggerated way that leads to over-commitment, and burn-out.  That being said, the business owner is in the position to set the standard to which all interactions should be held. 

After all, your vibe attracts your tribe!

And that's exactly what I think has been happening with Leonie Dawson International.  I believe everything from employee turnover, to what kind of personalities and behaviors are showing up in the Mastermind, to the kind of feedback the company is getting is due to what's being released by the person in charge.  "Whoa, whoa, whoa," you may be saying, "We're all grown folks here, no one can be responsible for how another person behaves, surely!  We should not be undertaking the job of parenting other people," and you'd be right!  I don't believe it is anyone's job to raise other adults.  However, when ill-mannered people see you abusing your own customers, what exact message is that going to convey to them?  To me, it very clearly illustrated that anything, and everything is fair game as long as you can get away with it.  That's not what I consider a "safe" or "spiritual" environment, at all.

Never was this more apparent than during the public, live, promotional video-event for marketing the workbook and planning system in the fall of 2016 that spun completely out of control at warp-speed. What began as a broadcast to advertise the benefits and effectiveness of the books with an accompanying live Q&A, quickly devolved into a belligerent, expletive-filled rant of epic proportions.  I am, after all, a longshoreman's daughter, and dock-talk is NO myth so, I am not exactly the kind of gal to shrink in the presence of profanity.  I'm also not the kind of woman who will pay someone to cuss me out, tell me I'm stupid, or abuse any number of other people within reach.  Don't get me wrong, this was not just the random drop of an f-bomb, or the scattering of some four letter adjectives for impact, or even shock value, or just for the sake of being cheeky.  This wasn't just about making sure your own small children weren't within earshot of your computer speakers.  We had all tuned in to what I can only describe as an incoherent stream of insults -- long strings of disparaging words that didn't even make sense -- first, firing at the people from the workbook group who had been discussing some DIY adjustments and hacks they'd made to their workbooks and daily planners to make them more efficient, and convenient for their desired purposes ... Mocking customers by opening and closing the books back and forth, fluttering the pages at the camera, feigning the hardship of turning the pages while putting on a sarcastic voice, and letting everyone know how incredibly (insert expletives) stupid they all were for adapting a product to suit their needs ... A product, mind you, that got its start several years ago as a downloadable item you could customize as you see fit.   A product, mind you, that had been discussed in a private "safe space" designed to examine, and walk through the use of that very product with other people.  People who were now being publicly shamed for doing exactly that.

When it finally became all but impossible to follow along, two women spoke up about the language in, what I believe was, an attempt to snap her out of it so she could regroup and continue with a broadcast that actually made sense. This did not go well.  In fact, things only got worse.  The women were then subjected to an onslaught of verbal abuse, and humiliation that only escalated as more women (who I believe were very much emboldened by the behavior in the feed) piled on, and either hurled more insults, or cheered on others who did.

All because two women had the nerve to state the obvious; the truth.

We were reminded of "boundaries", and everyone was told if they didn't like what was happening, they were free to leave.  This is the overwhelming attitude throughout all channels of the Academy.  If you felt your boundaries were being crossed, and you were disrespected, and / or otherwise mistreated your only recourse was to leave, and not participate in the Mastermind, the live calls, if not the entire Academy altogether ... you know, the one you just paid hundreds of dollars to be part of.  And if a problem persisted your removal will be taken care of for you.  I've already mentioned "no refunds", right?  All at once, I felt grossly voyeuristic as though I had just witnessed something exceedingly private that was about to become a major turning point in someone's life, and business, that I had participated in a disgusting display of mob-mentality (because I believe silence is complicity), and as a result, immediate buyer's remorse that I had to push through to even utilize my newly purchased membership.

From the moment of that broadcast, everything changed.

I found myself in a somewhat paranoid setting where the one forming all the rules responds with aggressive outbursts to perceived attacks, and when this nature of attacking becomes the norm under the guise of fiercely defending boundaries, it doesn't take long for any question to become a threat, or any feedback that one isn't prepared to hear to be dismissed as sour grapes, and "trolling" ... Delete, block, remove ... after a while, you no longer have customers.  What you've got are browbeat captives.  The only thing worse than that is cultivating (no matter how unintentional it may be) an environment for attention-hungry sycophants to gang up on anyone with an opposing view.  I found the type of codependency that flourished within the Academy deeply disconcerting.

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with."
-Jim Rhon
The company I keep is no small thing to me.  My relationships are intentional, and I view my time as valuable ... No, not in a dollar amount, I simply mean that life is precious and fleeting, and I don't want to waste a minute of it on things that just aren't the right fit for me.  I am not willing to walk on eggshells around people who will do as they damn well please no matter how potentially damaging their actions are, or how it makes the people around them feel, and I'm not comfortable watching people get set-up by someone asking for honest opinions and feedback, and then subjecting the very people reeled in by the women-supporting-women shtick to seemingly uncontrolled outbursts that lead to yet more dog piles on anyone offering up respectful, and truthful critique.  I also can not allow my money to cosign behavior or ideals that do not align with my own.  And so it was, from nearly the very beginning I knew this would only be a one year commitment on my end.  Others, however, didn't have quite my good fortune when it came to ending their memberships.

I have only ever had great experiences with the Support Team whenever I felt I needed to contact them.  Others either didn't manage their expectations properly, or just simply weren't as lucky as I was.  It's important to know that Leonie takes work / life balance very seriously for herself, and her employees -- that means all federal holidays are observed, and the entire staff earns full weekends.  On top of that, they are given up to three days to respond to customer correspondence.  So, as long as you've got a calendar and you can count, you shouldn't run into any problems, and if you do, know that it is actually quite rare.  I always received prompt, friendly, and helpful responses. 

My reason for contacting Support was because my membership was cancelled about three weeks before its deadline.  Happily, I was reinstated and allowed to finish out my full year, plus some, which I then had to initiate its cancellation for fear I'd be overcharged or get myself accidentally automatically re-enrolled for another (nonrefundable) year of membership, like a few other members experienced.  Some mistakes were due to glitches on the admin end of things, and some were due to members not thoroughly reading their contract with Leonie Dawson International and understanding that the Academy membership is set up to automatically re-enroll members unless you specifically go through the steps to cancel.  By re-enroll, I do not mean you are simply signed back up for another year in the Academy, the full membership price is automatically withdrawn from your PayPal account (or whatever you used to pay).  Whether people didn't understand this aspect, or never received the cancellation email is unknown, but there were several instances of very unhappy people bringing their frustration to the Mastermind group, and sometimes the conversations took a turn, even going so far as accusing the company of thievery.  I thought this was completely unfair to the company, but possibly a moment to take a step back and reevaluate the whole auto-renewal process, and make the necessary adjustments, especially taking into account the demographics of customers, costly errors, and that while statistically the errors may be few for a three million dollar a year company, they are expensive for the people who are drawn to the Academy.

Wrap Up
Overall, I do not view my time with the Academy as a tremendously bad step in my education.  It is, however, not something I would be willing to pay my membership fee to belong to anymore, and my fee was significantly less than the $997 USD that's being asked for now.  For this price, I believe the Academy needs a complete overhaul beginning with re-recording old course material that is barely audible, and any material that guides listeners to removed / retired content, a total re-organization of the courses with a concise recommended order of operations that most new members would find beneficial in helping them navigate the Academy's seemingly overwhelming size, and finally, a firm commitment to boundaries that work both ways.

Until that happens, I couldn't, in good faith, recommend small and struggling businesses purchase this membership.  If you're already running a successful enough business to afford investing nearly a thousand dollars annually on education, then it's my belief, you don't need the level of information available in this academy.  The people who will benefit the most from the material the Academy provides are the ones who can't afford it, now.  If you are a small business owner struggling to get on your feet, and can't quite justify spending the money on a full Academy membership, I recommend starting with the My Shining Year Biz Workbook available only on Amazon, and see if you're in the right place to learn, and implement new methods.  If the book works for you, you can consider saving up and trying a year of the Academy.  If that's the step you take, I suggest taking the first month to download all of the available downloadable content, organize it, and schedule your plan of attack beginning first with

Business Goddess (and going right into) 
Double Your Business +
Double Your Biz 365 daily email.

Remember, if you're considering signing up for an Academy membership, it no longer includes any of the books in the purchase price.  The Life-only membership, and the opportunity for payment plans no longer exist because, as per an email from the company, "Now I am only willing to help people who are really ready to help themselves." which I take to mean, the only people who want to help themselves are either the ones with businesses, or people with no businesses (just wanting some life guidance) but willing to drop a thousand bucks on access to content they don't even need just to get access to the parts that they do.  If, after all things considered, this is something you're serious about investing in, I can tell you I did learn some good things during my time utilizing the Academy, but I'm not convinced I couldn't have learned it elsewhere for much less.  I also recommend, if it ever comes down to a choice between Leonie Dawson's Shining Biz + Life Academy or B-School?  Definitely go with the Shining Biz + Life Academy.  There are far too many problems with B-School to even think about putting in this post, but one thing I know for sure, Leonie's advice can get you results for a much smaller price tag.  I do think it's important to keep in mind, if you've ever heard that saying,
"The best way to make money as a writer is to write a book telling other people how to become writers"
I think the same thing very much applies to the world of freelance, or coaching ... Or coaching coaches, that is.  Before dropping some serious cash on any online course or collection of courses, I recommend reading this post by, Becca Niederkrom, first.  Another free resource for people just looking to punch up their marketing is CopyBlogger, sign up for free access: here.

I've shared my experience, and what I observed in the year I spent as a member of the Academy because I would've liked the opportunity to read a review this comprehensive before purchasing my membership.  I wish everyone involved with the Shining Biz + Life Academy, including current and past members, continued success in the pursuit of prosperity in all areas of business, life, and above all, love.