Step By Step - Pros And Cons

14 replies
You see it posted here a lot.

"Does anybody know of a step by step guide for..."

And fill in the blank. Could be just about anything when it comes to Internet
marketing since there are so many variables involved from advertising to sales
letters to creating an autoresponder series. And the list goes on and on.

Now, there is something to be said for step by step instructions. I personally
love them because they give me a definite path to follow. And in the case of
putting together a piece of furniture, they're almost critical to have. And if
you're a technical idiot like I am, they're a must have for anything computer

But step by step instructions are not without their problems. The best way
to illustrate them is with a true story.

When I was in school learning networking, I was given specific step by
step instructions for installing a Novell network. They were great. All I
did was complete each step and I was done. I installed a Novell server and
a bunch of workstations. Wonderful.

Here was the problem.

Because I had these instructions, I never really had to "learn" and
"understand" what I was doing. As a result, when I got into a work
environment, I was worthless without them. I couldn't think on my feet.
If anything went wrong, or if I inadvertently skipped a step, I didn't know
enough about what I was doing to have any clue where I screwed up.

This same problem could be traced back to my days in school with certain
math classes, especially trig. I could follow the step by steps of a particular
example, but to actually apply the principle of what I was doing was so
hard because I really didn't "learn" the theory. I just did it by rote. And
this is the problem with many kids in today's schools.

So while step by step instructions may get you immediately through a
problem, if it's a process that you're going to have to do more than once,
depending on those step by step instructions is going to slow you down
and ultimately keep you from really learning and understanding what you're

Sure, if it's a one shot deal such as setting up an Adwords account or a
Squidoo lens, it's not that big a deal. But if you're planning on setting up
several accounts or lenses, it would be a whole lot more efficient if you
knew the routine by memory and then actually understood it. That allows
you to make certain modifications that you wouldn't be able to make if you
had to religiously rely on those instructions.

I could give a million examples of what I mean but I am sure you get the

Step by step instructions do have their place. But if you're going to better
yourself in that area, you're going to someday have to go beyond them.
#cons #pros #step
  • Profile picture of the author David Raybould
    Hey Steven,

    Yeah you're right, step by step can be a great way to learn, but at some point you're going to need some knowledge to fill in the blanks outside of what you learned, "flesh it out" as they say.

    That's especially true in IM, as things change, we have to adapt and learn etc.

    Actually, you can probably relate to this, it reminds of musicians I meet occasionally. You know the guys who learn to play just one or two songs because they love a band or whatever, but outside of that they can't play anything else.

    We could probably draw comparisons to about a thousand other things too.

    I guess the whole point I'm trying to make is that the best way of moving forward with a step by step plan is to try and learn the principles behind it, so that if something does change or one of your steps is removed or something, you'll at least have an idea of what that step was for so you can replace it or work around it or whatever.

    Interesting stuff...

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  • Profile picture of the author Kevin Flask
    Excellent points Steven.

    Step by step plans or instructions do have their place, but
    they also have their limitations. They are not the be all to end

    They are OK to get someone started and pointed in a direction,
    but not every direction or destination is the same for each person.
    Nor where they begin from for that matter.

    This is where applied knowledge and learning from one's mistakes
    can be the truer lesson.

    It takes failure to succeed. The only failure is the mistake made
    that no one learns from.


    p.s. - I HATED trig...:p
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    • Profile picture of the author Justin Jordan
      I learn best about things I don't understand by having a step by step approach. Once I've followed the steps, I can figure out how to integrate the information and adapt it for my use.

      I'm doing this for PPC right now, actually.

      On the other hand, doing something step by step and never figuring out why you're doing them is a problem, and you're never going to grow with that approach. But I'm not sure that's a flaw in the programs. A person who can't or won't learn and adapt a step by step program seems unlikely to be able to codge their own together from other stuff.

      But then, I'm the kind of guy whp starts assembling furniture by throwing out the instruction.
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      • Profile picture of the author Ouroboros

        I have to disagree with you for once, I was an Industrial Engineer for 10 years and part of my job was analyzing a 'job' that an employee did and finding ways to make it better and faster.

        Part of my responsibilities were to oversee the 'training' department and give them a 'step-by-step' process to re-train the employees.

        Those employees that had previously been making sub-par wages struggled with the SBS instruction, and those that were previously high earners took the instructions and added their own twist and learned it, improved on it, and within a week the earnings differential was the same as before...funny thing.

        I for one only have to be told something once or twice and then I start figuring it out...

        I'm just rambling, but if it's something you WANT to learn a step-by-step hard copy will get you through.


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        • Profile picture of the author Thomas Wilkinson
          When I was a student the SBS rote method worked well.
          Then I became a teacher and actually had to learn the
          material. I've been a real fan of the "have a student, be
          a student" method every since.

          When you hear someone telling you what YOU can't do, they are usually talking about what THEY can't do.
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          • Profile picture of the author Carol J Smith
            Since I am new at all of this I love step by step guides. Once I get familiar with a topic, I then feel comfortable to add some of my own steps to it. In the beginning though, I really appreciate step by step guides.

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            • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
              Interesting insights.

              I think most people would rather be told what to do step by step because it absolves them of responsibility.

              It also eliminates the need to do any real thinking in depth.

              Unfortunately to really succeed requires taking on responsibility and thinking things through in more depth than anyone else has (that's how you get breakthroughs).

              Having said all that when you do create a step by step guide most people will fail with it because they simply don't follow all the steps or more likely...they don't do anything!

              The number one cause for failure is a lack of action.

              Kindest regards,
              Andrew Cavanagh
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        • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
          Originally Posted by Ouroboros View Post


          I have to disagree with you for once, I was an Industrial Engineer for 10 years and part of my job was analyzing a 'job' that an employee did and finding ways to make it better and faster.

          Part of my responsibilities were to oversee the 'training' department and give them a 'step-by-step' process to re-train the employees.

          Those employees that had previously been making sub-par wages struggled with the SBS instruction, and those that were previously high earners took the instructions and added their own twist and learned it, improved on it, and within a week the earnings differential was the same as before...funny thing.

          I for one only have to be told something once or twice and then I start figuring it out...

          I'm just rambling, but if it's something you WANT to learn a step-by-step hard copy will get you through.


          Stephen, in your case, step by step may very well be the best course of

          However, as I have pointed out, there have been cases where step by
          step was not good enough for me. They failed me when I had to go out
          in the field and think on my own.

          And if you read my post, I didn't knock step by step instructions. I have
          my own step by step guides. I just don't feel that in all cases, they are

          That's all I'm saying.

          But you can still disagree. That's what makes this such a great world. We
          can disagree and still get along.
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          • Profile picture of the author Brad Spencer

            I definitely agree with you on "step by step" guides and being detrimental to someone's success.

            When I was newer to IM, I looked for an infinite amount of step by step guides but then I realized that I had read them once and "knew" them (hahahahaha...I laugh at the old me ...

            So I decided to sit down and just pound out, experiment, learn, tweak, etc all the stuff I learned from the books. Most didn't work for me (didn't really like it) and some did. I have been building lists and marketing to it ever since. I love it since it's all about testing traffic, tweaking pages, and slowly increasing my conversion rates. It's something that is never done and always looking to improve.

            I noticed in a post above that someone said "have a student, be a student" and I totally agree with this. One of the most fun things (and beneficial things) is when I send an email to my list asking them a favor (testing ideas, etc) and offer them a free gift. The enticement gets responses and I learn what they want and how to give it to them. I've had some interesting responses and I love emails like that. By having students and being a student myself, I learn at an exponential rate. As I teach, I learn the subject that much more and I teach others and learn it from multiple perspectives.

            So, I have to say step by step guides have their place. Usually they are a great introduction. Nothing more nothing less. To know something is to be able to tweak, test, and have an idea of what will happen. The best cooks don't use recipes, they just "know it."


            Brad Spencer
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            • Profile picture of the author MaskedMarketer
              I love step by step instructions. I don't have to think!

              But seriously, its a great way to get started if you want to accomplish a certain task and your brand new to it. Step by step instructions, when applied, allow you to take action immediately on the information provided. You don't have to read about any whys or theories, you just take action with the information you have.

              Sometimes you don't have to know why you're doing a task, but if its regarding your own business- I would want to know WHY and understand something before I was going to take action on that particular subject.

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              • Profile picture of the author lazavas

                i read all your posts with great interest, you add so much value to this forum, i am always learning something off you!
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                • Profile picture of the author donlester
                  Many of the limitations discussed here, in relation to purely step by step materials are valid. As a retired educator in the IT industry I have always believed that step by step, fill in the blanks, have their value.

                  If they are treated as simple instructions to get the job done, as in a step by step manual. They consist of just a set of steps and nothing more, their value as a learning tool is limited.

                  What you want is more of a learn and try environment. That is why I frequently use workbooks.

                  A workbook is associated with other learning or reading materials that give you the concepts, the understanding. Then the workbook gives you a chance to apply what you learned. In many cases going through a workbook can clarify and reinforce what you have read and improve your understanding of what you have learnt.

                  I have been creating workbooks for years in many different IT venues. I recently produced some workbooks for various internet Marketing concepts and they have been well recieved.

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                  I have found this discussion very interesting and enlightening.

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                  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Molano
                    I'd have to agree with Steven (even if my e-book is a step by step blueprint).

                    On the other hand, if the step by step instructions come with a workbook, I find those the best. Workbooks compliment the instructions very well and fill you in the blanks.

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                    • Profile picture of the author Steven Fullman


                      Not promoting right now

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                      • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
                        Okay, here is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

                        I went to my daughter's dorm room today to hook up her TIVO.


                        Because she lost the instructions. She did it once, last year when she first
                        got it, but because she really didn't understand what she was doing, without
                        the instructions, she was dead.

                        Anyway, I got there, and with no instructions, got her TIVO working.


                        Because knowing what I have learned about TV and stereo hookups, I
                        used that knowledge to figure out what cables went where.

                        Another example.

                        I had torn my recording studio apart 4 years ago when I started working
                        online and needed the space for my computers.

                        I finally decided that I wanted to put the studio back together. Now, this
                        is a midi controlled and digital studio with new equipment that I just bought
                        to compliment the equipment I already had.

                        With no instructions (I have no idea where the manuals are) I hooked up
                        everything in less than an hour. And let me tell you, this is one damn
                        complicated studio, even before the new additions.

                        If you know what you're doing, not only don't you need the instructions
                        but you can even go beyond the basics of them. This studio, the way I
                        have it set up, allows me to control everything from one keyboard.

                        Yes, step by steps have their place. But to rely on them solely is foolish
                        and dangerous.

                        Nothing beats really understanding what you're doing.
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                        • Profile picture of the author Marian Berghes
                          i think step by step instruction are good when you start something...let's say you want to start making money online... you could buy a step by step system...apply it and you may make some money.
                          But most people don't try to go outside that step by step system, don't want to learn anything else...and mostly because they cant make the connection between what they learned from the step by step system with other info they may get their hands on.

                          A good example i could give you are the people that buy/get website templates and they have the right to modify them..but all that they modify is just: putting their name in the header and footer, and the content of the webpage. They don't try to play with colors, some other effects for the header or make it more unique.
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                      • Profile picture of the author djones
                        After I read a really useful ebook, I often put together a step-by-step blueprint of what I just learned, which helps to cement it in my mind. But you're right. If I just follow some step-by-step instructions without knowing why I'm doing each step, it doesn't stick.
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