In 2011, Leah Pearlman left a high-profile technical career at Facebook to explore a new calling: self-discovery. As she read, wrote, practiced, and made art (creating the acclaimed comic series Dharma Comics), Leah explored answers to big questions. Who or what are we? Why are we? How does life really work? What does it mean to live in an aligned, awake, happy way?
Through her unfolding Leah discovered a sense of joy and deep satisfaction in supporting others to discover deeper truths and practice coming home internally. With attuned, soulful attention, and fierce devotion to self-practice, she regularly dives into dense material and then seeks clear, succinct ways to distill and impart new information to others.
“I tend to be most useful to people who are incredibly engaged with their outward lives but who also always have one foot in the “how” and the “why” – people who want to know themselves better and experience the world from the inside out,” she says.
Here’s how Marco Polo Channels became one of Leah’s happiest mediums, providing the one-to-many efficiency of a group video teaching experience while also encouraging deep personal bonds.
A leadership challenge: To see and be seen
Alongside her art and writing, Leah had experimented with numerous communication and teaching formats. None struck the perfect balance between authentic engagement and effective time management.
One-on-one coaching was rewarding but labor-intensive. Video intrigued her, but spending time on production did not. Workshops, events, and speaking engagements, such as her 2016 TED talk, were broad-reaching but didn’t allow for personal interaction.
And social media was a little tricky. As the person who conceived the Facebook Like button, Leah’s accomplishments and stature had resulted in a large following. She was keenly aware of the importance of an online presence. But given the ease with which anyone could comment thoughtlessly, without considering her full context or intention, she chose to spend time and energy carefully modulating her social media posts and responses.
So as a teacher and leader, Leah’s challenge was to develop an effective learning environment that didn’t require onerous amounts of time, in which she and her audience could quickly develop a rapport, and in which she felt safe enough to fully reveal herself and her experiences.
“I personally benefit from intimate settings in which everyone present has consciously chosen to be there,” she says. “I feel more creative and alive in these contexts, and it has taken self-love and courage to choose and craft environments that feed me rather than opting for the largest distribution as the default. My Channel has allowed me to meet my own needs while meeting the needs of others, and I have found that to be a perfectly sustainable intersection.”
Channels lets me post messages in the exact moment they are most alive. This allows me to be incredibly real and revealed with my Channel subscribers, which deepens the intimacy, learning, and growth of all involved.
A deeply intentional teaching platform
The first thing that appealed to Leah about Channels was its potential to create a “deeply intentional, opt-in” experience. She named her Channel “Wonder School for the Inner Arts” and put out a call to a group of people who had proved curious and responsive in past learning encounters and expressed an interest in hearing more from her.
As Wonder School progressed, Leah found that Channels supported her favorite way of teaching: actively and spontaneously.
“Channels lets me post messages in the exact moment they are most alive,” she says. “This allows me to be incredibly real and revealed with my Channel subscribers, which deepens the intimacy, learning, and growth of all involved.”
Leah likens the experience to offering someone a slice of orange and telling them about it while they eat, rather than describing an orange that she or someone else might have eaten in the past. Immediacy is facilitating intimacy which, in turn, creates a more nuanced learning experience.
Using Channels also shows Leah that it is okay not to be perfect.
“With blog posts or a TED talk or published artwork, my initial inspiration is followed by careful attention to getting it exactly right,” she says. “Curation has benefits. But letting myself be who I am in the moment allows people to see something more raw and often more full.”
Channels offers qualitative insight into teaching and learning
Leah was pleased with the response to her Wonder School invitation: 60 percent of invitees joined her Channel, and more than half of participants watch every video she posts.
Leah found her qualitative success equally compelling.
- She observes members listening, questioning, and commenting in an open, curious, and unguarded way. She receives fewer comments than she might if people were leaving them in text, but she likes that. “It means the comments are more focused and intentional.”
- Participants tell Leah that seeing her go through life situations as they occur can be more helpful than hearing about a situation theoretically or after the fact. The more authentically she shows up, the more effective the learning.
- Having daily witnesses has deepened Leah’s own practice, supported her commitment to living and teaching with integrity, bolstered her confidence, and encouraged her to take risks.
“When I’m at a decision point, wondering whether I should take a new path or the old familiar path, I think, “OK! Let’s try the new path,’” she says. “Because then I can share it with the people who are learning from me.”
Leah’s top Channels features
#1. Simplicity and speed of video recording. “I’m falling in love with doing video,” Leah says. “And when I consider the possibility of moving to a different platform, something like YouTube, I immediately think ‘no, it sounds like too much effort.’”
#2. Asynchronous communication. Leah’s audience can share her process in real time, with the option of viewing and responding to lessons later and at their own pace.
#3. The scaled group experience. “As I teach by example, it’s really nice to do it in groups because then I can share it once, and many people have access to it. It feels incredibly leveraged of my time.”
#4. A place to grow as she teaches. “Channels has helped me feel more safe in being who I am all the time, without posturing, masks, or curation. The lines are disappearing because of this medium.”
Update! Leah has joined Leadership Camp CEO Sue Heilbronner to create a brand new Channel! Check out the Inside Coaching Channel here.