Interview With Paul Cook Of Direction Journal

Paul Cook is the most successful of the new breed of Australian Alexander Technique teachers.

Paul lives on the Gold Coast and owns Direction Journal.

Luke: “I remember working with someone from [this] Alexander school and she said they were forbidden at the school from taking lessons from any Alexander teacher outside of the [Patrick] MacDonald school.”

[Students of Patrick MacDonald’s training school remember almost nobody in the teacher training program would ever admit to Patrick about taking Alexander classes from any other teacher.]

Paul: “They are very sure about what they’re doing.”

“With the MacDonald people I’ve experienced, it’s black and white. I’ll give you the direction that you’re heading in and that will stand by you.”

Paul didn’t start learning hands-on teaching at his Melbourne school until the end of his second year of training.

By contrast, many schools teach it from the onset of a three-year course.

Luke: “How do you talk about Alexander Technique with people you meet?”

Paul: “Generally, I talk about posture. If you are going to talk to sports people about the Alexander Technique, you need to use words they understand. Posture is something they understand… So many people are prepared to do something about their posture if there is a way.”

Luke: “Where do you get most of your pupils?”

Paul: “In my first five years after graduating, I set up a room in my home and applied every marketing and sales skill that I’d learned from the food industry to find people.”

“It took me about two-and-a-half years to build up my practice in suburban Melbourne to about 25 people a week.”

During this time, Paul would speak to every group that would have him. “I was willing to do that. Nobody else in my class did. Not many Alexander teachers are wired for that. They want to teach but they don’t want to put themselves on public display.”

“My target is to change the perception of Alexander Technique in the world.”

The last two years, Paul has lived on the Gold Coast. He no longer has a private practice. “I was picked up by Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of introductory lessons.”

“I present to 30-60 people every week and I don’t have to go and find them and stick up posters and follow up and make sure they show up. The retreat gives me a venue and puts the people in front of me.”

“When I was in Melbourne and had to organize those introductory groups myself, that took a lot of work.”

Luke: “How many teachers in Australia make their primary living from teaching Alexander Technique?”

Paul: “I could probably count them with one hand.”

Luke: “Why do you think you’ve been able to make a go of it?”

Paul: “I hold myself responsible that those other people aren’t getting students because that was my mission when I trained. I wanted to generate enough demand for Alexander Technique that when a person graduates from an Alexander training school, their phone starts ringing. If they don’t want to go talk to groups of people, then the phone’s ringing anyway.”

“In my third year of training, I said [to the director], ‘Can I go out and start making contacts with people?’ He said of course.”

“The other reason is that you train to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique. You don’t train to be a marketer of the Alexander Technique.”

“I did a special issue of the Direction Journal about the training school and all these directors said, ‘There’s not enough time in three years to teach people the Alexander Technique let alone how to market themselves. That has to be learnt on the job.”

“When you graduate, unless you have a background in sales and marketing or unless you like it, you’re in big trouble.”

“When Karen Chapman closed her yoga and Alexander school in Sydney and moved to Brisbane, she had 17 years experience. She knew what she was doing but she didn’t expect people to knock on her door because in Brisbane, there was no profile for Alexander Technique. So she and her husband invested in a PR firm to create a logo, a brand, a website and to write the advertisements that would go in publications that fit the demographic of the person who’d come for lessons. I think they invested something like $30,000 over the course of a year or two to get professionals to write the words that the consumer understands. Not explaining the Alexander Technique. You can’t do that on a piece of paper, not on the quarter page advertisement that Alexander teachers [often] try in the local paper.”

“The general public learned about the benefits of coming to see them rather than, ‘What is the Alexander Technique?’ They called their business the Back School.”

About Luke Ford

I’ve written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).

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