How to Learn by Osmosis: The Traits of a Successful Affiliate

There are many blogs, forums and ebooks where you can learn the intricacies of online marketing. Some are great, some are poor, but nearly all are inferior to the process of learning by osmosis.

Osmosis is the art of unconscious learning. It is where we stop studying materials, and start absorbing them.

Learn by Osmosis

1) Park balls on knowledge    2) …    3) Profit $$$

Learning the Facts vs. Learning the Meaning

Imagine two kids go in to a lecture. One has a stack of notepads and pens. The other has his hands in his pockets. We’ll call them Kid Prepared and Kid Unprepared.

As the lecture begins, Kid Prepared starts scribbling notes. His hand whirrs furiously across the page, siphoning sound bytes and trying to record every last tidbit for future consumption.

In the next seat, Kid Unprepared stares blankly, soaking up the information and searching for its meaning.

Who do you think is more likely to be successful?

The plague of academia suggests that it will be Kid Prepared; the perennial note-taker, he who responds so intently that no fact is left behind. He is the kid that breezes through college, aces his degree, and should be changing the world.

Except in the real world, success goes to he who shuts the hell up and listens.

Learning by osmosis is all about listening. It is absorbing the world as a human sponge. It is how you apply meaning to what you see around you.

This innate talent for plucking the meaning out of a lecture, rather than the facts and figures, is how we develop intuition, which is the pulling force that separates successful entrepreneurs from bankrupt sob stories.

If you are an affiliate marketer, or if you do any kind of work online, learning by osmosis is especially important.

I believe many affiliates are trapped in the superficial mindset of Kid Prepared. They’ve read all the books, blogs and forums, but their ability to translate those principles in to a tangible business plan is still highly flawed.

They know what to do, they just don’t know how to do it. Their intuition is lacking.

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
– Oscar Wilde

That was 122 years ago.

God only knows what Oscar Wilde would make of the Internet. There has never been such an overflow of information at our fingertips – and most of it is useless.

Here are three strategies that are great for unconscious learning. They share a common trait, and that is to tear you away from your comfort zone.

Joint Venture with the smart and passionate

When you are running more online businesses than you can keep a tally on, promoting dozens of products, in a handful of different verticals, there is no way in hell that you can retain as much information as somebody who has specialised expertise in a single market.

The best you can hope for is an exceedingly good business partner who is willing to share the bacon.

My view is that every affiliate should be joint venturing, but only with the right people.

We are primarily monetization experts who know how to drive traffic. Our weakness is usually the product. We just don’t understand what we are promoting properly, and the Internet plus its millions of consumers suffers for it.

When I joint venture, I do so with individuals who are passionate in the market we are targeting – much more passionate than myself. Not only is their spirit contagious, but it pays to have somebody who is in touch with the grassroots of that market.

The secret to creating awesome affiliate websites is not rocket science. It’s having your ears pinned to the ground.

When you work with somebody who knows the market conditions, or is the market, you can learn a hell of a lot by shutting up and taking stock.

“If you always hire people who are smaller than you, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you, we shall become a company of giants.”
– David Ogilvy

I believe this same principle applies to personal growth, career advancement and just about any item in a respectable Bucket List.

Work with people who know more than you, befriend people who are happier than you.

If nothing else, I’m sure your Facebook feed could do with the detox.

Bounce off a small mastermind group

Small mastermind groups are brilliant for those who work on their own. I’ve noticed a booming trend of Skype groups in the affiliate space.

If you can gather 4 or 5 ambitious minds, meld them to a routine, and share everything that is learned – the task of conquering affiliate marketing is suddenly a team effort.

Not only can you bounce creative ideas off your partners, but they will hold you accountable when you’ve spunked the entire day playing Civilization V with no new ads to show for your efforts.


Nobody wants to be the weak link in a mastermind group.

Get your mind out of the basement

What are you learning from your work environment?

If you work at home, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to unconscious learning is the home comfort that you are surrounded by. A stale non-challenging work environment is a catalyst for stale, unambitious ideas.

If you really want to take your business to the next level, you should first try taking it out of your mother’s basement. In your head – and probably in the literal sense, too.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many benefits to working from home:

  • No commuting in the winter cold
  • No boss peering over your shoulder
  • No colleagues to steal your milk from the fridge
  • No shirt and tie, more slippers and slacks

But there is one major disadvantage:

  • Who – and what – are you going to learn from?

The whole principle of learning by osmosis, of unconscious learning in general, is that we absorb the world around us. If your work revolves around a dank, stench-filled office that hasn’t been scrubbed since 2007, then that is not a particularly healthy world to absorb.

I believe business growth is stunted by the lifestyle that most Internet Marketers choose to adopt. It’s not that we don’t have the opportunities to learn from behind a screen, it’s that we fail to grasp them.

We wrap ourselves in home comforts while the truly great achievers are contorting their minds with new and uncomfortable challenges.

I can’t stress this advice firmly enough: network, network and network some more.

There is a sad belief that if we rock up to a marketing conference and fail to uncover a golden nugget, a brilliant traffic source or a hot new offer, the experience has been a giant failure. While I can understand the need for inspiration in these challenging times, the strongest incentive to network is the effect of being around equally ambitious minds – as well as the social interaction.

Your networking does not have to hinge on strictly marketing conferences.

Talented entrepreneurs are aware that some of the best ideas you will ever have are the result of ‘cross-pollination’ from meeting diverse and unusual characters a world apart from your usual comfort zone.

I often say that you can tell a lot about a man by his five closest friends, and you can tell a lot about his career by his five closest advisors. If we are the product of those combined forces, it makes sense to choose them wisely.

There’s a simple solution.

Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by your comfort zone. Snap out of it.

We, more than anybody, are prone to falling back on home comforts when we should be gasping to learn more. If you want to unleash the full effect of learning by osmosis, the good news is that you already are.

You just need to change the source.

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About the author


A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.


Leave a comment
  • Hey Finch, can’t agree more on the networking thing. I think what got me excited again about affiliate marketing was a meeting I had with people that were on the edge. That can be a great source of leverage, not only because you get inspired, but you also get out of the usual monitor to monitor interaction and grinding-focus and actually get some face-2-face connection with individuals who can speak your language.

    There’s one thing I have to disagree though about learning… taking notes, if done correctly, is, in my opinion, a much better way to “sponge information” than simply listening. Listening is more passive than actually processing the information and rewriting it (in your own words) in the form of mind maps or any other sketches. It forces you to understand it rather than simply “taking it in”. Another thing I find crucial is to question knowledge and theories (think physics, math, whatever). Questioning why the things are the way they are forces you to seek for the causes rather than simply accepting it the way it is presented to you, and actually discovering the meaning or reasoning behind it yourself is way more powerful, it will sink in deep.

    I think of it this way: if you know why the things are the way they are, you can see a problem from all the different angles, you can freely move things around and see what effects could occur, or where the issue may lie, or create the thing yourself. If you accept a theory without questioning it you only have a single sight of how things are or how they operate, the moment something changes within the problem you can’t really grasp it, you are forced to seek for external answers.. or products

  • Pablo – That’s true.

    I’m exaggerating slightly by talking about the extremes of both cases. I’m sure there are plenty of note scribblers who ‘get’ the bigger picture, just as there are plenty of listeners who leave the room, scratch their balls, and forget it ever happened.

    From my experience, the most successful affiliates are those who are constantly searching for the meaning/story behind what many of us look at as facts and figures. They sponge information from the world around them on a 24/7 basis, and they process much of it internally before it comes to sitting down and doing a mindmap session.

    It’s just a matter of being receptive to opportunity and the many whys of the world.

    Why does she do this…
    Why does he buy that…
    Why is he behaving like that…

    You need to be able to sit back and watch/listen intently to get a real sense of why good marketing is good marketing.

    Whether you’re going to take notes, or sit in absolute silence, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you treat every moment as a chance to learn, to get a fresh perspective, to understand that bigger picture.

  • “Another thing I find crucial is to question knowledge and theories (think physics, math, whatever). ”

    Yes, I’d agree with this. Quantify received wisdom as a hypothesis, not fact, then derive a way to prove / disprove that hypothesis.

    Something I’ve wondered about – but not yet done, mostly, I must admit, because it sounds like hard work – is actually getting more formalised about testing, and approaching it with proper scientific method.

    Might be a lot of wasted effort, but then again, if you want to explore an unknown problem space you can do worse than a method that’s been refined for the last 2000 years…

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