For years, I’ve struggled to attach a price to these arts. I mean, what the heck should I charge for priceless healing arts that literally saved my life? Not an easy question to answer! It’s a question that many Tai Chi, Yoga, and Meditation teachers all over the country are also struggling to answer.
Recently, I was talking with a student about this subject. She surprised me by asking what I myself would pay to attend classes in the studio. What a great question! As I spoke my answer aloud, I began to see things more clearly.
“I would gladly pay $300 per month, and still consider it a bargain,” I said.
Does $300 per month sound expensive to you? I’m guessing it probably does. And that’s partially my fault.
Roughly 9 years ago, I quit my cushy job in NYC in order to dedicate my life to sharing these arts. My goal was to reach as many people as possible. So when I set my prices, I made them affordable to a wide range of people.
Most teachers, whether it’s Yoga or Tai Chi, end up doing the same thing. Typically, they offer a few different packages, and charge between $60 to $150 per month. For example, I charged $129 per month for unlimited classes in the studio in 2012.
When I set my prices 9 years ago, did I make a mistake? And are other teachers making a similar mistake? Are these prices doing a disservice to our students?
The Traditional Way: Servitude
In the old days, students paid a fortune to learn Qigong and Tai Chi. Typically, this payment was made not with money, but with effort. Even if you were from a rich family, you still had to “pay” like everyone else. And you paid by becoming a servant to the master.
Imagine cooking all of my meals for a year before learning how to Enter Zen (something I now give away for free). Imagine waiting another year before learning Lifting The Sky. And then a few more years before learning the guarded secret of Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow. That’s the traditional method.
I think we can all agree that the modern method of paying $49 for my 101 workshop, and learning all the secrets in 3 hours, is much more convenient. But has something gotten lost in the process?
The traditional method lasted a long time. Why? Probably because it created a certain mindset in the student. And it was this mindset that enabled students to get such powerful results from these arts.
I myself did not learn with the traditional method. But I also didn’t learn like my students. I traveled from New York City to San Francisco just to meet my teacher. Just to meet him! After that, I chased him all around the world (and still do). I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars just on flights, hotels, and food. That’s not even including what I paid him for tuition!
Am I Raising My Price to $300?
I didn’t learn the traditional way, but the effect was similar. I truly value these arts. To me, paying $300 per month sounds like a bargain. (It is.)
Because I learned to value the arts, because I developed the right mindset, I got incredible results. And I’m still getting incredible results, even after all these years.
So how do I help modern students to value these arts appropriately? How do I get Americans into the right mindset? Until recently, I didn’t have an answer.
I seriously considered raising my prices to $300 per month. But in the end, I decided against it. Although I absolutely believe that $300 per month is a fair price, I know that it’s out of reach for many people. I want to stick with my original goal of sharing these arts with as many people as possible.
And even if I charged $300, it’s no guarantee that the arts would be valued. The problem is that value is relative to EACH person. To a wealthy person, $300 is nothing.
That’s why the past masters didn’t typically accept money. They knew that money had a relative value. But time and effort – those are things that are valued equally by the rich and poor. Everyone values their own time and effort.
Of course, it’s not feasible for me to charge students with effort. The traditional method doesn’t work for a modern business. I’ve got to keep the lights on in the studio, and feed my family. But there must be a solution!
As I answered the student’s question about how I would gladly pay $300/month, I suddenly had an epiphany. In a flash, I suddenly saw the future of these arts in America: What if I let each student set their own price?
The Future: Set Your Own Price
I’m not joking. Starting in 2013, I’m letting students set their own price for classes in Gainesville. Actually, what they are setting is not the price, but the value. I’m asking my students to declare to the universe (and to their subconscious) how much they value these arts.
Obviously, some will pay more, and some will pay less. But the VALUE should be appropriately high for every single student.
Those who end up paying more than others can smile from the heart knowing that they are helping people who are less fortunate. It’s a form of charity. By supporting the studio, students are trusting that the studio will give back – not only to them, but to others as well.
The beauty of this new system is that those who give to this “charity” will receive DOUBLE blessings. They’ll not only be receiving the normal blessings of giving to charity, but they’ll also be valuing the arts higher than before, so they’ll get even better results! It’s a win-win situation.
Meanwhile, those who are paying less — perhaps because they lost their job, or because of a divorce — will learn other life lessons. They will learn how to be humble, and how to gracefully accept the generosity of the community. Certainly, they will learn to value these arts.
The Yoga Model?
For years, I used the Yoga model. Before I opened the studio, I looked for similar business models. Unfortunately, with Qigong and Tai Chi, there just aren’t many full-time studios out there. The closest model is Yoga.
So I copied the Yoga model by offering cards with 5, 10, or 20 classes. I also offered unlimited monthly classes, as well as a family pass. Each package was priced differently, from $89 for a 5-class pass, to $199 for an unlimited family pass.
I’m done with all of that. From now on, everyone is on an unlimited plan. How’s that for Zen simplicity!
This isn’t a yoga studio or a gym. You’re not paying for a certain number of classes. You’re paying for my experience, my care, and my commitment. You’re paying for a genuine teacher-student relationship. You’re paying for a Sifu who knows your name and genuinely cares about your results. You’re paying for the community that I have built. And most importantly, you’re paying for incredible results — results that the world’s best doctors and hospitals often can’t provide.
What Should You Pay?
If you’re thinking about joining the studio, you’re probably wondering how much you should pay. Well, from now on, that’s up to you. I mean it. Set your own value.
Be careful. If you set the price too low for your own personal situation, then you are subconsciously saying that you don’t value these arts. Trust me. It’s not worth it. If someone tries to game the system, then I honestly believe that they will only be sabotaging themselves subconsciously. These arts are all about the incredible healing power of the mind. If you begin with a subconscious thought that these arts aren’t valuable, then you will limit that power. Instant karma.
So think about it carefully, and be honest with yourself. What other expenses, especially health-related expenses, do you pay each month? If you’re paying for something every month, then it means that you value it. So how much do you spend on health insurance, medication, and doctors? How much do you spend on your cell phone, cable TV, and car payments?
Now figure out where the studio fits in. For example, is Flowing Zen more or less beneficial than your health insurance? Personally, I pay about $300/month for health insurance. But I never use it! Flowing Zen is my REAL health insurance because it actually keeps me healthy. I pay for health insurance not for health, but to protect against unlikely catastrophic events like a car accident.
Risk, Trust, and Luck
Yes, this is risky for me. I could potentially lose a lot of money. But I’ve never been in this for the money.
This is a labor of love. Anyone who says otherwise simply doesn’t know me. If it were money I was after, I assure you that there would be no such thing as the Flowing Zen studio.
So there you have it. I’m trusting you, my students, to take good care of your studio, your classmates, and your Sifu. I trust that you will rise to the occasion. I believe that you will embrace the opportunity to set your own value for these arts. I think that a lot of you have been waiting for something like this.
The new system allows everyone to value the art regardless of their income level. It allows me to continue teaching and building the community without raising my prices. And it allows me to finally step away from the role of businessman, and fully embrace my role as a healer, a teacher, and a spiritualist.
One more thing. I genuinely believe that every dollar spent on Flowing Zen comes back to you somehow. In addition to the tons of money you will save on health expenses, you will also be more fortunate in general. In Chinese, the word for “luck” is hao-yun-qi. Literally, it means “good-flowing-energy”. In other words, when your energy is flowing well, you’ll be luckier.
Many people have experience the truth of this, myself included. As a result of committing to these arts, finances and quality of life improved in ways that one could never have imagined. I believe that, by setting an appropriate value for these arts, you will also create a better flow of energy and luck in your life.
Let’s all become happier, healthier, and luckier in 2013. If you have any questions, please feel free to add a comment below. Or contact me privately. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing all of you in class.