How many piano/guitar/you-name-the-instrument courses have a 90% success rate? Answer: none.

How many language programs? Same answer.

How many colleges or graduate schools or technical schools end up seeing 90% of their students graduate and then use the knowledge the attained in their careers? Again, the answer is zero … or close to zero.

You can judge a training program by the percentage of successful graduates, but you can’t set unrealistic standards. Like most endeavors in life, career training — however well intentioned — ends up with a lot of failings and a little bit of success.

Why? Because most people are not persistent. Most people get periodically charged up to do something good for themselves, and some of them take the step of putting themselves into a program to make that happen. But of those who start working toward their goals, only a percentage of them make it halfway through … and fewer still graduate.

The proper way to judge a learning program is to judge the material itself. Is it capable of producing greatness? Is it challenging and thorough? Is it taught by teachers who know?

If you want to take a course to change your life, ask not “What percentage of your people are successful?” but “How good can this program make me?” Ask experts in the field to evaluate the program by those standards. Compare the program to others and make your own decision.

Look what CR said about ETR’s Main Street Millionaire program http://www.agora-inc.com/reports/XRE/WXRED905/ on the Speak Out discussion board:

“For me leveraged real estate is the great way to build equity. I don’t know of any stock I can get for 10-30% down and have someone else pay down the loan. The ETR Main Street Millionaire course is a good, comprehensive education in the business—the best I have personally seen—and I’ve taken a bunch of courses.”

This is a good sign that someone who’s seen the competition can strongly endorse our course.

One of the several organizations I’m involved in — the American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) — teaches its students how to become great copywriters and graphic artists. I happen to believe that its programs are the best available anywhere. By that, I mean that they teach the best ideas developed by the most successful practitioners and taught by the most capable people.

Their walls are papered over with testimonials by students who have succeeded — some beyond their expectations. And yet, if you add up the number of successes and compare that figure to the number of people who simply started the program but never continued, you won’t have a very impressive statistic.

Just last week, AWAI received its 100th unsolicited testimonial from one of its copywriting students. The thing that struck me most about it was the student’s diligence. Here’s some of what he had to say:

“I bombed on my first copywriting assignment — for a men’s vitamin supplement. I wanted to give up. In fact, I did give up. For a few weeks, I did nothing. I thought I could just breeze through the course and begin my career. I was wrong.

“But the thought of going back to what I was doing before was unbearable. I was at a crossroads.

“I decided to give it another try. I took the whole course over again. This time, it was beginning to make sense. I worked hard on rewriting that first exercise. I felt so confident that I began to market myself as a freelance copywriter!

“I picked up the phone book and started calling graphic-design firms, corporations, and advertising agencies around the city. I made a lot of calls — and the initial response was great! They said, ‘We never get calls from freelance copywriters. Please send your contact information.’

“Then, I got a call back. A new Internet marketing company was looking for a copywriter to rewrite its website and add some auto-response letters.

“I reviewed the site. Made a few notes. Came up with five new headlines. I was confident about my critique because of what I had learned from the AWAI course. I used my revised vitamin-supplement exercise as a writing sample. And I got the job!

“I can’t express how excited, encouraged, and motivated I feel right now.”

Remember that when you take your next course. And follow this simple five-step program that will guarantee your success:

1. Choose a good program. If, after examining it, you don’t like it, return it for a refund and try a different program. Do this until you are satisfied.

2. Once you are happy with your program, set very specific objectives. Establish your ultimate goal but also set monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

3. Get feedback. Professional coaching is best if you can find it. If you can’t, get a friend or colleague to evaluate your progress.

4. Reward yourself along the way. Each time you achieve an objective, buy yourself a beer or hamburger or pay yourself with a $50 bill. Make the process fun.

5. When you want to give up, consult one of the many messages I’ve written on giving up and feeling blue. Then … get back to work.