Full Disclosure: 10 Community-Building Lessons & Mistakes I Wish I Knew Before I Started

Written by Scott July 30, 2013

Lessons on Community

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

The Difference A Year Can Make

Last Friday, Live Your Legend had its second birthday. Chelsea and I even went out for a date night in Sausalito to celebrate.

While my first blog post was written about six years ago (before I knew it was a blog), it’s hard to believe the official LYL has only been around for a couple years – especially when I think about the near endless string of emotions that lead to me being able to publish today’s post.

For me, life is a constant experiment. I am always the student. And looking back on a year of learning and progress reminds me of something Tony Robbins said: “Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”

While I think he’s right, I believe this ratio is even more powerful as it scales down…

It’s difficult to feel progress in a single day, but when you stack together a year of focused effort towards a vision and movement you deeply believe in, the results can become difficult to ignore. 

It’s been a hell of a ride, and I share the below with you, both because it’s fun to see where our movement has come in a year, and because I hope it’s helpful as you build you own.

Here’s a few of the fun things than happened in year two:

  • Community members (subscribers) grew from 15,739 to 41,890
  • 863,000 visitors from 181 countries stopped by to check out our career and connections tools
  • Revenue grew by 288%
  • We did a massive course upgrade (free to existing members) and launched it as Live Off Your Passion – Guided Discovery
  • The Live Your Legend Team began to take shape
  • We created our flagship How to Connect With Anyone course and community, and already graduated two classes of students (next opening is early September, so keep an eye out!)
  • I got the chance to give a TEDx talk on How to Find & Do Work You Love – and somehow it’s managed to get over 590,000 views
  • We hosted our first LYL Live event in San Francisco, and since then we’ve had reader-hosted events all over the world, including Sydney, Montreal, London and Vancouver

But much more importantly, our the real measure of success is impact and engagement…

While all that stuff is fun and rewarding to see unfold, none of it makes a bit of difference if the work we’re doing here isn’t changing the lives of our community. This is a much more difficult metric to properly measure, so I thought I’d just share two reader comments that touched me recently…

Today I wanted to write to express my gratitude to you. For changing my life. Your articles have expanded my view so much that now I TRULY BELIEVE that I can be something. You taught me that life doesn’t have to be boring and dull, but it can be amazing, superb and just breathtaking. Your articles and free stuff that you all put hours to make and then give it for free. I just respect you for that.

I still have to go a long way, but at least I have a view of the path I want to follow. So thank you so much for guiding me. For making me believe in me. THANK YOU. With gratitude and love… L.K.

And something from one of the more inspiring members of our Connect With Anyone (CWA) community…

I am not sure if you are aware what you created for all the CWA people who attended WDS. The amazing thing that happened was when everyone met in person, it was as though they had known each other a lifetime.

CWA is not about being able to ‘connect with anyone.’ The greatest benefit of CWA is that people are surrounding themselves with the people they need and subsequently people are reaching for bigger dreams than they ever thought possible. It was a pure delight to witness. – Naz

Naz happens to be her own perfect example of reaching for big dreams, but you’ll hear more from her in our next Reader Spotlight.

Hearing these two stories leads me to the biggest milestone of all …

In the past year, Live Your Legend transitioned from simply being a resource for making your impact, to becoming a community of world-changers who inspire, support and guide each other to make it possible to do the things most believe can’t be done.

That is not something I could ever dream to do on my own.

And as with all useful experiments, that realization didn’t come without plenty of trial and error. And it wasn’t exactly painless, either. So in the spirit of reflection, I’d like to share a few of the core lessons and mistakes I believe are at least partially responsible for Live Your Legend making the transition from concept to community.

10 Community-Building Lessons I Wish I Knew Before I Started

Creating a tight community

1. Engage on Multiple Levels. Text and articles are a start, but real community is created when people can feel your emotions, see your pain and experience your passion. The more we can do to be human with those we’re trying to help, the greater the impact. Do video, podcasts, interviews, host events, show up, be present – anything to authentically share your story. Filming over a dozen videos for Connect with Anyone brought the learning experience to a totally new level. And Giving my TEDx talk was easily the most impactful 18 minutes of my career. Since the video went live, our community has grown at 3-5 times the rate prior – and six months later, it hasn’t stopped.

2. Live with Transparency. This goes for everything from building a business to leading a revolution or courting your wife. Many people and companies try to puff out their chest and act like they’re someone they’re not. They cover their warts and keep all the details secret. While some things are obviously better kept private, I believe most should be shared.

The more transparent you are, the more helpful you become. That’s why I share as much as I do about LYL’s specific numbers, the big things I’m working on and the things I screw up. I want you to learn as much from this experience as I do. You are a huge part of this story and movement, and I’d say that earns you a view from the inside.

3. Don’t Abuse Freedom. Just because I can technically operate LYL from anywhere and have the freedom to move about the world, doesn’t mean I always should (or that it’s the most sane or effective way to build a business). I said yes to way too many things this year and it has flat-out worn me down. The overwhelm of constantly saying “yes” took away from how amazing each of these adventures would have been in isolation. It also diluted the focus I want to give to the people and things that really matter to me.

Not to mention, it’s near impossible for me to keep my momentum without having my routine. Some of my friends are incredible at this. I am not (at least not yet…). Freedom is meant to help build upon your impact, not detract from it. Lately I’ve remedied this by connecting with our community during my travels. I look forward to doing a lot more of that, especially during our around-the-world trip next year.

4. Build Upon What You Have. Starting new projects is usually more exciting for me than enhancing existing ones. But constantly jumping to the next shiny thing leads to missed opportunity. The last 10% of a project is usually the most grueling, but can also lead to the biggest 80/20 return on effort. I spent about three months of the past year doing major enhancements to our Live Off Your Passion course (now called LOYP Guided Discovery). That time eventually lead to a user experience that I believe is at least 10 times better.

It also lead to many hundreds more people joining the course. And I made it a totally free update to all past purchasers, as a way of showing my huge gratitude to the existing community. But in order to see this project through, I had to say no to a lot of exciting ideas. When thinking of how to grow your community, business and impact, don’t overlook what’s already at your core.

5. Let the Wind Take You Places. The only new project I did take on in the last year was How to Connect With Anyone. I did it because I believe a supportive and inspiring community is the foundation for anyone having an impact on the world. But at the beginning of the year, I had no idea it would exist. I just started to notice the hundreds of people writing in asking for help on how to meet and befriend inspiring mentors and peers. Eventually their cry for help became impossible to ignore.

CWA has since turned into the most impactful project of my life. It’s also our biggest source of revenue. But none of it would have existed if I stuck to a few rigid goals set at the beginning of the year. The nature of the path is that you cannot see the end when you start. That’s also what makes it so damn fun.

6. Environment is Everything. This is the heart of Live Your Legend. The fastest way to do the things you don’t think can be done is to hang around people already doing them. A couple years ago, I changed my surroundings. That caused this community to go from growing by 0% in 4 years to 160 times in the next 18 months. I simply started hanging around people who showed me what was possible. That’s why I’ve invested so much energy into Connect With Anyone and why I’m so proud of the community you all have helped build here. The day I stopped trying to do things on my own was the day everything changed.

7. Bring People Together in the Real World. Environment and community can be built in all kinds of ways. And while connecting through the web is a fine (and rather powerful) place to start, it’s still just the start. When people with a common set of beliefs come together in the real world, it creates a magic like I’ve never seen.

Over a dozen Live Your Legend events have been hosted around the world in the past year. As a result, for the first time in many of these people’s lives, they were surrounded by people who believed what they believed – people who genuinely understood them on a human level. We all crave this. Bringing people into the real world has transformed the bond and impact of this community in a way I couldn’t have imagined. And we have barely scratched the surface – so keep an eye out!

8. A Team Makes So Much More Possible. For a while, I did everything at Live Your Legend on my own. Partially out of necessity and partially out of pride. But the more I met other people having a real impact, the more I noticed that they all had help. And damn good help at that. As LYL has grown, it’s gotten pretty much impossible to manage it all on my own, especially if we want this movement to have a chance at reaching its potential.

I now have a handful of people who have become indispensable members of the team. The biggest addition has been Liz Seda, a community member who magically appeared out of nowhere. She now does a ton around here, but what I’m most proud of is her role with our Connect With Anyone Community. She hand-places every new member into custom mastermind groups with 3 to 5 other folks who have similar goals, interests and locations. As a result, Liz has been responsible for best friends being born, businesses being launched and lots of lives being changed. No one does anything on their own. I am no exception. If I could do it over again, I would have gotten help way earlier.

9. Create Space. I have never had a decent idea come to me while pecking away at a keyboard. Live Off Your Passion was born during a long run in SF and further hashed out during a road trip through Tuscany. Connect With Anyone came from a tea session at Samovar. The Passionate Work Framework came while traveling Turkey with ten friends. And the Live Your Legend movement was born while reading The Alchemist as I sat on a fallen tree next to a river in the heart of Patagonia, Chile while fly-fishing with my dad.

Literally every good idea I can remember has come from outside my office. Creativity cannot thrive without space. Yeah, I know that scheduling “nothing” for a few days is a pretty tough thing to do. But I now see it as mandatory. I block off a few down days every couple months to simply get out, explore, surround myself with inspiration and give ideas some room to breathe.

In fact, tomorrow morning my dad and I are catching a flight through Alaska to The Kamchatka Peninsula in far east Russia for another little fishing adventure. I don’t even think they’ve heard of Internet out there. It’s a little scary to be disconnected for that long, but something tells me the timing is perfect (plus my team has my back!). My dad is my informal Chief Strategist, and with where LYL is headed, we have some big thinking to sort out. LYL was born on our last fishing trip, which makes me a little giddy thinking of what might come of this one.

10. People Make an Impact Possible.

At times, progress can seem slow. Painfully slow. But looking back, it’s fascinating to see how much can actually happen in what can seem like the blink of an eye.

But what’s more fascinating is when you notice a single source that’s responsible for it all. That one’s easy…

The People. The community. The friends. The mentors. The inspiration.

YOU. 

The only lesson that’s really mattered in the past year is rather simple: people change everything. The more we can do to bring people around a common cause – and like-minded people around each other – the greater our impact becomes.

That’s where possibility lives.

For now, I’m off to Russia to clear some space, hang out with my favorite teacher and apply some big thinking to how we can all embrace what you have made possible here at LYL.

I have to pinch myself looking back to see where we’ve come.

Thanks for allowing this to exist.

-Scott

How about you? How have the right (or wrong) people changed the impact you’re having or plan to have? Share in the comments.

For a list of my first year’s lessons, click here.

Image credit 1, 2

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