The Fully-Exposed Live Your Legend Case Study & Biz Teardown: 18 Steps to Turn Your Idea into a Global Revolution
“Give people something & someone to believe in. And even more… Create something to belong to.” – Jonathan Fields, Founder of RevolutionU
**A Note for Action-Takers**
Today’s post is one of the most in-depth and actionable resources I’ve written, and I’ve recently updated it for all of you. It’s a step-by-step case study and teardown of exactly how I built Live Your Legend and the movement and revolution it’s become. It will take about 20 minutes to read, and is meant to provide a road map for making your own impact.
It also breaks down how I’ve applied every step of Jonathan Fields’ 18-point Art of Revolution framework that he covered in his free online webinar training last week.
Now, onto the full case study and teardown of the LYL revolution (and some pictures from around the world that I’m VERY proud of)…
What If You Could Start a Revolution around an Idea or Cause You Deeply Believed in?
Think about this for a minute or two.
What change could you make? How could you help the people around you? What could be possible if you had the support of thousands or even millions of people around the world all working toward the same cause?
It’s a crazy thing to think about.
And it’s something that’s occupied my thoughts for nearly the past four years straight.
Because if we could learn how to lead our own mini (or full-scale) revolutions, that’s when we begin to define what it means to live our legends.
And there’s no one who’s taught me more about movement and revolution dynamics than my good friend, mentor and diehard family man Jonathan Fields.
Learning to build a revolution around your ‘crazy’ idea…
You see, for the last couple of years Jonathan has studied the world’s political revolutions (and revolutionaries). More specifically, he’s deeply studied the work of Gene Sharp, the 87-year-old, three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author of a dozen books, including From Dictatorship to Democracy.
Gene is the world’s leading expert on non-violent resistance, and his books and tools have been behind almost every political revolution and regime change in the past three decades. His tools are so effective that if you get caught with his book in Burma, you go to jail for seven years.
Gene’s work became Jonathan’s bible. And funny enough, I’ve studied his work as well – and even spent half a day in Gene’s office in East Boston in 2013 learning about revolutions. But my research barely scratched the surface compared to Jonathan’s.
Jonathan set out to answer one core question…
“Can the core ideals of political revolution be applied in a commercial context to both empower large numbers of people AND launch or grow a product, brand or company?”
Because he knew if we could harness these types of revolution dynamics, we could tap into some pretty unbelievable possibilities. Or as he said in one of his famed keynotes given to rooms of CEO’s …
And even more importantly, you get to empower mass numbers of people to create their own new realities.
That’s where things get pretty damn interesting.
And after hundreds of hours of research, he got his answer … YES.
That’s why I love his Art of Revolution body of work so damn much.
Jonathan shared the full framework in his free Art of Revolution webinar, and the cool thing is that since he’s taught so much of it to me as a friend and mentor over the past few years, Live Your Legend has followed every step of his framework almost to a T.
The process fits just about every revolution, from political to commercial. Apple and Patagonia follow it. And so does Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit, TED and TEDx as well as our own revolution here at Live Your Legend.
It’s totally universal – making it ridiculously powerful.
So, as promised (and with Jonathan’s permission), I’m going to share his 18-step framework for building a revolution around your crazy idea.
And I’m going to tell you exactly how Live Your Legend has applied every step along the way.
You ready for this?
Here we go…
The Fully-Exposed LYL Case Study & 18-Step System: Tap Revolution Dynamics to Fuel Rapid Business Growth, Build an Army of Evangelists and Change the Damn World!
And how LYL applied each step to build its own Revolution of more than 100,000 Living Legends from every country in the world (and launched the 2015 LYL World Tour, which we’re deep in the middle of as I write this from our apartment in Madrid, Spain).
1. Who Is Your Revolution Serving?
This is the step almost everyone skips. They assume, “Since I’m the market, I already know who I’m serving.” That’s how a revolution fails before it even begins. Define the actual person you’re trying to serve – your revolutionary avatar. Ideally, this is a real person with real problems. I remember Tim Ferriss saying he wrote The 4-Hour Workweek specifically for an investment banker friend of his who hated his job.
How LYL did it: Before launching LYL, I described three people that I was trying to serve. I named them, described what they looked like, what they did for fun, what their main frustrations were and on and on. One was Cindy, a high school teacher in her 30’s who loves to teach but hates her job because the bureaucracy is killing her creativity and potential. She was looking for a new way to apply her talents and passions to the world. Then I wrote and created everything for these three people. Today, now that LYL has become a large community, our avatars have turned into real-life members from the LYL community, whom I’ve personally met.
The simple script of the LYL avatar goes like this: You followed all the rules, did everything ‘right’ by society’s standards, but now you’ve found yourself in a job that doesn’t allow you to be who you are and make the impact you’re meant to make. You might even hate what you do. You’ve been thinking “what if there’s another way?” and know you need to make a change, but you don’t know what steps to take and don’t even know what’s possible, so you’ve sat complacent. You need a road map, a set of proven steps to help you make the discoveries and transition – and to surround yourself with the people who make it possible. Enter LYL.
2. Identify Shared Oppression or PAIN
What is driving your community crazy? How is it limiting their freedom and driving emotion? What is it keeping them from? And is it a pain that they currently feel or is it a deep down and now numbed pain due to so many years of discomfort? Some people become so complacent that they don’t even realize how much their toxic job is destroying their lives.
The fitness industry is a perfect example. 85% of adults don’t join gyms, yet 92% say exercise is critical. People want to exercise, but … the options are terrifying, boring, alienating, ineffective and inconvenient.
Enter CrossFit. It’s a radical take, applying community, shared suffering and refreshed thinking to fitness. As a result, it grew faster than almost any other movement in the modern world. There are now over 10,000 CrossFit gyms.
How LYL did it: Studies show that 80% of the working world doesn’t enjoy their work. Many of those people hate their job and it infects their whole life. People openly admit to this and desperately want to change. LYL aims to alleviate that pain.
3. Who Is Your Dictator?
Yes, every revolution must have a dictator. For many of us, this won’t be an actual person. In the world of business, it’s usually a paradigm, institution, competitor trait or even an actual competitor. For CrossFit it’s the standard, boring, ineffective gym and society’s acceptance of a sedentary and processed food lifestyle. Apple’s is the status quo. And it’s not always about destroying a dictator. Gene Sharp calls it “disintegrating.” Build your revolution so that the dictator no longer has any legs to stand on, and the dictator collapses.
How LYL did it: Our dictator is the scripted complacent life of quiet desperation. It’s society’s generic and deadly definition of superficial success: status and money. It’s doing work for work’s sake instead of finding the impact that makes you come alive.
4. Who is Your Leader?
You need a leader of some kind. It might be you or it might not be. And it doesn’t have to be the stereotypical leader that’s constantly going all Tony Robbins on stage. But there must be someone leading the charge who embodies your beliefs and revolution. The leader also must embrace humility, vulnerability, feel your shared pain, be truthful and lead with a desire to serve.
How LYL did it: I started out as the leader, back when we were a revolution of one. I had an idea and belief, and I did everything I could to share it with the world and get those who cared about it on board. But now we have well more than 100,000 members of our revolution from every country in the world. We are all the leaders now – especially with the birth of Live Your Legend Local in January 2014, and our global meetups each month since then. More on that below.
To the point of a leader not having to be out on stage prancing around all the time, I have lead the majority of the LYL Revolution from my standup desk in my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. And this year it’s been from over a dozen countries during our LYL World Tour. Last week that was from a small riad in Marrakech, Morocco and right now it’s from our Airbnb apartment in the center of Madrid.
5. Find or Create an Inciting Incident
You need some type of an incendiary device that ignites the cause. This could be a naturally occurring event such as new dieting research or a natural disaster. Or it could be engineered by you, such as the launch of a new experience, solution, product, brand or even a documentary or online video. The Occupy movement was born out of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a bank that the world thought could never fail. Ideally, find something that transforms the world’s belief of what’s possible.
How LYL did it: The launch of Live Your Legend was our first catching fire point. I worked like crazy to write for sites all over the web to help spread our message during launch. I even brought in 57 Living Legends and world-changing entrepreneurs to be a part of the launch party. The launch of LYL proved that there is another way, and we were determined to provide it. Within two weeks of the launch, our community grew from 3,500 members to more than 7,000 – little did I know that was just the start.
And so far our biggest inciting incident to date was the launch and growth of my TEDx Talk on How to Find & Do Work You Love. More on that below.
6. Identify Your ‘Away From’ Rallying Cry
What are you rallying against or tearing down? Leverage the pain of your inciting incident. What gets your community riled up? What harnesses the desire to change? Share this issue and you’ll find that universal pain and suffering has an amazing way of uniting.
How LYL did it: I started with my own personal rallying cry. I did everything I was supposed to do (great grades in school, graduated top of my class, internships, yada, yada) and landed a job with a prestigious Fortune 500 company – the kind I was supposed to be proud of. Only problem is it was sucking the life out of me, as I did monkey work and wasted my life away (and the company’s money due to the awful fit). No one was benefiting from me being there – not me, not the company, not the world. I just couldn’t understand how, where and when I went so wrong. This is a pain that so much of the world shares. Everything we do at LYL positions against complacency and monotony, and towards impact, adventure, excitement and doing work that matters.
7. Identify Unifying Beliefs
Find a list of beliefs that binds you together. What are your core values? What creed defines your revolution and makes your community what it is? Draw a line in the stand. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Take a stand and be polarizing. The goal is for people to either say “Hell, yes!” or “Hell, no!”
How LYL did it: This started with The 17 Habits of People Who Change the World, which I published a week after launching Live Your Legend. That later became the 15 Rules of OUR Revolution, which has now gotten nearly 3,000 comments! And now those beliefs have turned into our official Creed of Living Legends, which was actually created for free by a talented and dedicated member of our revolution…
8. Define Your ‘Toward’ Vision
What will you build to replace the old regime? Create a crystal clear vision of a new reality. Paint a monster dream of what could be possible. World-famous presentation coach Nancy Duarte calls this “The New Bliss.” This is also where you can integrate your commercial solution – your product or service. But you have to be very careful here. It can’t be forced. It must be organic, very relevant and specific to the pain your revolution is solving. Ideally, it is created, modeled and even demanded by the community.
How LYL is doing it: Our big, crazy dream is that one day that tragic statistic will be flipped on its head. Instead of 80% of people unhappy with their jobs, we want to see 80% or more loving the work they do! What would the world look like if the great majority spent their time on work and projects that made them come alive? Think of the innovation and the way we’d treat each other. Things would start to change.
About six months after launching LYL, I published an Ask the Reader post where I asked all of you to answer the question: “What’s the biggest challenge or fear keeping me from doing work I love?” The post immediately exploded with responses. When an average post got a dozen or two comments, this one got hundreds. And they were full of pain and emotion. This was when I knew I had to create a deeper solution. This later became our flagship Live Off Your Passion Guided-Discovery course.
I only created LOYP because thousands of you directly asked for it, and you told me specifically what you wanted it to include. So I built exactly that. Well, I guess you’d say we built it together.
9. Build Your Resonant Story
Frame up the reluctant hero scenario (think Luke and Star Wars). Find a therapeutic metaphor that takes your community on what Joseph Campbell calls “The Hero’s Journey.” They are the main character, not you. Move from what is to what could be and back and forth. There must be shared pain and ownership of the solution among the group. Make this story their story – OUR story.
How LYL is doing it: I try to weave the hero’s journey into every story I tell and article I write. I create everything on this site to help take you from what is to what could be – to help you realize what’s possible and live your own legend. Your are the main character. That’s why we do Reader Spotlights every few months and why so many of you have started to host your own LYL Local meetups and gatherings around the world. This is OUR Revolution.
10. Craft Your Manifesto
This is where everything comes together: Away From + Unifying Beliefs + Toward + Resonant Story. The goal is to disintegrate the Dictator, to remove oppression, and in its place, build the new reality. Show and live what can actually be possible. This could be through any media – print, digital, video, audio, a documentary (like Food Matters or Stop Kony), or an event like World Domination Summit. The more senses, emotions and mediums you bring in, the better. And have a clear core purpose and slogan to go with it.
How LYL is doing it: Everything came together when I took the TEDx stage at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and gave a talk on How to Find & Do Work You Love. My goal in giving that talk was for it to be the most powerful manifesto and rallying cry for our revolution that I was capable of giving. Our core slogan at LYL is “Do Something That Matters – both to you and to the world.” In the TEDx talk, our slogans were also “What is the work you can’t not do?”, “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re never going to find it,” and “The fastest way to do the things you don’t think can be done is to hang around people already doing them.”
My TEDx has turned out to be the single most powerful thing I’ve done in the history of my career, and certainly this revolution. The talk connected with the audience in a way I could have never dreamed. And as of writing this, it has been viewed more than 2,500,000 times and ranks near the top of more than 50,000 TEDx talks. One guy on Facebook said he watched it at least 100 times, and three of those on the day he finally quit his soul-sucking job. This manifesto changed everything like I can’t describe…
Don’t see a video? Click here.
11. Define the Path
Identify the behaviors and actions that will lead to your desired dream or “new bliss.” Reverse engineer the steps toward that outcome. And determine the duration. Will it be transactional or sustained? Transactional means it will lead to a one-time action, such as sharing on social media or contributing to a campaign (Kickstarter is an amazing tool for the transactional revolution). Or do you see your revolution being a new part of the world forever?
Decide and build your plan accordingly. Then meet people where they are – online, in the real world and metaphorically. Develop various levels of programming and engagement so they can take baby steps to greater and greater commitment to the cause.
Take them on a path from Consume –> Connect –> Contribute –> Commit –> Lead. And always give them a chance to allow others to join the revolution and start their own path towards leadership. Community is a fundamental component. People need to feel they have a place where they belong.
How LYL is doing it: I made it clear that this is a sustained revolution – a new world that I see for the people willing to be intentional, commit to doing what matters and surround themselves with the people who make it possible. Community and connection has been at the foundation since the very beginning – with blog comments, Facebook groups, private forums, our Connect with Anyone course and our LYL Local in-person meetups.
We have a long step-by-step process of how people can engage and build commitment to the cause. Start by reading our mountains of free content, then subscribing to email updates, joining one of our free private communities, purchasing a course and most recently becoming a Live Your Legend LOCAL Host in your hometown, making you as much the leader as me or anyone else. (We’ll open up the application for now hosts in a few weeks – keep an eye out!)
12. Deepen the Tribe Mentality
Continue to bring your community closer and closer together – online, and better yet, in the real world. Remind them there is nothing wrong with them, they are not alone. Either we succeed together or we fail on our own. Use symbols and language that inspire connection and action. Brands and revolutions use colors all the time. Apple did this when they launched their white headphones in a world where every headphone was black.
How LYL is doing it: After polling hundreds of our members, we named our movement here The Revolution and decided our members should be called Living Legends. We use consistent colors and branding in everything we do. And we’ve created various shirts from time to time, such as our Do Something That Matters Kindness Collection shirt. They’ve become our uniform, of sorts. 😉
In fact, I was wearing one during my commute through the Sahara last week…
13. Assemble Your Torchbearers
Find your deepest and most dedicated true believers. Share all of these steps and ask who will stand for the cause. Bring them into the fold and empower them to lead with knowledge, support, tools and access. If you do this right, often your torchbearers will appear out of the woodwork, without you even having to seek them out. That’s ideal.
How LYL is doing it: We provide all kinds of tools in our Passionate Work Toolkit and LYL Local Field Kit to give our community all they need to be their own leader. All our courses have the option for deeper involvement. Many of our paid team members have come from Living Legends reaching out, asking to help and doing such an amazing job that we decide to officially bring them on. In fact, I usually won’t hire someone any other way. It must start with a mutual dedication to the cause and revolution.
And for LYL Local, we have a full-blown host application, contract, on-boarding, training and buddy program, as well as a platform and community for hosts to connect from around the world. And we of course provide them with the tools, collateral and media they need to grow their local group. The beauty of all this is the LYL Local movement is run almost entirely by our host volunteers – because they believe in this cause, in our revolution, as much as me or anyone else. More on LYL Local below.
14. Identify Key Resources and Allies
What kinds of people, money, roles, social capital, key influencers and co-ownership will help put your revolution on steroids? Environment is everything. Don’t try to go at it alone.
How LYL is doing it: Surroundings, environment and connection is at the core of everything we do. Our core flagship course is called How to Connect With Anyone. It’s designed to surround yourself with the people who refuse to let you fail. I apply its principles to LYL every day. None of this would be possible without the guidance and support of so many. Stand upon the shoulders of giants.
15. Swarm the Launch
This is where you take the world by storm. Hit every channel possible with your message. Constantly monitor and test to see what works best. Adjust accordingly. Tap channels that your followers already trust and use. Build ubiquitous messaging and action channels. Make it nearly impossible for people not to take some action to join the movement.
Choose your online home base: blog, Facebook, Twitter, Kickstarter. And much more importantly (especially for sustained revolution), leverage the power of small groups. Make it unbelievably easy and fun for members to host their own in-person groups and meetups.
Like Margaret Mead says…
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
How LYL is doing it: This is the most exciting part. On January 7th of 2014, we kicked off our official swarm, and it snowballed into something I could have never imagined.
In 2013 I put out a call on LYL to see who wanted to host a meetup in their hometown. I thought a handful of you might step forward. I did not expect 226 of you from 150 cities in 48 countries to raise your hand and then to follow through by signing our official Live Your Legend LOCAL Host Agreement & Pledge and say “Hell, yes!” to hosting their own local meetup and inviting people in their community to join in the party.
But, thanks to you, on January 7th, 2014, something crazy happened – that I don’t think has ever been done. We hosted our first same-day global meetup, where living legends hosted LYL meetups in their hometowns all over the planet. 150 cities in 48 countries (including Kenya, Kuwait, Cape Town and Sydney) – thousands of people who came together on the same day because they all, we all, believe in the same thing – that doing work you love is a right, as long as you’re willing to do the work and surround yourself with the people who make it possible. And that was just Day One. Monthly meetups have been hosted in cities around the world since then. This is only the beginning.
To date, I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve worked on and the impact it’s having for others. Nothing we’ve created has received more praise than our local communities, and it’s thanks to all of you!
Check out the January 7th LYL Global Dance Party Music Video, where attendees from dozens of countries did their own dance to represent what it means to do work that makes them come alive. It was also created by one of our very talented community members, who happens to be a professional video editor. I’ve watched this SO many times and it always gives me chills. You have to see it!
Don’t see a video? Click here.
In January 2015, we repeated the magic, gathering thousands of Living Legends in hundreds of cities around the world for our Second Annual World Party. And together, we’ve continued to broaden and deepen the reach of Live Your Legend Local in communities all over the world, to help each other do work that matters, and support each other in doing things we never thought possible.
And here are a few more images I’m incredibly proud of…
And a little proof that the belief in doing work you love, crosses all boarders and religions, as seen in some of our most passionate groups during our first same-day global meetup.
Kuwait City, Kuwait…
And Taipei, Taiwan…
Live Your Legend may have started in the United States, but it now covers the globe, led by many of you. And it’s been so special and surreal to get to see (and feel!) it in person in the dozens of cities and countries we’ve visited and hosted events in so far during this year’s LYL Word Tour. Notice my standard, over-excited crazy face in below pictures.
Such as Paris, France a couple weeks ago…
Sofia, Bulgaria just before that…
Amsterdam, The Netherlands…
Buenos Aires, Argentina…
And Madrid, Spain earlier tonight!
It’s still hard for me to believe that these pictures exist, and it’s just a taste of what’s possible when these 18 steps get executed.
16. Find Your Mechanisms and Milestones
Create clear and intermediate milestones to work toward.
- Build a transparent process to foster trust and action
- Create mechanisms for progress checks and public accountability
- Gamify behavior that benefits the cause
- Adapt on the fly when dashboard shows failure
How LYL is doing it: We pride ourselves in being transparent on every level possible. All members get a chance to see what other members are doing, what’s working and what’s not through our various communities and tools. We’re constantly building LYL into a dynamic team so people want to continue to support and build upon it (and we could always be doing a better job of it!).
And as always, my promise to you is to share all sides of the story – the good, the bad, the amazing, the terrifying and everything in between, when it comes to the pursuit of work that matters (including deep, raw details of my personal journey). You deserve that. And I hope it inspires you to show up in the same way.
17. Design for Contagion
Leverage every tool to give it the best chance possible to catch like wildfire. Use stories and social currency (people wanting to help others by introducing them to your tools). Make the connection deeply emotional and observable. Then get your ass out of the way!
How LYL is doing it: I’d like to think we build upon this one every day. Still so much to do and so much to learn.
18. Create the Ultimate Tipping Point
Reach a point where the growth of the revolution becomes self-fulfilling and auto-renewing – like rolling a snowball down a long hill with fresh snow. You’ll know you’re hitting this point when you’re getting magnitudes more output than what you’re personally putting in. Decide your optimal combustion speed – raging inferno or slow burn?
But be sure you set up systems so you can keep the momentum while also maintaining the brand, message and core idea and values (this can get rather tricky, especially with a global movement).
Then watch your revolution start to become unstoppable.
How LYL is doing it: Well, this one never ends, but I think those pictures above give a pretty good feel. And while this revolution is far from having reached its capacity, I’m pretty sure our first tipping point was January 7th. I have no idea what this will turn into, but with all of us in the same corner, something tells me it will be pretty fun to see and experience as it unfolds.
As for systems, we continue to put a lot of energy and resources into this. The fully redesigned LYL website was a big step, and late last year we introduced our Live Your Legend Local platform on Mightybell for hosting, organizing and promoting meetups, including a series of communities for connecting our hosts virtually, as well as attendees with each other – both in your hometown and when you travel or move cities, so you always have LYL friends to connect with.
This slide sums it all up pretty well:
Here are the two big ideas that change everything…
#1. Give People Something or Someone to Believe In
#2. Create Something to BELONG To
Jonathan said it perfectly…
“Our greatest opportunity for impact lies not just in connecting people to us and our ideas, but in creating a safe place where people can connect with and support each other in the quest to take the sustained action that leads to profound change.”
Our world is starved for connection, for community and for a group of people who also believe that the world could be different. That possibility is everywhere – that each one of us can make an impact.
If each of us doesn’t find a community that believes in the same change and possibility that we do, then that belief begins to die.
That is why our community and Revolution here exists. To not only show you what’s possible, but to provide the community and resources that make that possibility a near certainty.
That makes it all but a given that you’ll find and do the work that makes you come alive.
That you start using your life to do things that matter – not just for you but for everyone around you.
That’s why I believe our Revolution here is changing the world.
And that’s why I’m so grateful to Jonathan Fields and Gene Sharp for providing the framework to make it all possible.
Taking a Stand is all that Matters
I don’t care whether you use Jonathan’s tools, my tools or you do it totally on your own.
All I care about is that you make the decision to get behind an idea you deeply believe in, and create some real change – both for you and those around you. That’s what life’s for.
How you do it is totally up to you.
Our community is here to support you however we can.
So I guess there’s only one question left to ask…
What revolution will YOU lead?
Thank you for being a part of ours.
LYL World Tour Update: After a wild 10 days across Morocco (snake charmers and all!), we’re back in Europe for the summer. If you’re in Spain (Sevilla), Southern France or Croatia in the next couple months, let me know – that’s where we’re headed next!
Note: The above article was first written in 2014 and further updated and built upon in July 2015.