Communities are defined by three questions.
- Who are we?
- Why are we here?
- What do we do together?
Truthfully, my community for Ungated has been stuck in a strange state of limbo for the last year. Without a clear sense of why it exists, and what we do together, it’s just been slogging along in an ambiguous gray zone. Sure, I’ve wanted to breathe new life into it. But I didn’t know how, and trying to force it usually just makes things worse.
A few weeks back, I had a bit of an epiphany about how I want to run this business. And sure enough, the answers to those three pesky questions are now falling into place for the Ungated Collective.
Who are we? We're creators and thinkers and artists who strive to do work that matters—the work only we can do—and who want to build businesses and practice marketing in a way that feels good. We want to make our version of 1,000 True Fans a reality, and live good, thriving lives.
Why are we here? We're here because the status quo of the online marketing and business ecosystem sucks ass. Because so many of the "best practices" foisted upon us destroy our souls and make us feel like hacks. And because we intuitively feel there must be a better way.
What do we do together? Put simply, we do courageous shit. We listen to our intuition, then take leaps of faith into uncharted territory, so that we can build something no one else but us could. In our community, we share those scary experiments openly and honestly, so that the community can cheer us on. And we constantly encourage and uplift the others, as they take their own scary leaps.
The Ungated Collective is now a community of courage for creators who want to walk their own path. It’s the place you come when you’re tired of the easy, prepackaged answers you find elsewhere, and you’re ready to do the messy, uncertain work of finding your own way.
The Missing Ingredient
I feel confident in this new direction for one simple reason. It’s the community I want for myself. A community of courage is exactly what I need as I step out of my comfort zone, and into the next phase of my life and business.
There are a bunch of reasons my past community efforts have fizzled out—over-complication, overpromising, burnout, etc. But the biggest reason is the communities I’ve built were never truly meant for me. They were built for the people I was trying to serve with my business. And when there’s distance between you and who you’re serving, it can cause all sorts of downstream problems.
For instance, my last attempt at community centered around entrepreneurial filmmakers. This was (and remains) a great and vital topic for a community. But somewhere along the way, I lost my own passion for making films. So I never felt like I belonged in my own community. I was never truly excited by it, and it served no role in helping me grow and thrive in my own life. And unsurprisingly, running the community (and the broader business) started feeling like a burden.
But this idea of having a “community of courage” delights the crap out of me. It resonates. Big time. It’s the kind of place that exists nowhere else on the internet. It’s the kind of place I yearn to be part of. It’s the kind of place I need to become the person and entrepreneur I want to be.
And so, instead of designing the Ungated Collective into something I think other people want, I'm building a place that'll support me. And I'm trusting that if I keep finding the others who share my values and worldview, this community will fit them like a glove, too.
It’s still too early to say whether this is a smart strategy. But I have a hunch it’ll work better than anything else I’ve ever tried. I want my community to be my favorite place on the internet. And this seems the surest way to get there.
First Steps in the Community Redesign
Now that I’ve got clarity on why the community exists and what we do together, I’m starting to rethink everything in terms of how I run it.
But I’m not trying to figure out all the answers at once. It doesn’t have to be perfect on day one. I’m aiming for bottom up emergence instead of top down precision.
In that vein, I’ve got a handful of hypotheses for what’ll make this community more delightful and courageous.
So over the next few days/weeks, I’ll be working to…
- Radically simplify everything. Most communities have WAY too many things going on, and way too many places to interact. Mine included. So I’m ruthlessly removing the fluff, so that we can focus as much energy as possible on the core idea—being more courageous ourselves and supporting others.
- Start running “courageous co-working” sessions. It’s important that the community isn’t just a place where we talk about doing courageous work, but said work actually gets done. So I’m experimenting with Zoom calls where we show up, and work on the things that scare us or cause resistance. Most of these will be for paid members, but I’ll also do ones for free for the wider community too.
- Start building Ungated in public within the community. I’m currently overhauling the membership, my marketing, and working on a scary new product. I’ll be sharing way more of my thinking and progress within the community itself, especially the stuff that scares me or that feels most uncertain. My hope is this will inspire others to open up in the same way, and create a culture of transparency and courage.
And that’s it for now. These changes, at least in theory, will make the community a place I’m excited to spend my days, and where the people I’m serving on Ungated will feel truly at home.