For the last year, I’ve kinda been neglecting the Ungated Collective community.
Right now, I use it as an extended comment section for articles I publish on the Ungated website. And I use it to deliver my courses and membership benefits. But otherwise, it’s a pretty quiet and uninspiring place.
And the reason I haven’t been all that active is simple. I don’t enjoy community management. At least not the way I learned how to do it.
I've been a student of community for years. Ever since my first community—a paid Slack group—flopped in 2016, I’ve been hellbent on “getting it right.” So I've read all the books. Taken quite a few courses. And I've implemented a good deal of what I learned.
For instance, I went through Mighty Networks’ program on “community design” in 2019, and I went all out in implementing their teachings. There were monthly themes and weekly calls and daily posts, and even a book club, all meticulously strategized and implemented.
It felt great for the first few weeks. Like I’d finally cracked the code of running a delightful, nurturing community.
But two months in, I hit a wall. Turns out, following all those best practices is exhausting and unsustainable for a solo creator like me. It’s another full time job on top of my existing job of writing and creating courses and coaching.
So that’s the pattern my community has generally gone through. I get really excited about it, pour a ton of energy into revitalizing it with "proper strategy," execute on that strategy for a few months, then fall off the face of the earth when I get burned out. Repeat that pattern a few times, and you’ve an accurate snapshot of my community experience these past few years.
Which brings us to today.
Lately I’ve been feeling the desire to revitalize the community again. More than anything, I want the Ungated Collective to be a delightful corner of the internet for creators who play long games, and who focus on work that matters to them. A place that’s safe from the toxicity of the marketing world, and that’s nurturing and fun and inspiring.
But I'm also wary. I've been here before, and I know how this pattern plays out if I approach it the same way I always have.
One of the questions guiding everything else I do on Ungated is “how can I make this intrinsically enjoyable?” That’s how I’m approaching my marketing, my creative work, and everything else.
So why not my community?
What if running a great community doesn't have to be a shitload of work? What if it doesn't have to be stressful? What if it doesn't require meticulous strategy and continuous management? What if, instead, it was easy and joyful in and of itself?
Truthfully, I don’t know how to create something like that. But I know that my rigid top-down approach hasn’t ever worked.
So from now on, I’m going to try bottom-up. Instead of coming up with the perfect strategy and forcing myself to implement it, I’m going to follow my curiosity and intuition, run lots of little experiments, treat my community as a playground instead of an obligation, and see what emerges organically over time.
My hunch is that’ll eventually lead to the type of community I could never plan my way into.