On the first of May, 2015, I opened an online membership group on personal development and, in this post, I’m going to tell you about some of the lessons I learned from taking that step, and why I decided to terminate that adventure.
An online membership on personal development was something I had never been a part of, so creating it was very much an act of inspiration and creativity. I created something that I wished existed for myself.
When I started it (after I decided that yes I could and I would do it), I was beyond proud of that baby (that I called The Greenhouse) and of the feedback I had from the people who joined it.
Create something that you can’t find, but you’d like to have for yourself
I have seen many online memberships groups popping up, on many different subjects, but I had never seen a psychologist running one (until then).
And I felt like it would be great to have a space where people could go to talk about things. Whether it something that was bothering them and ask for some advice, or even better, to help someone who was feeling down that day, or share something they were happy about.
I could easily see how beneficial something like this would be. Mainly because it would allow people to have the support of a group, as well as a professional (me), without the usual significant financial investment that mentoring involves.
It had everything to work well, and it did.
When you create something like it matters, it does.
You know that famous quote “write like it matters and it will,” by Libra Bray? I believe the same goes for anything else you do in life. The voices that say “it doesn’t matter” are the same voices that are afraid of trying something new. And those voices are not the ones you want to be listening to (usually).
When I created the membership group, I had no idea of what it would mean to the lives of the people who signed up. All I knew was that I was going to give my best to make that a positive experience.
That meant I was fully engaged in helping those people, in the best way I possibly could. And, as a result I had the best of surprises. My work was making an impact, and people were starting to thank me for how their lives were changing.
Despite this loveliness, here's a not so positive:
Prioritising your impact before yourself often results in less effect for yourself and others.
Here’s what didn’t work so well. I started this online membership group with quite a small group. That allowed us to know each other quite well, but it also meant that the affordability I was offering was at the expense of my underpayment.
And that was a sign of me under evaluating the value and the effort I was putting into what I was offering.
I was creating fresh daily content, replying to complex life questions with very thoughtful and (usually very long) emails, and was pretty much available 24/7 availability to all the members.
You may ask: “but do we always have to be working for money"? Certainly not. But when the work you’re doing is what you do best, you're creating an impact, and you're spending a considerable amount of time doing it, then you must find a reasonable return of your investment.
Otherwise, you’re hindering the possibility to keep doing what you’re doing well, and ultimately you might end up not being able to do it anymore.
And that's one of the reasons why I decided to end the project, which gave me:
Ending something that was successful doesn’t mean failure, it means transformation.
And transformation means growth.
That's why, after a long time agonising over indecision of whether to do it or not, I decided to end the membership group. Even if I thought that it had been a success (despite the lack of financial return).
To say it was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made in my professional life isn’t an understatement.
But I know that ultimately it was the right thing to do, both for me, as well as for my clients. Because:
Comfortable situations never lead to great growth
And this is what I started feeling within the group, both from me as well as from everyone else. It was a very cozy group, and every week we would show how much appreciation we felt for having something like that in our lives.
But I felt like the space for real transformation was becoming smaller, as the group was just becoming a natural (comfortable and pleasant) part of their lives and perhaps not so much an agent that motivated significant change.
This started to be a little frustrating for me because I realized that while there was immense change fueled on the 1-to-1 interactions, my ability continue providing occasional 1-to-1 mentoring at an affordable group price point was just not viable anymore.
Real change, which is what I ultimately want to facilitate, takes significant investment.
And I’m not talking just about financial investment. One of the things I was proud of the membership group was that it made professional support available at an affordable price. But I do know one thing for sure: money is energy. And it’s just another manifestation of how much you’re willing to change. A small investment often ends up translating into small change.
I know that I had my most significant life changes when I invested on my dreams. Whether when I took that big expensive trip, or I hired a coach that I thought I couldn’t afford. Whenever I spend money on my goals, or in other words, whenever I put energy into my dreams, they have naturally grown. Like any seed you want to see grow, you need to give it attention, energy, and probably spend some money on good soil, a vase, and so on.
You know you had a good experience when you'd do it all again (I would, but I’d know how to do it better)
I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve created in this little creative adventure and the lovely group that was born from it. I have grown from the experience as a person and as a professional, which in itself was a form of payment, of course. My future professional enterprises will benefit from this experience and I’m confident that it helped those who were in the group as well, which is the most rewarding feeling.
So even if I decided that it was the best for me, and for my clients, to end that project, I have no doubts about the impact it had, and I would do it all again.
But, I would be more careful in:
1) The way I managed my time (so that readily support wouldn’t mean a gateway to burn out)
2) The way I valued my help (if I know my advice will change lives, and considering the amount of energy offered from my side, I need to price it accordingly)
Lastly, to those who were with me in this adventure and joined my online membership group. I want to say thank you. I may sound cheesy when I say that you have a special place in my heart, but you really do. Your trust and appreciation have helped me grow more than you can imagine. And for that, I will always be grateful.
Words like these are what gives purpose to what I do every day
And to think that nothing of this would have happened if I had listened to my fear…