Creating the Peer Group I’ve Always Longed for

For more than a decade, I’ve tried in various ways to create the kind of conscious, growth-oriented community I envisioned being possible – a high-trust group of dozens (perhaps hundreds) of interesting, caring, ambitious, honorable, and creative people who’d love to connect with each other, share their paths of growth together, and basically encourage the heck out of each other every day. The idea is to have one unconditional support group for every type of personal growth challenge.

That’s the kind of group in which I feel most like me… a place where I can breathe… a place where everyone understands that we’re here to learn, grow, explore, and embrace the rich possibilities of existence.

I’ve belonged to some incredible growth-oriented groups over the years, such as Toastmasters, but I eventually moved on. Sometimes I just outgrew them. Other times I got bored with them because their focus was so narrow, and I wanted to shift my attention to other parts of life for a while. It’s always difficult to move on from an empowering peer group, knowing that I must do so in order to keep growing, even with the awareness that some great relationships will fade as a result. Those endings are always bittersweet. I get excited about the new path, but I still miss my friends from the old path.

Eventually I decided that I really want both. I want to be able to follow life’s many twists and turns while still being able to connect with a single, relatively stable peer group. I needed a peer group of like-minded people who are also dedicated to learning and growing across all areas of life, not just mono-focused on one.

I just can’t maintain decades of enthusiasm for a peer group that’s solely aligned around improving in one area, such as public speaking or entrepreneurship or marketing. Initially such groups are inspiring, but after a few years, I feel this mounting pressure to move on and explore elsewhere. And so I leave. And then I start again with a new inspiring group. And repeat. And I end up with a long trail of fascinating friends that I always miss.

Trying to maintain a strong social network one person at a time can be daunting as well. Good relationships with good people matter a lot to me. But trying to manage too many online connections via social media, email, phone calls, texting, Skype, and more is just so fragmented. Good relationships always fall through the cracks, and I can’t stay connected with all of the wonderful people I’d like to.

For many people the idea of connecting with interesting, ambitious, growth-oriented people every day seems extraordinary or unusual. Some can’t even fathom it, nor do they even understand why they’d want that. I think what scares some people is that when you have such a group, you feel a lot more accountable to doing your best, so you can feel worthy in that kind of peer group. In order to raise your social standards, you also have to raise your personal standards.

For me it’s just normal to have a strong peer group of growth-oriented friends. It’s been my reality for many years. I could move to a new city in a different country, and I’d get involved in such a group quickly. Sometimes that just happens automatically when traveling.

I recall many fond memories of an amazing 3-1/2 weeks in Bucharest in 2013 with a group of enthusiastic, growth-oriented friends, most of whom I’d just met when I got there. Even though I was just visiting friends and trying to be on vacation for a while, they convinced me to do a spontaneous live event with them while I was there. I kept saying no, and they kept moving it forward anyway, like they were just waiting for me to come around. I joked that the word “no” in English must somehow translate to “yes” in Romanian. But they completely out-goaled me, and we put on a delightful event for 50 people, giving them only 4 days advance notice that it was happening. We even had a few people attend from other countries, including Bulgaria and Denmark. I didn’t  know that kind of speed was possible since I’d always started planning live events many months in advance. It was a potent lesson about the power of alignment.

Around the end of 2016, I had one of those moments of clarity where I decided to do whatever it takes to make this idea of a stable group of growth-oriented friends. I thought about what it would really take to overcome this challenge that’s been a part of my life for so many years. It dawned on me that such a group needs to exist – not just for me but for all of the other people who will benefit from it. I kept getting tastes of what such a group could be like through a long string of related experiences going back at least 25 years, almost like I was being groomed to finally put the pieces together properly.

Despite getting aligned with the idea, it still took months to figure out how to actually make it real. I knew it should be an online community, so people could stay connected to the group no matter where they travel or move. And I knew it would have to be outside of the usual social media channels, so we could maintain a pure space that aligns with our values – no outside distractions or incompatible energies intruding.

In April 2017 I was finally able to make this social group a reality, when Conscious Growth Club opened for early access, and dozens of people joined in the first few days. It’s been going very well ever since, evolving a lot during the past two years both in terms of structure and organic elements.

I love being a member of this group myself, and I’m active in our private forum pretty much every day. It sometimes stuns me to think about how we’ll continue to connect, explore, and grow together over the next several years and beyond.

I know that some members will come and go over the years, but I also sense that we have a strong enough core group that intends to stick around and keep investing it, especially since they’re personally gaining a lot from it.

For the past two years, Conscious Growth Club has been evolving and growing, almost like it has a mind and an intentional energy of its own now. I often feel like it directs me rather than the other way around.

Genuine friendships have formed. Members are connecting with each other daily. There are frequent group video hangouts. There’s a lot of excitement about our future directions together, especially as more members are now signing up during the launch that’s happening now. It was a long learning process to reach this point, but the group works, and it’s sustainable. I expect that it will continue for decades to come. What it will look like in 10 or 20 years from now, I can’t say, but I’m delighted to witness its continued evolution.

There’s something about this goal that just seems like I had to do it personally, like I was supposed to do it. When I think of the wide variety of skills I needed to make this happen, it all seems so strange. The pieces fit together a little too well. The skills I had to lean on from my past include: a wide variety of tech skills, programming, writing, speaking, coaching, community management, marketing, networking, and even game design and improv. And then there’s having a direct communication pathway to a big enough group of the right people all around the world, which stemmed from years of blogging about personal growth.

When I think about all of the skills that had to be woven together to make this happen in just the right way… and all the other ways this could have failed to work… it all seems a bit magical sometimes. One side effect is that it encourages me to trust this universe even more. I sense there’s some kind of energy working in the background, and when I really tune into it by following the path that feels aligned to me, no matter how difficult or impossible it seems initially, somehow life just works really well.

One of the hardest things in life is learning how to grow beyond the misaligned, so we can experience real alignment. That requires a lot of letting go of the old and stale, so we can invite something fresh and new.

It was an especially powerful realization to learn that I really needed a peer group that I wouldn’t outgrow, and the only way to accomplish that would be to form a peer group based on growth-oriented people.

It’s actually similar to the same reason I started my personal growth business in 2004. I’d previously been running a computer games business since 1994, but after 10 years, I felt like I’d outgrown it, and I wanted to explore something new. But I didn’t like the idea of being a serial entrepreneur, always starting over from scratch in a new field. I wanted to figure out some kind of business that I could invest in for decades, so I could get really good at it and make a meaningful contribution to my field over time. That’s when I realized that if I made personal growth the core of my business, I could never outgrow it since I can’t outgrow growth. I could always keep it feeling fresh and new. That worked. I’m in my 15th year now and still going strong, and I feel no loss of motivation for continuing to work in this field. It feels like home to me, if only because it’s a home that’s always shifting and evolving and keeping me on my toes.

I’m really glad I didn’t settle, both socially and in business. That would have been easier in the short term but so much harder in the long term. Oddly, in some ways the long term is actually harder for me now since I feel this huge responsibility for this thriving community, but it’s a good kind of challenge because I feel super supported in following this path. It was a powerful lesson to realize how good it can feel to take on a tremendous responsibility when you also know that a lot of good friends have your back, and you have smart people to turn to whenever you need help.

I wrote this post spontaneously… just in stream of consciousness style, not even having breakfast yet. I’ve noticed that when I tend to trust that kind of inspiration, somehow it provides value for other people too, often in ways that are beautifully synchronous for them as well.