My wife and I recently joined a parenting class that meets over Zoom. Halfway through our first call while getting to know the other couples, it struck me how incredibly powerful this group was.
Parenting can be an isolating and lonely endeavor. It’s not uncommon to have the feeling of, “There’s got to be a better way,” or “Am I the only one that feels this way?”
Finding ourselves in the company of others wrestling through similar questions of parenting is so encouraging, but this experience isn’t limited to our virtual parenting class. Any time you gather a group of people around a common value, challenge, or purpose, things happen.
There’s a lot to unpack here.
Back in 2014, some friends of mine on Instagram started sharing photos from weekly workouts they participated in with a group called November Project. The photos were full of really happy people working out. The two don’t usually go together, so I was intrigued.
View this post on Instagram
Huge thanks to @brogan_graham for coming out to #KC to kickstart a new #novemberproject group with @get_moving_kc! Had a great time this morning at Liberty Memorial working hard with a great group. #kansascity #fitfam @novemberproject #stayfit #fitnessgoals #kcmo #gopro #justshowup #freefitness #burpeesfordays #grassrootsgear #21humpbeat
November Project started in Boston with two out of shape college buddies. No matter the weather, they committed to show up and work out. As time went on, friends invited friends, and before they knew it they had started a fitness movement that over time would spread to more than 50 cities internationally.
So why did this fitness group thing blow up?
Fun: One of the core principles of NP is that the workouts are fun. You’ll still break a sweat, but you’ll have a good time. This isn’t for the serious gym junkies, it’s for the people that want to get outside, get moving, and have some fun in the process.
Accountability: Rain, snow, or shine, November Project meets. You don’t have to wonder if the workout is still happening, because it is. And if you’re not there, people notice. While that kind of accountability can be slightly uncomfortable, it’s just enough to get you to
Friendship: Maybe it’s the mandatory hugs and high fives to kick off the workout, but you’ll quickly make a new friend (or ten). The community aspect of working out with people from all over your city week after week is contagious. You get to know regular people from all different walks of life that have gathered around the common purpose of staying fit.
Free: Central to November Project’s ethos is
#freefitness. Doesn’t cost a cent to show up to a workout. Removing the cost removes one more barrier or excuse from putting off working out. It won’t cost you anything but showing up and putting in the work.
Fitness is just one example of the benefits of social groups. Let’s look at some others.
In his book The Accidental Creative (by Todd Henry), he talks about another interesting aspect of social groups. Namely that relationships are key to growing personally and professionally.
Many of the greatest creatives throughout history have gathered in small groups to stay focused and engaged, and the practice continues to benefit those who go to the effort to instill it.
These small group meetings can stoke your passion, help you stay aligned with what matters most, inspire and give you new ideas or directions for projects, and simply feed you emotionally in ways you may be lacking. — Todd Henry
At the end of the day, gathering a small group of individuals that want to further their craft, hobby, inner-personal life, business — whatever the reason — is going to be beneficial.
Henry recommends starting with these three questions:
- What are you working on?
- What is inspiring you?
- What would you like prompting on?
Essentially, what problems are you trying to solve or projects do you have on your plate? What are you reading, watching, or listening to that is inspiring what you’re working on or how? And, how can we as a group help you accomplish what you’ve set out to do?
This circle is ideally comprised of other peers that have a similar desire and openness to grow. Whether the common thread of the group is around software or gardening, or simply a support group for entrepreneurs, the point is to help one another navigate the challenges of creative work. The simple act of gathering is powerful in itself, but there are far reaching benefits to being a part of something like this.
Not long ago, we facilitated a mastermind group around the topic of margin. A small group assembled around the topic of restoring breathing room to our daily lives.
The group met a total of five times, online, for about an hour each gathering. We worked through the content of The Margin Course and came ready to discuss key points.
The meetings were simple, but the impact was significant.
What happened? Are Shawn, Mike, or I incredible facilitators? Not that amazing. Was the content life-altering? Good, but nothing ground-breaking.
The magic ingredient was the people that showed up — normal people that were tired of being pushed around by life.
By the end of our last call, each person was living with a greater clarity related to margin. In a relatively short amount of time, this group had given one another the courage and permission to live with breathing room.
Once a year, we host a retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado for business owners and professionals. As opposed to our virtual mastermind, this one takes place in-person for three days.
Obviously, this sort of social group requires quite a bit more effort to organize, and therefore only happens once a year. These three days for the last three years have proven to be some of the most beneficial of the year.
Friendships are formed, best practices regarding publishing, marketing, management, investing, monetization, and more are shared over cocktails overlooking the Rocky Mountains. Every year is a unique group, and every year is profoundly impacting in different ways.
Gathering a curated group of motivated writers, leaders, thinkers, builders, and creators to solve one another’s business challenges always proves to be an annual highlight for those that attend.
Benefits of Social Groups
Clearly, getting a group of people together around a common cause is pretty much always going to have an impact. The benefits are literally endless, but here are some I’ve personally been on the receiving end of.
Make New Friends: Showing up with a group of strangers may definitely be intimidating, but the fact that you’re in the same room means you share a few things in common. Whether over a shared love for food or fitness (or both), joining a social group is a quick way to meet new people and make new friends.
Motivating: Getting around other people is motivating. As an artist, writer, runner, recovering addict, activist, or whatever. If you lack motivation, get around other people.
Different Perspectives: If you interview a hundred people about their thoughts regarding creativity, you’ll get a hundred different answers. A different perspective on any one topic is invaluable, let alone when discussing creative methods.
Learn from Others: Chances are good that you will learn a thing or two from just about anyone. Could be something related to your craft, your hobby, fitness related — time with others is an opportunity to learn.
Teach What You Know: While you may only be a step ahead, it’s a chance to turn around and teach what you know. Doesn’t matter if you’re one hour into learning how to code, you would know more than I do. Teaching is an excellent way to reinforce what you already know.
Push Yourself: Something about doing things in public pushes you to new limits. Creatively, physically, mentally — working with others brings out the best in us. Nothing like a little friendly competition to elevate your game.
Be Inspired: Witnessing others in their craft is inspiring. The topic of inspiration is almost irrelevant. Witnessing a friend break their personal best 5k time makes me want to go out and throw down. Seeing a friend push the creative boundaries of photography makes me want to pick up my camera. Getting around others that are doing quality work inspires me to do the same.
Accountability: Social groups also bring the benefit of public accountability. You said you were going to do X — did you do it? You said you were going to show up, and we’ll know if you’re not here.
Social Support: Back to my earlier example of our parenting group, just knowing others have gone through or are currently going through what my wife and I are as parents is so encouraging. A simple, “We’re going through the same thing right now,” goes a long way. But this could also be in overcoming addiction, or rehabbing from an injury or sickness. Social support is a powerful tool.
Just Show Up One of my favorite aspects of some social groups is the ability to simply show up. Meaning, you don’t have to think about what happens next. Fitness is one type of group where this is readily apparent. Show up and you’ll get a good workout. You won’t have to think about what kind of workout you’ll do. Instead, you’ll be able to focus on doing the work itself.
Try New Things: New experiences, new mental exercises, new workouts, new food, new adventures, new trails, new challenges, new code. You’re bound to try something new when you get around other people.