The Beauty of Endless Projects

One thing that Walt Disney loved about Disneyland was that it was an endless project. He could always continue tinkering with it. He knew that it would never be finished.

In contrast to Disney films like Snow White, Bambi, and Mary Poppins, Walt found it appealing to pour his energy into a project that he could never complete. This allowed him to make continuous improvements. He would walk around Disneyland often, especially on Saturday mornings, and note issues that could be improved. Sometimes he’d even tell team members to relocated trees that they’d planted, so the views for guests would be better. He was good at noticing how small details contributed to the overall experience.

Conscious Growth Club is that kind of project for me. We’re about to enter our fourth year, opening for new members April 27 – May 1. We’ve made numerous improvements to the group since we first opened for early access in April 2017. And there are many more improvements yet to be made.

From one perspective, the list of potential improvements can seem daunting. Whenever I invite members to share ideas for improvement, like I recently did in our private forums, there’s a flow of great suggestions that will take time to implement. I capture these ideas and integrate them into my project planning system, so I can keep track of them. The hardest part is prioritizing what we’ll do next.

For the early months and years of CGC, much of my focus was to get the big rocks in place: the forums, the coaching calls, and some courses. We now have three major courses and a nice flow of three coaching calls per month. We’ve had significant daily activity in the forums since we started. The core pieces have all been working well for quite a while now. And we can maintain a nice flow of continuing to add to these resources.

We’ve also added other stable elements to the group: a 24/7 video chat channel where members can connect (called the CGC Watercooler), new 30-day challenges every month, 5-step quarterly planning sessions for members to clarify their goals, and lots of spinoff projects and experiments that members have come up with, including a writing mastermind group, a CGC movie club, and an online co-working group.

CGC is my own version of personal growth Disneyland. It’s a project that will never be completed. Ideally I’d love it to outlive me – always evolving in different ways. With some many growth-oriented people inside contributing to it, it’s been expanding in interesting directions since we started.

Here are some of the aspects I want to improve for the upcoming year of CGC.

Helping Members Feel at Home

CGC is great for people who are very growth-oriented and have sufficient time to delve into all the resources and opportunities the group provides. But it can feel a bit intimidating to new members, and it takes a while for some people to warm up to it and feel socially integrated into the group, even though the people inside are very friendly and welcoming.

We always welcome new members in the forums after they introduce themselves. Rachelle and I do our best to welcome everyone personally too. That’s a good start, but we need to build upon that to help people feel even more welcomed and to help them feel comfortable enough to start using CGC’s resources regularly, especially on the social side.

After our 2020 opening, I plan to host an orientation webinar in the first half of May. All members are welcome to attend. This may be followed by a video Watercooler welcome party (either right away or shortly thereafter). The orientation will be recorded and added to the CGC member portal, so members can rewatch it whenever they want. If someone has gone inactive for a while, rewatching this could help reacquaint them with the key features quickly and help them re-engage.

As part of the orientation process, I could also invite some members who’ve been in CGC for at least a year to share their tips and suggestions for getting the most out of the group. I think some of our members would be happy to share, especially in terms of what they wish they understood better when they first joined.

I plan to create a nice onboarding email sequence too (instead of just a single welcome email), so when new members join, they’ll receive a series of emails gradually introducing them to different features of CGC one by one. They can reply to these emails to ask questions too. I’ll set it up so that previous members can opt-in to this sequence too if they want a gentle refresher.

Helping Members Build Comfort and Trust

I do the coaching calls personally, and even though I find them fun, casual, and stimulating, for some members it’s still a bit intimidating to raise their hands to participate in a live video coaching call.

Even after a year or more in CGC, many members have never participated in the live coaching (other than watching), and a key reason is that they don’t feel comfortable enough with it yet, especially when it comes to talking about personal growth challenges. We’re pretty gentle and encouraging on these calls, which are geared towards helping people find solutions to their problems. But it can take time for people to get used to this level of intimacy.

I don’t think I could get nervous doing these coaching calls if I tried, and it seems like I’ve been sharing intimate details of my life online forever, so this can be a blind spot for me. It’s easy for me to forget what it’s like to just be getting started with this level of sharing and trust. So I’m looking into adding more intermediate steps to help people bridge this gap.

One idea is to host occasional “office hours” or hangouts in the video Watercooler for members who want to connect and chat with me in a less structured format than the coaching calls. This could help members feel more comfortable talking with me on video if they find the regular coaching calls too big of a step.

There are other ideas we’re considering along these lines as well.

In the beginning our focus was on adding a lot of value to CGC. This year we’ll continue doing that, and I also want to do more to help members leverage the value that’s already there.

When you first enter Disneyland, you have to walk down Main Street. That’s the only way in. Then you get to the round courtyard in front of the castle, and from there you have options. It’s basically a hub-and-spoke design.

For some members the experience of joining CGC is like starting the Disneyland experience right in front of the castle. You’re dropped into the middle of the park, which can seem a little overwhelming. Which way do I go first? Should I go through one of the courses? Hop on a coaching call? Join a 30-day challenge? Start posting in the forums? Just lurk and read the forums for a bit?

So we need to build a Main Street for CGC. I can see that it would be helpful to provide a more linear channel into CGC to help guide people into the experience. Help them warm up to the new reality they’re entering. Then point out the options for further exploration when they’re ready.

Experimenting

I’m also interested in doing more experimentation this year. We already have lots of daily engagement in the forums, and members are finding wonderful ways to leverage CGC’s tools to create extra value, such as using the video Watercooler for mastermind meetups and co-working challenges. I’d love to do more along these lines. Lots of good ideas bubble up from observing how members are using the different tools.

Here are some ideas that I’d love to experiment with:

  • Investigate ways to add games to make CGC more fun and to help members connect in different ways.
  • Look into team-based projects, experiments, and challenges in CGC. What about a team-based 30-day challenge now and then? This could increase accountability for those who want more motivation and support to complete all 30 days.
  • Explore the video co-working idea in more depth. See if more members want to engage with it and if we could do more with it, such as team productivity challenges.
  • Explore adding some competitive aspects or contests to CGC for members who’d find that fun and motivating. Team 30-day challenges could be one version.
  • Brainstorm what we could do with multiple Watercooler-type video channels.
  • Consider having occasional Watercooler check-in chats for the more popular 30-day challenges, so people can discuss progress and sticking points. See if we can help more people finish all 30 days.

Most of these features will be of greatest benefit for the members who feel right at home in CGC and want to keep exploring and growing together. So I want to be careful to balance the addition of new features (including experimental ones) with making sure that we’re doing enough to invite members to engage with these features.

In this next year, I also want to give members more authority to help manage and implement some of these features. I’d like to explore adding some positions with paid stipends, so members who contribute a lot to the community can generate some extra income from their participation. This seems like a good year to lean into that.

I’m excited about the future of CGC. We have a really interesting mix of structure and organic elements within the group. It’s rewarding to have this endless project that can continue evolving year after year.

In some ways the most difficult years are the early ones because there’s so much to figure out and improve. Walt Disney and his team were constantly testing different ideas for Disneyland. They failed early and often, building rides that didn’t work well, tearing them down, and trying something else.

Sometimes I think of CGC as an amusement park of different experiences, although we focus primarily on growth experiences instead of entertainment. When I think about what Disneyland was like when it first opened in 1955 and how much it evolved over time, it helps me understand how far constant experimentation, improvement, and iteration can take us if we simply persist and keep striving to serve our members well.

Sometimes I dream about what it would be like to visit Disneyland in the 1950s or 60s. I’ve been there every decade from the 70s onward, but I’ve never seen the park during its earlier years. By the time I saw it, it had already been evolving for at least two decades. That would be a fun experience to recreate in virtual reality someday. Perhaps a smart enough future AI could build a decent simulation of that experience by researching historical footage and reading first-hand accounts from people who were there in the 50s or 60s. In creating some aspects of Disneyland, Walt realized that the past could be brought back to life. Imagine what past experiences we could recreate and experience with advanced enough technology.

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