The Collective: We Do It Together or Not At All
I was wandering the streets of London on a brisk Tuesday afternoon. I was supposed to be writing a sales letter but had run out of steam. I ducked into a bookshop to see if I could find some inspiration that would kick my brain back into gear. Sometimes I go to bookshops to read books I already own. Buying books is a lot like buying options – there’s no guarantee you’ll ever consume the book, you’re just buying the option to read it at some point in the future. Sometimes I exercise that option in a bookshop or other people’s houses with a copy I don’t own.
On this particular day I ended up reading Daily Rituals, a book I owned but had only ever dipped into at random. It’s a rundown of the daily working routines of over 160 great philosophers, inventors, writers and artists. I picked up the book and took a seat. After reading 10 or 15 people’s routines – Frank Lloyd Wright, Maya Angelou, Nikola Tesla, among others – I got to the poet, Sylvia Plath.
Her entry begins, “Plath’s journal, which she kept from age eleven until her suicide at age thirty, records a near-constant struggle to find and stick to a productive writing schedule.” Near the end of her life she finally found herself happily consumed by her work and in a two-month period in 1962 she wrote most of the poems that make up Ariel, the work that would finally establish her name. She knew she was on to something too. “I am writing the best poems of my life;” she wrote to her mother in a letter, “They will make my name.” She was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize twenty years later.
Something about Plath’s struggle spoke to me. All this potential bubbling within but so much of her energy focused not on the work itself but on trying to figure out the best way to do the work. Her journal full of plans that sounded great but never quite stuck.
“What does it say that I seem to have most in common with a woman who eventually stuck her head in the oven?” I wondered. I closed the book.
As I left the shop I thought, “Man, I need to worry less about whether I’m doing the right things and focus more on just doing the work.” But we both know that’s MUCH easier said than done. It’s easy to worry so much about living right that we lose sight of the living part. That kind of second-guessing and self-doubt is bred into us.
A Misfit Twice Over
I remember when I first started to gain some traction with my business and people started advising me about how to grow it. One guy told me, “You’re a web designer who really understands marketing, that’s a rare thing. You should branch out into teaching other web designers how to grow their businesses.” But that kind of info marketing business didn’t appeal to me. Someone else said, “You have an approach that works, you should scale like crazy and build a big web design agency.” Another said that if I didn’t want to run a big agency, he could offer me a lucrative contract where I’d come in and set up a web design arm within his business.
I was learning that, through no fault of their own, people aren’t interested in helping you figure out what’s right for you. They’re only interested in what the industry says ‘works’ or what works for them. They can’t help you figure out what’s right for you because most people find it difficult to hold space for others and to acknowledge that maybe they don’t have all the answers.
The advice I was being given about how to move forward with my business was not bad advice, but it didn’t account for who I was and what I wanted to do. The ‘don’t think, just do it’ approach was not right for me. I wanted to find my own way of doing things. I wanted to figure out how to grow my business by doing the work I was meant for.
I was beginning to feel like a misfit twice over. Not only did I want to run my own business, I also wanted to do it in a way that was meaningful to me and build a business that fit me rather than just following the standard models. That never made sense to me – you set out to do something beyond a 9 to 5 job because you want to do something meaningful, so why then in the world of business are we so often urged to follow the more-of-the-same path of least resistance?
So I didn’t do info marketing to web designers, and I didn’t start building a mega-agency. Instead I kept developing my work around self-disclosure and authenticity in marketing. But it wasn’t plain sailing…
I was talking to someone older and wiser about how to reach more people with my work. He was a believer in what I did but knew it wasn’t something that would be an easy sell across the board. “Self-disclosure is like broccoli and a lot of people only want to eat cheesecake,” he told me.
I kept plugging away and I kept hearing advice from people telling me to stop over-complicating it and just focus on building a big web design agency because it “makes sense” and the money is “there for the taking.”
It all came to a head at a mastermind meeting I had with some other entrepreneurs I knew. I told them about what I was working on and my plans for my business. I was excited to be making progress in the right direction – it was the first time I felt like I had a plan that really fit me. I expected my group of fellow entrepreneurs to see the potential in my plan and be as excited as I was, but instead the session became kind of a massacre. Rather than getting the answers I wanted, I was getting blank faces and cynical questions. I quickly realised that not everyone in the room got what I was trying to do in business – many of these people reiterated the “just build a big web design agency” advice.
I was being pummelled, it was pretty rough. I felt like a naïve idiot and wished I had never brought my plans and dreams to the group. Just as I was haemorrhaging self-confidence someone different spoke up. I didn’t know her that well but I had always sensed we were kindred spirits. “I just want to point out that what you’re doing is important so don’t be discouraged. Some of these guys are more focused on the sales and the money right now – that’s important and you should keep an eye on it – but I know you have a calling that goes beyond all that. When I read your writing I can see that. So I just wanted to say I get what you’re trying to do and it’s important and I know you know that, so keep going.”
This brief interjection saved me in ways I can’t fully articulate. It was just a few seconds of light in a dark hour for me, but it was enough to keep me on the track that was true to me. Only someone who gets it and is walking a similar path can say that to you. In fact, only a fellow traveller on the path of meaning can even see the need for it to be said AND have the willingness to say it to you.
Almost everyone else at that point was saying, “Don’t over complicate things, just follow this existing model over here. Don’t over think it.” But sometimes you HAVE to think about it and talk about it and hammer it all out.
A Gift From A Stranger
I eventually figured out my mistake: I went into that meeting looking for answers. But answers have never been any good to me. The thing that has always moved me forwards is conversation with kindred spirits who are also doing the work. The work of being who they are and doing what only they can do. So I kept having those conversations however I could. I talked to a couple of people every month about the specifics of my work and my challenges that month. There were others I had little direct contact with but we supported each other from afar as we walked the same path. And I followed and listened in on other people’s lives and work – people I didn’t know personally, but whose approach and outlook felt right to me. I thought of them all as my supporters in one way or another.
A few months later I was at a conference with a couple of these supporters. One of them introduced me to a guy I didn’t know, “You two are good people to know each other,” he said before walking away and leaving us to get acquainted. Straight away I could tell that this guy got it. I spoke briefly to him about my ‘self-disclosure in marketing’ work and mentioned that I felt kind of stuck with getting it out there – I felt like I had plateaued. He offered me no solutions but simply said, “You already know what you’re doing.” I didn’t know what he meant, but at the same time I knew exactly what he meant. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but I don’t know any other way to describe it.
I bumped into my new friend again the next day and he brought up the self-disclosure in marketing discussion with another guy I’d never met before. This stranger looked into the distance over our heads and nonchalantly said, “Self-disclosure in marketing… So I guess the benefit is you get to be yourself.” My friend back-handed me on my arm, as if to say, “Did you hear that?” Then he said, “What he said. Do that!”
From that moment on I stopped talking about ‘Self-Disclosure style marketing’ and instead I talked about Be Yourself marketing, and it made all the difference. Within a couple of weeks I’d had the idea for the Becoming Yourself in Your Business film and we launched it less than 8 weeks later. I reached a whole new audience, my business was transformed and sales were up by 47% within 12 months.
The Conversations That Matter
Normally when those stories of the moment of transformation are told, it sounds like it was one magic moment that made the difference but it’s NEVER like that. The thing that makes the difference is ALWAYS countless conversations, interactions with and helping hands from the people who get what you’re all about. Months and years of that went into my moment of clarity for the birth of Be Yourself marketing.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with answers, but the power lies in questions. Life’s greatest teachers don’t give you answers, they engage you in conversation and seed questions that burrow into your mind and demand to be answered again and again. When it comes to the questions that matter another person can’t give you answers, they can only lead you to your own realisation.
When we’re trying to improve our work or lives the standard practice is you go to the expert and they give you answers. That’s what we’re all trained to do, but having been through the circus of experts for many years now, I think it’s important to talk about the reality of it all.
Getting answers from experts is only the first step of a long journey – but most people get stuck there because no one tells them what comes next. The most helpful conversations I’ve ever had with people I admire, who are living the kind of life I want to live, involved few answers. They were detailed, sprawling conversations that cut to the heart of the matter.
The people who have helped me most don’t shy away from difficult questions they don’t know the answer to. Most people only talk about the questions they already know the answers to. That’s why most people are stuck. Being open to difficult questions is what allows you to have real conversations. These are the kind of conversations we should be having in our lives because they are what move us forward.
So often we’re afraid to engage in these kinds of discussions without a formal reason or framework but we all have a deep-seated need for the conversations that matter.
Notice that it’s not enough to just wrangle with the difficult questions on your own – it’s the act of conversation with another that is the catalyst for progress. It’s the combination of asking yourself the questions that matter and collaborating with other people walking the same path. That’s the hidden story behind every tale of overnight success or the light bulb moment.
A Collective Effort?
It makes a lot of sense to me that we can’t make our breakthroughs alone. We were never meant to do any of this alone. We are a singular human race sharing a home in the universe with our fates eternally joined. Like it or not, we are all in this together.
But something concerns me: we don’t communicate and collaborate openly. I’ve heard stories from the world of academic science – a world that is supposed to be a collective effort – of people hoarding their ideas and work for fear that someone else will steal them, publish first and take the credit. As if they own the secrets of the universe. Why do people behave like this? It comes down to comparison, ego and competition for jobs and funding.
The same thing happens to a much larger extent in the world of business. The notion that “if I can’t make the breakthrough I don’t want anyone to” is rife at a subconscious and sometimes even conscious level. People purport to want things to change for the better in their industry or community, but many only want that change if it has their fingerprint on it. In a world where trade secrets are an accepted norm and everybody wants exclusive ownership of whatever they can get it’s easy to lose sight of the need for balance. And there is a need for balance because the flip side is that the kind of competition and scarcity that envelops the business world too often kills collaboration, innovation and progress.
I think 2 things drive all this:
- Scarcity: There’s an exaggerated focus on money, a feeling that there isn’t enough to go around, and a paradigm that equates money to worth, including self-worth.
- Lack of self-knowledge: We don’t know what makes us unique and what our value really is so we compare ourselves to others. We want to restrict access to whatever knowledge and resources we have for fear that if others had access to what we do then we wouldn’t be unique, necessary or valued any more.
Any human system that operates according to these beliefs is in trouble. Whether we realise it or not we are always part of a system of people and we are shaped by the collective beliefs of that human system. This is the mistake lots of us make – we think we’re a lone rebel to a greater or lesser extent. We think we’re able to do our thing even though most of the people around us don’t get it or support it. But that’s just not true. We do it as part of a collective or not at all.
No one does anything alone. No one exists as an isolated individual. We are always part of a human system and the other people in the system either propel us forward or hold us back; there is no stasis.
I wonder what we might be capable of if we were part of a different kind of system. One where openness and collaboration is the norm. That’s what has always made the difference for me. Open and honest conversations rooted in a sense of generosity and compassion. A place for the kind of discussions where nothing is off limits – conversations about life as well as business, because we cannot separate our human-ness from our professional endeavours.
The systems many of us are a part of at the minute can’t support us on our path. You need to become part of a system that can support you. One that’s made up of kindred spirits, people walking the same path. One that is not simply about business or the pursuit of ‘success’, but about making your work mean something, having an impact, and building the business and body of work that reflects who you are.
Introducing The Collective
That’s why I want to introduce you to my consulting program, The Collective.
What Is The Collective?
A few years ago I made the decision to step back from working one-on-one with clients every month to give me the space and time I needed to develop my work and teachings. These days one of my favourite parts of my work is consulting one-to-one with people helping them find their path, tell their story, and build a body of work that reflects who they are. The experience has proved to me again and again that what makes the difference for people is not just learning or knowing what they should do, but having the conversations about it, digging into it to get the perspective and clarity that allows you to go out and take action consistently.
I’m now able to work with a small number of people on a one-to-one basis every month through my consulting program, The Collective.
The Collective is a way for me to work with you one-to-one on an on-going basis to support you as you do your work in the world. Every month we’ll talk, just you and I, enabling us to develop a relationship that will reveal – to us both – an understanding of who you are, and what the next steps are for you to make an impact and do the work only you can do. Whether you are having nitty gritty marketing issues or wrangling with high level questions about what direction to go in, I’ll be there every month you talk you through it and find the clarity you need to move forward.
Not only will I consult with you every month, I’ll also be sharing some of my private research with members of The Collective, which we’ll discuss as a group each month, and you’ll have emergency access to me if you need it. Here are the details…
How It Works
The Collective is a monthly consulting program for people who are ready to dive into the deepest questions at the heart of their work and want to make their work more known to themselves and the world. It includes:
- A Private One Hour Call With Megan Every Month
Each month the time is yours to work on whatever is most important to you – one month it might be about how to tell your story, another month it might be about a personal block you’re facing, and another month it might be more nitty gritty marketing stuff that you need to figure out. We’ll work on it all, sometimes at the same time – because that’s often how it shows up in your work. If you like you’ll also receive a recording of our monthly calls.
- 15 Minute Emergency Calls On Demand
The Collective is about me supporting you to forge ahead with the things that matter to you, so if something important arises out of the blue and you urgently need a head-check, gut-check or second opinion before you can deal with it, then you can request a 15 minute Emergency Call with me. It will be scheduled as soon as my diary allows and you and I will jump on the phone and talk it out so you can keep on keepin’ on. Knowing you’ll be supported when you need it most is so often what makes the difference between hiding out and stepping up to do the scary things that really matter. There is no set quota on emergency calls but I do expect you to request them responsibly and only for things that absolutely cannot wait until our next monthly call.
- ‘Conversations That Matter’ Recordings or Teachings
This is where I’ll be sharing some of my private research with members of The Collective. One of the things I do to make sure I am supported and being influenced by the kind of people that will help me, is seek out those who are living and working in the kind of way I want to and I interview them as part of my research. These people are my own personal collective providing me with support and inspiration. When I have a new recording with one of these people I’ll share it with you. They may be entrepreneurs, artists and everything in between. What they won’t be are the usual stream of ‘experts’ you’re normally exposed to in the world of business and marketing. They are people who are out there crafting work and lives that are in line with who they are and what they were made to do. In the months I don’t share a new recording with you during our group call I’ll share a new lesson, teaching or concept I’ve been working on or thinking about. Members of The Collective are the first to hear about the growing edges of my work and get to see it evolve up close.
- A One Hour Group Call With The Collective Members Every Month
Every month we’ll get together as a group for an hour. I will set a discussion topic for the call related to a lesson or question. Sometimes it will be an idea that came out of that month’s Conversations That Matter recording and sometimes it will be a new idea or concept I’ve been working on. I’ll prompt you to think about how it applies to you and your business and then each person will be given the chance to share their thoughts, the challenges they’re facing around this topic and/or what they’re doing that’s working. The focus of a topic means we can come to meaningful conclusions on a one hour call and understand the issue from multiple perspectives as we unpack how it applies to each person. It also causes you to think about important things in your work that you might otherwise skip over or put off bringing to me on your one-to-one call.
Apply To Join The Collective
Membership of The Collective is $500 a month (or £350+VAT if you’re in the UK) and you must apply to join. Time constraints mean I can only consult with a small number of people every month so places in The Collective are limited. The last time I publicly opened applications was more than 18 months ago.
I’m asking you to apply to make sure you and I are a good fit to work so closely together. When you submit your application we’ll arrange a 15 minute chat so you and I can get to know each other a little and see if we’re a good fit.
Application Deadline: Midnight (Pacific time) on Thursday 17th October
Places on The Collective program will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Applications will also be processed on a first come, first served basis, although I must let you know that applications from existing members of the Be Yourself Community will jump to the front of the queue as and when they are received (priority access to my programs comes as part of Be Yourself Community membership). All that is to say, the sooner you submit your application, the greater the likelihood that there will still be a place available for you.
Who Is This Right For?
The Collective is right for you if you want to make things happen in your business or work this year. It’s right for you if you want to approach your work and marketing with integrity and authenticity. It’s right for you if you want to be supported as you do the most worthwhile yet difficult work of putting more of yourself out into the world. If you have a mission, message or philosophy you’re passionate about, or you’d like to uncover it, then The Collective is for you.
There’s something I should make very clear: The Collective is for people whose primary motivation is not the bottom line. I’m interested in working with people who are driven by a desire to do something that matters and are willing to put their heart and soul into it. I have learned over the years that financial rewards are a side effect of making something that matters. If you’re doing this because you feel called to serve something bigger than yourself, or you want to uncover what that might be for you, then let’s talk. The Collective is for people who are in love with doing the work – or who want to be.
This doesn’t mean we won’t pay attention to the bottom line but you must understand the importance of the hierarchy of what drives you.
Joining The Collective is a lasting investment in yourself, your mission and your legacy. The most important investments I’ve made for my business and my work in the world, have been getting access to and spending time with people who understand what I’m all about, can ask me the questions others are unable to ask, and are willing to have the conversations that matter.
I’m interested in helping you make an impact and create something that lasts. Whether you’re creating a business, a movement, or a life, creating anything meaningful and lasting comes back to the artistry of being outwardly and undeniably yourself in the world. The best artistry often comes from collaboration; magical things can happen when people work together to do something that really matters. If you’d like to work together with me as part of The Collective, click the button below to apply.
Application Deadline: Midnight (Pacific time) on Thursday 17th October
Michael Arnold Founder Acupuncture In London
For purely financial reasons The Collective is a no brainer. I’ve lost count of the number of £10,000 ideas Megan has come up with for my business. But the real reason I’ve been a member of The Collective for over a year now is that Megan understands me better than any business consultant I’ve worked with. She gets the bigger picture of my vision and mission and she understands the impact I want to have in the world. Most business consultants are all about the money, often to the detriment of quality of life. But Megan lives and breathes purpose and passion. She knows without these, financial success is empty.
Scholarship For Non-Profits and Social Enterprises
I am aware that not everyone who follows my work is running their own business. Some are working within social enterprises, charities and other not-for-profit organisations, trying to bring more authenticity and humanity into their messaging and marketing. If you are one of these people and you feel strongly that The Collective would make a big difference for your work and your mission but you have limited funds available to you, you are welcome to apply anyway. For the right person we may be able to arrange a part scholarship for the program.
From Worry and Doubt to Profound Certainty
When I read the entry about Sylvia Plath in the Daily Rituals book I realised how important it is to worry less about whether I’m doing the right thing and focus more on just doing the work. This is something we all know but staying the course you’ve set without being derailed by worry, procrastination and distraction is virtually impossible to do UNLESS you have support from people who get it. People who are also doing the work and walking in the direction of meaning. I’ve come to realise the ability to worry less and do more comes from the certainty and security you get from being supported by other people who ‘get’ you and what you’re trying to achieve in the world. We were never meant to do it alone.
When I worry less, I do more. The times when I’ve deliberately set aside worry about the specific outcome and whether this next move is The Right Thing, that’s when I’ve done my best work. And worry is only ever an illusion. Worrying about any one thing you’re planning on doing in your work is pointless because hopefully I’ve explained by now that no single thing makes or breaks you. It’s about being prolific and not letting worry, doubt or uncertainty knock you off course.
The Collective is about doing the work, and being supported to do the work rather than worrying about whether you’re doing the right thing all the time. Because there is much to worry about…
When I did the 30 Days of Uncertainty email series I learned a lot from the countless responses I received. I learned that we all deal with constant uncertainty as we try to make our way in the world. Uncertainty and risk are inescapable if you are trying to consciously direct your work and life. “Am I doing the right thing?” “Will this work?” “How do I know I’m really headed in the right direction?” “How will people respond?”
We live in uncertain times, and they’re becoming more uncertain. Not only do we face the innate risk and uncertainty of striking out to do something that matters to us, we are also in the midst of a time of great upheaval in the world of marketing. The old standards of online marketing aren’t working as well anymore. But most people aren’t talking about this yet, because most people in the industry will only tell you the old system is broken when they’ve got a new system to sell you. Problem is, we don’t really know what the new best practices are yet. Even the gurus are out there feeling around in the dark.
I believe there is a power in this uncertainty. It forces us to acknowledge the uncertainty that was there all along and always will be. So The Collective is not about trying to ignore or outsmart uncertainty. The Collective is about walking into uncertainty together. It’s about holding space so you can find the only kind of certainty that’s real, the profound certainty that bubbles up from within even in the midst of great uncertainty. It’s not about clinging to the things that can’t fail, it’s about finding your answer to the question, “What’s worth doing even if it fails?” It’s about facing the undeniable precariousness of our lives and choosing to do what matters anyway. And when it comes to the things that matter, we do it together or not at all.
If you are ready to show up and give the world what you have to offer, I hope you’ll join me in The Collective. Apply using the button below.
To being yourself,
Application Deadline: Midnight (Pacific time) on Thursday 17th October
What People Are Saying About The Collective
Yann Vernier Colombia
“Deep conversations” is how I would summarize The Collective in two words.
I wish I had a few trustworthy friends who “get it”... With whom I could discuss whatever weird ideas I've had for my businesses or personal life. But with friends and family, I constantly have to edit my thoughts to avoid backlash or blank stares.
The best remedy for me is being part of The Collective. It's a small group of people who understand there's a lot more to business than making a living. And who aren't scared to look beyond the surface.
I was actually petrified when I joined the group because I hate being in the spotlight. But our group calls are a rare safe space where it's OK to be human... Flawed, scared, scatter-brained... With dreams and ideas that anyone else would label crazy (or worse).
Listening to others' approaches, and getting to examine and articulate my own thoughts, triggered many epiphanies in my mind over the last year, and brought me a level of clarity that can only happen in this sort of environment.
And my monthly call with Megan has now become my personal sanity check. Not only does she understand me, she helps me see perspectives I wouldn't have thought of without our conversations. Megan doesn't tell me what I want to hear, she helps me think deeper.
These deep conversations always leave me with better, clearer ideas and an invaluable sense of direction. But the more subtle benefit is the calm confidence I feel on where to focus my time and energy - and that what I'm working on does matter.
Amanda Brooks Enterprise Coordinator Lancaster University
Megan is an explorer, sense maker, connector and enabler. She 'gets' that people 'get stuck' in life and that the way to become 'unstuck' and grow, is to step back from the day to day and make the time and the space to connect with others, and get back to finding time for doing the simple things for creative and cultural inspiration; experiences I'd had allowed to slip from my life.
The Collective is a space for conversations between human beings. It enables entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial thinkers and change makers to explore, sense make connect and share their sticking points authentically, share ideas, stories and experiences. It's made me realise we're all challenged by the same 'stuff' and it's helping me to accelerate the brave steps to become who I want to be in my work and life.
The Collective is three growth experiences a month; on line inspiration through Megan's interviews with entrepreneurs, artists and other interesting people, small group on line hang outs, and and 1-2-1 mentoring with Megan. These sessions are a safe place to explore life and day to day challenges, barriers and aspirations. These sessions have been relaxed, fun and have given me new insights, about myself, my potential to make new things happen; now I'm making them happen.
John Brudenell Leech
The calls challenge you in new ways & leave you with much to reflect on, whilst very much looking forward to the insights from the next one.