EP16: Growing to Events in 50 Cities Through Culture with Consciousness Hacking

At the end of the day, community is about culture. Webster defines community as “the people with common interests living in a particular area”. People come together because they have common interests and values which all combine to define the culture of that community.

Our guest for this episode, Kim Han, is the Global Head of Community at Consciousness Hacking which is a global community of people get together to become more mentally, emotionally and spiritually whole and build a future that helps us instead of harming us. Kim starts off by sharing her description of what Consciousness Hacking is and that each member has their own definition but they are brought together by their mission and values.

She started running the San Francisco events and got a strong understanding of how the events are run and then iterated to start having other cities host events. When looking at whether or not to take someone on as a chapter director her number 1 criteria is if they are aligned as a person with their values and mission.

Now that she has 50 cities and continues to organically grow she has and continues to put together a playbook of how local chapter directors should run their events. Kim shared that it’s important to keep that playbook iterative and not stagnant. As the community grows and changes the way chapter directors host events will evolve as well. Making sure that your playbook evolves with the community is crucial to making sure you continue to grow and serve the ambassadors who are hosting events for your brand.



[0:00:03.9] DA: Welcome to the C2C Podcast. I am your host, Derek Anderson. After holding my first event in 2010, I went on to create Startup Grind, a 400 chapter community based in over a 100 countries. Along the way, I discovered the greatest marketing tool of all time, your customers. Yet, I couldn’t find anyone sharing how to build a community where people could experience your brand in person or at scale.

On this show, we talk with the brightest minds and companies on the planet about how to build a customer to customer marketing strategies and create in person experiences for your brand and customer before your competitor does.

[0:00:44.1] DA: Ladies and gentleman, welcome or welcome back to the C2C Podcast. Today’s guest is Kim Han. She is currently the Global Head of Community over at Consciousness Hacking and Consciousness Hacking is a global community of people that get together in cities all over the world to become more mentally, emotionally and spiritually whole and build a future that helps us instead of harming us.

Now this is incredible because they’ve grown to about 50 chapters organically and she is going to explain the values and the culture that has helped them reach this point of such incredible organic growth. She is also going to touch on the people who run the events, what she looks for and so, so much more. So without further ado, please enjoy the show.


[0:01:30.2] DA: Kim, it is great have you. Tell us about Conscious Hacking. What is it all about?

[0:01:34.8] KH: For me, I mean everybody has something slightly different, for me, it is the place where people gather and these people are deeply rational, deeply emotional and deeply spiritual and we all gather together and learn something new. We try to focus on integrity and curiosity and growth but for a lot of people, they feel that conscious hacking is a community in the intersection of technology and consciousness.

[0:02:00.0] DA: Great and so you are the Head of - Global Head of Community. I know you do many things but what are your most important task or responsibilities in that role?

[0:02:10.3] KH: Yeah, so I came from the role as I guess the director of operations where I was running a lot of the local events here at San Francisco and then I moved onto only speaking to chapter leaders who weren’t in San Francisco and so in a couple of weeks Tokyo will be launching their first event and we also have just maybe Seattle chapters, Mumbai might be starting and so I just talk to them over Zoom like we are doing here and I tell them what it’s like to run a community here in San Francisco.

And how we can do that for Tokyo, maybe they can’t do eye gazing because it is too intense for that culture there. So how do we iterate it so that they could have a chapter in their city as well.

[0:02:54.9] DA: So you have about 50 chapters and do you know – I mean could you explain what was the catalyst for growth or what — were their different inflection points of that growth and how that came about?

[0:03:07.4] KH: It is actually all been organic. Pretty much somebody stumbled upon Consciousness Hacking and said, “Wow, I wish there was a chapter in my city.” And then they reached out and said, “I want to start one,” or “Is there a chapter here?” Or, “Can you connect me?” And then usually I will hop on a call with them and if they seem like very aligned humans and then I will give them what they need to be able to start a monthly meet up in their city.

I think there was only one person that I went after, her name is Lauren Bailey and she is in the Seattle region and it was just because she was so aligned as a human that I had to tell her about it and she was like yes and they are very active right now.

[0:03:49.3] DA: That is awesome, where there are things like did you – have you gotten any press? Have you done any paid advertising? When you say mostly organic, is it truly that? Like just people find it, they want to find it and they sign up?

[0:04:02.5] KH: We don’t do any SEO or SEM so search engine optimizations or search engine marketing. Once in a while we might put out a Facebook Ad for a conference but most of our events, we don’t do any like we don’t pay any marketing.

We might do some partnership marketing, which honestly we rarely do that as well. A lot of our partners will ask us to market their events and when it comes down to it a lot of our events are sold out at least in San Francisco. So I think a part of it is just because the community is so tight. We haven’t had to do as much marketing but we have to do a lot of community building, like a lot.

[0:04:41.8] DA: What is the process for accepting the people that are going to run the groups look like and how does that evolved over time?

[0:04:47.6] KH: So in the beginning I am not one of the founders of Consciousness Hacking, Mikey Siegel is and in the very beginning it was just some of his friends who are in New York who came by to stay and they wanted to run to chapter and so he said, “Well this is what I am doing. I didn’t think that there was going to be another chapter starting.” He started this because he was an engineer and on the side he liked to meditate and have deeply emotional conversations and processing and spiritual life and he was hoping that there would be a community where all of them would exist in the same place.

So he started this in his living room with eight people with no idea that it is going to grow and then all of these people from all over the world said, “I want this too,” so they started to call in and so the process is I’ll get on the phone with them or on Zoom call with them and I will see if they are aligned. If they are interested in building a community with these types of people.

Instead of just having a place or a pedestal to speak to a group or to help their business. If they are truly aligned in hoping that the world can be a better place as people could build technology to help human flourishing and they want to build community, it is usually a good pick.

[0:05:57.8] DA: Consciousness Hacking is sort of like Startup Grind and the community is the product. The community is everything, whereas a lot of other people have a community on top of a product. I wonder what has that been like to build those in tandem for you and the history of it. Just is it do people naturally understand what it is? Are you have it to educate people as to just what you are to begin with? And then hey, it’s these events and meet ups and groups and gatherings together.

Or is it just natural and fluid for people to understand how all of that fix together without context or frame of reference or something else bringing them into the community?

[0:06:45.7] KH: I think it is very hard for people to understand because what is consciousness? It is one of those things where you’re like, “What is it and how do I hack it?” And for everybody that is a little bit different and even me, I don’t even know if I deep clarity.

But when I do have deep clarity on is that this is a community of people I want to spend time around and that if we have – we might even evolve over time. Right now it is the intersection between modern technology or something that runs on electricity and human flourishing or consciousness. But that might change, it just so happens that the people haven’t, the deeply rational emotional and spiritual people haven’t changed.

[0:07:24.9] DA: What is expected of me as a leader? What do I need to do? Is there some sort of unofficial or official agreement that I make with you as I start to take on one of these chapters and become a leader in the community?

[0:07:38.8] KH: Right now, I am hoping for consistency because I believe that consistency is what builds community, kind of why churches have been one of the most – I have to be honest, I have never been to church before but churches have been the most consistent communities in the world and the most connected and I believe it is because they meet every Sunday rain or shine and in the same place and so if I could build the chapter, I would want them to do –

They can pick the date, maybe every third Tuesday of the month and everybody knows that every 3rd Tuesday of the month there is going to be a gathering and so right now it’s just once a month and the only thing that’s been expected of them is to build a community that starts small so that they could build a culture that is wonderful. I never expect them to run a large event in the very beginning. In fact I ask them not to.

[0:08:33.0] DA: Why is that?

[0:08:33.8] KH: Well there is a really large event, a culture hasn’t been built yet. So maybe the culture of connection and friendliness and everybody who sees a stranger says, “Hi, what is your name?” I think that it is much easier to have the base of people maybe 50% to 80% of the people are already living that. So when new people come they can match on, they’re like, “Oh wow what a beautiful culture and a beautiful way to connect, people here are so friendly. And they ask really good questions. Instead of, “What do you do?”

I have seen you do that really well at Startup Grind as well. I think the question that I’ve received at Startup Grind events were something that you are passionate about.

[0:09:16.1] DA: It is really cool. Yeah, a lot of times what we say to people like, “Have you asked the person next to you how you can help them?” And because most people, most of the time even in a week sort of automatically go to talking about ourselves and we are trying to speak and you know, when you can learn more from listening then you know probably, get more out of it than if you are speaking and trying to just jam your message down at people’s throats, which a lot of people in the startup world like to do.

You use this sort of analogy of church with community and I think you are absolutely right like consistency to cadence is vital to sustaining a long term community and if something is done once every three years is that a community, probably not and even if it is not even once every three months depending on what it is, you are sort of it is getting more and more diluted but once a month there is something sort of special you’re liking that monthly cadence.

I wonder what you have seen with that, what is special about having a repeatable gathering on a monthly basis that sort of brings out positive results? Like what is that?

[0:10:27.7] KH: I probably would say that I have had more experience with that with another community that I used to run called One Salon that I do with Consciousness Hacking because by the time I came across Consciousness Hacking in San Francisco it was already a very large community and most of the events are already getting sold out. At One Salon, we were every single Tuesday, 7PM, no matter what, there would be if there wasn’t a speaker then there would be some sort of facilitated improv and a free form hangout or a potluck.

And that was the place where I met some of my best friends including Michael who introduced me over to you guys and the roommates I am currently living with and people who got me my job at Square or even Consciousness Hacking and because we were there every single Tuesday, we were able to deepen our friendships in a way that I had never really experienced before except in Argentine Tango, which was an obsession of mine.

So of course I had to experience I didn’t live anything else. So One Salon leading every single Tuesday and it wasn’t a church but it was for a lot of people what they would call a secular church and every single religion or way of thinking was accepted and it was beautiful.

[0:11:43.4] DA: Awesome, where have you found new community members or how did they find you? How did people find out about it or how do more people get involved and you said you haven’t done any sort of major paid marketing or anything like that or it must be finding it somehow?

[0:11:57.4] KH: A lot of it I feel is through Facebook. Facebook has recently has gotten so good with their organic marketing that when you are friends click interested or attending to an event, everybody else is also going to click interested or attending to an event and the topics that you have are, I don’t know, we try to make the titles pretty provocative, yeah the next one is called Creating Synchronicity, and that will be a physicist who’s also studied synchronicity.

And so it would be a workshop and people would be like how do you create synchronicity so they might click into that, others are Tech to Reduce Human Suffering and then underneath we would say with Investor [inaudible] that and so a lot of people are like, “Oh investor I want to show up for that.” What else? Empathy Workshop would be another we have.

[0:12:46.0] DA: Yeah that is really smart and it is very thoughtful. I feel like a lot of these kinds of programs and events that you see are, the vast majority of them are not thoughtful and the vast majority of them are thrown together and so if you are sort of you know, hearing a title like that, says to me that wow, whoever is organizing this, really is deeply thinking about it and is, that’s the kind of person that I want to be around if I’m interested in this area.

[0:13:17.4] KH: Then we sneak in some things to make people feel more connected like improve games or connection things, the very beginning and maybe even some movement, they don’t know this coming to the event but it keeps them coming back when they feel more connected to another human.

[0:13:32.0] DA: Do you do the same, are the same topics happening all around the different 50 cities, are you mixing them up, are you doing monthly themes or quarterly themes or anything like that or are they connected from a content standpoint?

[0:13:45.4] KH: I wish that I was better at managing 50 cities all at once. I don’t’ think that I’m as on top of it as I would like it to be so I don’t know exactly what they’re doing at all times. Sometimes, some of the leaders will send over –

[0:14:02.8] DA: In your consciousness, you know, you do know somewhere what’s going on, right? You must. But just saying, it’s not right in front of you all the time.

[0:14:11.5] KH: It’s not right in front of me all the time, I don’t look at every single event but I build trust with the people that I bring on as leaders so I trust them to put on something and when we have a conversation, I’ll give them the list of events that we have put on and say, ”Hey, please be aligned here.” And yesterday in fact, I just finished writing the doc which I’m sure you must have written for your Startup Grind chapters.

My role is new, I’ve never actually – this rule has never existed at Consciousness Hacking until this year but I just finished writing the doc for how to start a community in your city.

[0:14:43.5] DA: Yeah, I think we’ve written it and rewritten it and thrown it away and started over and I think I just wrote one again recently actually.

[0:14:52.1] KH: Really?

[0:14:52.8] DA: Well, it always changes, right? Because as you say, wow, we’re having all these good results from Facebook. The whole dynamics of how you build it now change and this is how you should react on Facebook. Now, something else pops up or people are spending time here or they’re really liking these topics and the content.

I don’t know, one of the beautiful things about these kinds of monthly events is every month is like a new product launch and you can tweak and test and try new things, right? That document of how to build a community, I would guess, every day or every week, maybe every month is more measurable that you actually have things that you're improving on and changing and sort of your own mindset of how to do it is improving and tweaking is every month.

[0:15:39.2] KH: Yeah, that actually just reminds me of us releasing a new format called CHUG, consciousness hacking user group, which is people getting together, facilitated, deep discussion and instead of writing out what it is, we said, here’s the link, email, kim@prohack.life to get the most updated version, because if we keep reiterating on it.

[0:15:59.3] DA: Where do you think the mindfulness trend is going in the next few years?

[0:16:03.6] KH: I think it’s only expanding. I mean, mindfulness is happening in companies all over. In fact, mindfulness is like a very catchy word that I don’t use a lot of the time. I think it’s just being more aware. Being more aware of where I am of where others are, of how we relate to each other, I think that’s absolutely going to be growing and at the same time, I live in San Francisco and something I heard form one of the Seattle chapter leaders is that the future is here but not yet evenly distributed.

I am hoping that it’s going to really grow beyond places like San Francisco and Seattle and large cities but I think it might take time.

[0:16:45.7] DA: Yeah, I love that. That’s a beautiful way to phrase it. Consciousness Hacking over the next few years, what happens to it and then I think just would love to get your sort of opinion on C2C types of marketing or communities, like do you see this is a trend that’s continuing, are we at our apex, are we – have we already peaked?

How do you see it for your own community and just the trend in general?

[0:17:10.6] KH: I think the trend is going up. Recently, I saw that Hack Mental Health just came out and I had dinner with the founders at my house a few weeks ago and things mental health and consciousness and mindfulness related are absolutely taking off.

It’s something that we haven’t paid a lot of attention to and I think Mikey was really onto something when he started this eight years ago, seven years ago. Really, he was doing it for himself but not a lot of people want that for themselves. I do believe that this is going to take off.

[0:17:41.0] DA: Finally, as we wrap up, I’d love to just hear what communities inspire you. Are there any communities that you look at and you say wow, that’s – I love what they’re doing or that’s they're sort of cutting edge or they could be even very small but just doing something that you think is really interesting and really community driven?

[0:18:00.7] KH: I already told you this earlier Derek but I am inspired by Startup Grind and see that side of grind is very similar to Consciousness Hacking but way ahead and as I told you earlier, I remember you at 50 cities and now what are you guys now?

[0:18:15.5] DA: Yeah, 650.

[0:18:17.1] KH: 650. My goodness.

[0:18:19.5] DA: Not a paid advertising but just continue on. This line of thinking is good to get on tape. Just keep saying whatever nice things you want to about Startup Grind, that’s great.

[0:18:29.2] KH: Yeah, I’ve been to your conference many years in a row and it keeps growing. Another community that I recently heard of is Sidewalk Talk and we’re partnering with them on Sunday to listen to strangers speak on the sidewalk of San Francisco but this was started by a psychotherapist named Tracy Ruble and she is really an inspiring character for me as well and she felt that the root of mental health was from people not being heard and seen.

She set up all these chairs on the sidewalks of San Francisco with 26 other therapists, she got all her therapist friends to come up with the curriculum and training on how to listen to people and make them feel heard.

Also, to connect to people without absorbing their energy which sometimes is difficult for people, especially if they’re empathetic. And so she trains people to go out and listen and help people feel heard. I think that’s like – that kind of connection I feel like is such an important first step to help with mental health.

That’s not a community that I’ve been deeply a part of but after seeing it, they’re in about 140 cities now. I would love to be a part of that and see more of that and see where that goes.

[0:19:35.2] DA: Yeah, I think you know, as you talk – as you mentioned, hey, I remember when you were in 50 cities, I remember sitting in a room with someone many years ago and they said, ”How are we going to get the 500 cities?” And I remember laughing and thinking, ”I just don’t even know how that’s possible. I mean, I’ve just done the last hundred. I can’t imagine, I don’t even know if there’s enough places it be in 500 cities.”

Then, as yo sort of get bigger and bigger and as you hit the next milestones and then you realize, you see others doing it too. I mean, we see Duolingo and you know, Salesforce or Google or other people who are in thousands of cities and we think, well, if they can do it, why can’t you know, why can’t somebody like Consciousness Hacking or why can't Startup Grind do it.

If the people want it, then let’s do it wherever they are. You know, you just built something and are a part of something that seems to have this very unnatural or very natural, I should say, momentum. Organic momentum that people say, ”Hey, we need this, we want this.” And that to me is the core of all to great communities, they all have that kind of momentum and drive that the users and the world says we must have this, you must give this to us and so, it’s real exciting to see.

[0:20:46.9] KH: Out of curiosity, Derek, is that what happened with Startup Grind? People are like, how can we bring sort of grind to our city and that’s why you expanded?

[0:20:54.8] DA: Exactly. Yeah, it never even occurred to me that we should do it in other places and then someone just walked up to me after an event and said, ”We need this in LA.” And I said, ”Well you must have 20 of these.” And he said, No, we don’t. Well, we have events but we don’t have communities with these values and the brand and what you’re doing, it’s really special. And I said, I don’t think you go to – I don’t think you really know what’s going on in LA.

It turned out I was wrong like most of the times in my life that I think I have good insight. Then we did it and then that really went from city to city just like that.

[0:21:29.2] KH: What’s most exciting for you about community these days? And now that you’ve talked to so many people who are in community, what’s most exciting?

[0:21:37.7] DA: You can’t turn the interview on me. This isn’t – I’m interviewing you. You can’t ask me – this is unfair. Now I’m dominating this podcast, which I’m dominating anyways because I do all the interviews but look, I think this thing that was just sort of this organic trend that we started and Mikey, you know — I think it’s interesting around about the same time, a whole lot of these things started to kind of pop up.

You know, companies too, they started to create these kinds of things. A lot of them, around about the same time. This is the same sort of kind of people starting them as well, whether it’s from nothing or whether it’s inside of an organization or – I think it’s remarkable to me to see that this sort of promise of digital relationships and friendships that we were all sold over the last 20 years of the internet, it’s turned out that it’s not all cracked up to be.

There is something about getting together in person with human beings that creates all sorts of positive things, whether that’s to your point of Sidewalk Talk, whether it’s improving mental health which would be – is incredible, whether it’s improving your social or economic standing or whether it’s tying you into a deeper conscious state.

There’s all these positive things. Whether it’s helping your startup, you know, that seems like the most trivial of all of those other things. But any of these things that the ability for human beings to interact together, get in person together can solve a lot of problems that we’re spending a lot of money and spending a lot of time, eating a lot of drugs to we think that’s going to solve it but actually, we just need to talk more. I think it’s exciting to see that in so many different applications.

[0:23:24.7] KH: It’s exciting to see it happen outside of San Francisco. I know, I love San Francisco and San Francisco is the place that needs least we’re so saturated with events and it’s really exciting to see places that don’t have places to meetup, start to pop up with events as well. Gatherings for humans.

[0:23:40.6] DA: Absolutely. I think human beings are more and I’d love to get your take on this, we’re much more similar than we are different and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. You know, ultimately, people I think of their most fundamental level are just trying to take care of their kids and their families and themselves and that’s really the same across all geographic boundaries or barriers, it comes down to how do I take care of my kids.

If you, sort of, at that fundamental level and sort of looking people in that way then you know, you’ll find that you have much more in common with whether someone’s in Romala, Palestine or Tel Aviv, Israel or Rwanda or Somalia or Chongqing, China, we’re all pretty much the same at the most basic level.

[0:24:29.2] KH: Yeah.

[0:24:30.7] DA: Thank you so much for listening, if you like the show, please leave a review wherever you listen to this. If you like to see more about how to create your own event community. Go to bevylabs.com/pod


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