You Are Not Alone: How a “Keystone Community” Makes All of Your Goals More Achievable

This has been a great week for our community here.

Thousands of new readers joined our ranks, many of which came from other wonderful websites like Lifehacker, Man vs. Debt, and Nerd Fitness. (Welcome everyone!)

New readers excite me because whenever someone new joins our cause, our entire community gets stronger. And the power of community cannot be overstated: the people you spend time with can lengthen your life (or shorten it), can make your goals seem achievable (or impossible), and can fill you with energy (or suck it out of you).

In other words, the people around you are either your greatest asset or your greatest challenge.

Let’s talk about how the people around you can impact your health, what makes the right type of community so powerful, and how you can surround yourself with the type of people who can help you achieve your goals — no matter what they are.

The Effect of Your Community on Your Health

Your friends and family may be killing you, and that’s no exaggeration.

For example, one study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if your friend becomes obese, then you have a 57% chance of increasing obesity yourself — even if your friend lives hundreds of miles away!

It sounds simple, but if you have close connections with unhealthy people, then it’s more likely that you’ll be unhealthy yourself.

In other words, illness isn’t just something you catch, it’s something you imitate as well.

What Can You Do in a World That is Stressed, Busy, and Unhealthy?

Thankfully, there is good news: healthy lifestyles are contagious too. Here’s a positive example of how our communities play a role in our health:

The YMCA frequently runs surveys to determine why new members join and, more importantly, why current members come back. Time after time, the Y has discovered that what pulls people in are fancy facilities and programs, but the reason people come back is because of the connections they make.

Here’s what one member from Green Bay, Wisconsin said in a survey…

I cherish the relationships I have built with the members and staff of the Y. These daily interactions make me want to be a healthier person and I look forward to my time at the Y each day. It’s more than a place to get physically fit. When you walk into the building, you are immediately greeted by a friendly face and that motivates you to want to come back, because you know people at the Y care.

The power of community holds in almost every case. Health and fitness is just one example. Every goal becomes more achievable when you hang out with people who are already achieving it. The people who have already walked through the fire can help you do the same.

The Solution: Find Your Keystone Community

For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle, I have become convinced, they need to live in an ecosystem, so to speak, that makes it possible.
—Dan Buettner

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the idea of keystone habits, which are little routines that seem to make everything else fall into place. On a larger scale, I believe that you can have a keystone community, which is a small group of people who make it easier to accomplish your goals in life.

A keystone community is the group or team that pushes you forward, makes you better, and is there for you to rely upon when you need them. These are the type of people who make change easier. A keystone community is filled with the type of people who make your life “click.”

This is exactly what we are working to build here — a community that makes it easier for you to do work you love and contribute something of value to the world, explore life with curiosity, form healthy relationships, and, of course, forge a strong body and live a fiercely physical life.

For my part, I try to practice what I preach by being an entrepreneur and a writer (doing work I love and contributing something of value), a weightlifter (living a physical life), and a travel photographer (exploring with curiosity).

How We are Becoming a Keystone Community

Even though our movement is barely in it’s infancy (this blog is only 8 weeks old), we already have hundreds of members and we’re showing strong signs of becoming a keystone community.

For example, dozens of our new members left comments this week — mostly on this article and this one. And while I appreciated all of them, there were two comments in particular that caught my attention.

First, a reader named Liz said:

It is SO refreshing to read such wonderful wisdom from someone who actually admits that they are living and working with the same hurdles as the rest of us. You did not come out of the gate saying that you have the “quick way” or the “secret to success”. Thanks for your honesty and humbleness. So happy I found your blog and I look forward to reading more!

It’s strange, but I can’t tell you how happy I am that Liz doesn’t think I’m anything special. She couldn’t be more right: I’m struggling with the same things as everyone else — how to become a better leader, how to overcome uncertainty and take action, how to become more consistent and hold myself accountable.

But Liz’s comment also hints at another idea, which I think is far more important…

This is a shared vision. Our community is focused on living a healthy life and becoming better, and that’s a journey that we are walking together.

Most of the important things in life aren’t about any one person. Our community isn’t “The James Clear Show.” I don’t care about this being a famous website, I just want it to be a good one. I’m simply on a quest to get the best information for living a healthy life and making an impact into the hands of very smart people (i.e. you) and letting you run with it.

This community isn’t mine, it’s ours. Success unshared is failure.

People Are Waiting to Help You

Earlier this week, a woman named Lisa left a comment talking about how she is working on becoming a better guitar player, but has been struggling recently.

Not long after, another member of our community named Aaron read about Lisa’s situation and dropped this knowledge bomb:


I’d just like to offer my 2 cents on your desire to become a better guitar player. As a beginner (I’ve been playing a little over 10 years) I found my best progress happened when I set aside 20 to 30 minutes of actual practice time. By that I mean taking a scale or a chord or a chord progression or a theoretic concept (whatever it is you are working on) and working on that and only that without distraction. After your practice time you can go noodle around and play songs! But I found that focusing on one thing at a time can lead to much greater results.

Responses like Aaron’s are the mark of a strong community. When the members of a movement start to help each other out, that’s when you know you have a good group.

More importantly, this should be a message to you: if you have the guts to speak up, be vulnerable, and tell the world what you care about (as Lisa did), then you’ll quickly find that the leaders of our community (like Aaron) are willing and ready to help you.

You can rest assured that I’ve always got your back (I try to respond to every comment) and I’m happy to help however I can, but contributions like Aaron’s are much more important than mine could ever be because the collective power of our community is more than any one person could ever hope to provide.

Will You Join Us?

Know this: this community is here for you if you want it.

It’s just the very beginning right now and I can’t say for sure what this will become, but something is happening. We are becoming a team that is committed to becoming better, helping each other take the next step, and living a healthy life. We’re walking the slow march towards greatness together and I’d love nothing more than for you to join us.

Even if you’re a lone soldier in real life, you’ve got a whole army behind you here. I’ve got your back, readers like Aaron have your back, and we have thousands of readers who are paying attention.

If you haven’t already, then take a moment to join us by clicking here and signing up for our free newsletter. I couldn’t be more excited to have you here.


  1. People helping people, that’s what life is about. This community is already starting to make a difference and I see only great things ahead. Keep it up James.

  2. Last year was a year of changes for me one of which involved moving away from the place were I found the best group of friends ever… after reading this post I guess they were my “keystone community.” It was sad but instead of walking around with a sad face I decided that it can happen again because now I know the great feeling of being surrounded by positive people and I naturally gravitate to that.

    Since I moved about a year ago I have found great online communities (such as nerd fitness and this one!!) and I have made great improvements towards my fitness and financial goals. I am looking forward to be part of this movement :D

    • Josie — I know exactly what you mean. Once you know what it feels like to have a community (group, team, friendship, etc.) that provides that type of support and fulfillment, you’re always looking for that.

      Even if it’s just in a small way, I hope I can offer some of that here. It’s great to have you reading.

  3. I, like Josie, moved away from a great community in the last year. I moved to a new city so I could get married and be with my wife while she finishes her education. It’s a struggle trying to figure things out in a new place without knowing anyone. It has taught me a lot about finding that keystone community. I love what you are trying to do here. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Joel! I just moved myself about six months ago, so I totally get it. Hopefully you can find a small sense of community here. I’m looking forward to connecting with you more.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Wow! Thanks James! I am here via the lovable Nerd Fitness (read him, haven’t met him) and I felt an instant “click” as you say with your blogs. I just assumed you’d being tapping away on this for YEARS! Thank you for creating a safe and encouraging space for this community to grow. It feels big, but with a small caring mindset. I’ve just got back into my Paleo eating, after being with family back in NZ for two weeks. I couldn’t help myself while “home” throwing out a bunch of processed goods, and showed mum how to make healthier alternatives. My dad now cooks only with coconut oil, mum has cut back on sugar and lost 2kg! Why be the “pushy daughter”? For purely selfish reasons…I want them around as long as possible :) I can’t wait for more of your blogs, James. All the very best in health xxx TP

    • Tanya — congrats on living healthy and getting your family to join in. That’s great news for all of you. (Related note: I’d love to visit New Zealand in the near future. As a travel photographer, it’s like a gold mine.)

      And, of course, I’m glad you’re enjoying our blog and community here. I’m looking forward to connecting more. Feel free to leave a comment anytime. :)

  5. Happy to see the community is growing so fast, a remarkable work from your side James!

    For me, community is about sharing and celebrating our successes and having a place to “retreat” on times, when everything goes wrong.

    And indeed, I absolutely agree, that having the right people in our corner, can make all the difference in the world.

    I’ve read or seen somewhere (for the life of me, can’t remember where or how), that no major project was accomplished by one person. Definitely, something to think about.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Anything significant is always achieved as a team … if for no other reason than simply that humans are meant to share connection. I’m happy to have you here, Darius. Thanks for commenting so often. It’s always nice to see you contribute.

  6. I couldn’t agree more! I am working on cultivating 12 new habits, starting one each month and piling habit upon habit. I started a blog more of less to track my progress and keep me accountable to something other than myself. And so far that’s been working.

    But what I’ve also discovered through this blog, is a really wonderful, inspiring and motivating community of like–minded individuals.

    People are so awesome.

    • “People are so awesome.” I couldn’t agree more.

      Your habit challenge is awesome, too. It’s going to be fun to follow your progress. Make sure you stop back and let us know how your habits are going (and if we can help in any way).

      Thanks for being part of our community, Mary Kathryn!

  7. I have re-read this particular post several times because it struck me in a good way, and I didn’t want to comment without some reflection. Over the years, I have read a ton of material on self-improvement, much of some value, a small percentage either not applicable or potentially harmful. Your idea that it is the process that results in growth, not the endpoint is very refreshing, liberating, even. This I will take to heart, and I look forward to being a part of this community. Thanks again!

    • Mack — first, thanks for reading. And more importantly, welcome to our community! I couldn’t be happier to have you here and I think you’ll find a wide range of supportive people who care about the same things you care about. It’s awesome to have you join our ranks.

      In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep the good stuff coming your way.

  8. Hi James – it is wonderful to be part of such a supportive, positive community! I believe that those who are on a similar path and seeking similar things are drawn together – and as a result your keystone community becomes a ‘collective consciousness’ in a way – you can throw out a question or plea to this community and there will always be someone there with an answer. Like attracts like :) I have been through a really hard time over the last few years and now finally feel like life is opening up again in new and inspiring ways. Blogs and communities like this are a big part of that – thank you!

    • It’s awesome to have you here, Lucy! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I can’t wait to share more with you, and I’m sure our community is excited to share with you and support you along the way. :)

  9. So James, I am brand new to this community of like minded people. So far, I love it. But I was thinking about what defines a community and of course, a large part of that is the interaction between members, be it a family, at work, or here. But I’ve noticed that the commentors all comment or respond to your blog’s only. There does not seem to be a lot of interaction between the commentators. I wonder how we could get dialogue going between members on any given blog topic? There have been a few comments from people that I would like to have responded to but by the time I reply, their comment was quite a few comments back so my comment or reply would make no sense. Oh I am also very impressed and how you reply to almost every comment posted. Very cool.

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