Zeus Jones Push-Up Club: Building an Idea From the Inside Out
November 18th | 2015

It’s 2:33pm on a Tuesday and we’re sweating. Physically sweating.

T-shirts are being pulled from bodies before they form a second skin. Eyes surrender to gravitational pull of the Earth. Someone says, “Good job!” to which a few people respond with “Ugh.”Another day, another episode of the Zeus Jones Push-Up Club.

For 2 1/2 years, a motley crew of creatives, producers, strategists, designers and the occasional intern have formed a loose coalition against the mid-afternoon doldrums with a brief push-up regimen.

And while you’d think doing push-ups every day over this period would get stale, it hasn’t. So what’s the secret in our club’s sauce?

We unknowingly have treated Push-Up Club as a modern platform since its inception. AWOOGA! AWOOGA! Believe me, writing that sentence nearly sent my BS detector into DEFCON 2 status. But as I look back at the beginnings of the club to where it’s at today, there are some standout lessons that can be applied to the wide world of stuff we all create.

1) Start with as few rules as possible.

Who really likes being told what to do? Nobody… except perhaps bondage types. That’s because rules produce reactions in people — the most common of which can be summarized with a “Yeah…not for me.” Push-Up Club was built with nearly zero emphasis on rules. It usually takes place at 2:15pm in our Mud Room, but beyond that it is pretty much held to one standard: do some push-ups until you don’t want to anymore. Without strict guidelines, it was accessible to anyone. And because it was accessible, it grew in popularity from one weirdo to 10+ weirdos very quickly.

2) Invite change.

As our numbers increased, so did the ideas as to what Push-Up Club could be. “Maybe we should do some yoga postures too?” “What if we replaced push-ups with wall sits?” “Kegels. Whaddya y’all think?” We decided as a group that the club should continue revolving around push-up exercises for simplicity but that was about it. Today, Push-Up Club incorporates some gameplay mechanics featuring a deck of playing cards as well as a touch of the random. (I.e. if you draw the Queen of Spades, your pectorals are gonna be in a hurt locker.)* There’s plenty of room for it to continue evolving — and that’s what makes us keep at it.

3) Welcome bystanders/lurkers/detractors.

Sometimes, it’s the indirect participants that can actually provide the most insight into your product. From the onset, Push-Up Club was besieged with questions that centered on, “So why are you doing this?” “Because we can” was the acceptable answer at first. But the questions kept coming, which meant we had to come up with better answers. Eventually, we came up with a consistent way of talking about the Club that not only galvanized the participants but also gave us a way of talking about it to strangers (some might even call it branding) — which also helped convinced some wallflowers to join in on the action.

Essentially, all of these points ladder up to one maxim:

You can make whatever you want. But ultimately, it’s the owners of and participants in your product or service that make it into what it actually is.

So play loose, listen and learn along the way, and you might create a culture around your idea.

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