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From its inception, the idea of a mastermind has been linked to the rich and powerful. Author Napoleon Hill in his 1937 book Think and Grow Rich deemed it the “ninth step toward riches” — one leveraged by successful men including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
Hill considerably oversimplifies the path to success and riches, but he was onto something with the idea of a mastermind group, which is simply a group of like-minded individuals who come together to share knowledge and experience.
Many mastermind groups today are run like expensive and exclusive clubs that you have to be well-connected to access or pay monthly fees to participate in. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Solopreneurs, start-up founders, small business owners and artist-entrepreneurs, too, can benefit from a mastermind by setting one up themselves — and it doesn’t cost a dime.
For over four years, I’ve been part of such a group—we call ours the Mastermind Failure Club, because it ties together the concepts of the mastermind with a failure club, meaning that in addition to the group support dynamic, we aim for goals so ambitious that failure seems assured. We meet once a week and split up the meeting, so each person has time to brainstorm ideas, get feedback, problem solve and share progress.
The benefits of a mastermind group
The concept of a mastermind is that two minds are better than one, five better than two. That said, anyone who has been to a heated town hall meeting also knows that one hundred are often not better than five.
So, a mastermind group typically brings together about five to seven people — enough to leverage a range of experience and knowledge while keeping the group small enough to maintain a sense of common purpose and order. Your mastermind group can help you:
1. Improve your decision-making
As an entrepreneur, you can feel as if you’re making decisions in a void. Sure, you can do your own market research, but what about finding someone to pick apart your website or examine your new pricing structure or offer thoughts on a tense interaction with a client? Your mastermind group provides a space for feedback on whatever pressing issue you have to contend with at that moment.
2. Carve out a brave space
The mastermind group is not exactly a safe space — it’s a brave space. This is where you can confidentially articulate your wildest dreams for you and your business so you can set out to achieve them.
It’s a space that requires you to come ready to expose your own vulnerabilities, setbacks, and failures. Only then can you learn and pivot to find the best path forward. Your group provides you the brave space to do just that.
3. Hold yourself accountable
A fundamental feature of a mastermind group is the way that it offers continued accountability among members. You articulate clear goals to the group, and then they are there to remind you to stick with those goals.
Months later, they might help you remember the promises you made to yourself or the goals you set out to achieve. And those external reminders can sometimes make all the difference.
Assemble a group of peer advocates
Your mastermind group not only pushes you to ask the hard questions or stay on track, but it also offers you a group of individuals who are rooting for you — and you do the same for them. And who doesn’t need that?
Over time, these groups can become incredibly tight-knit, and you become each other’s biggest fans. That can mean anything from an encouraging word to a new connection to an unexpected collaboration.
Make time for necessary reflection
As an entrepreneur, it can feel as if you are forging ahead at warp speed, just trying to make it all happen. Time for reflection can seem like a luxury you don’t have time for. But in a mastermind group, reflection is built in. By meeting and sharing over longer periods of time, you will find yourself reflecting back not just on your week, but on your month and year.
Access the insight to grow professionally and personally
The insight that comes from such reflection might just be the most transformative aspect of such groups. With conscious and sustained attention on your business, professional and personal goals, you will likely make some eye-opening discoveries.
In our group alone, people have launched new businesses; shuttered businesses; completely pivoted their sales approaches, client base, and marketing strategies; and set out on new career paths.
A mastermind group is a bit like having your own set of coaches or board of advisors, except that you learn by both getting and giving advice — and by sharing and listening.