Masterminds

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily. - Zig Ziglar

I was researching slash writing about the reasons why we keep delaying implementation of crucial changes in our business. What or who impacts the way we make decisions? Are there decision-making activities that set the most successful business people apart?

Thinking about that led me to the subject of mastermind groups. This article is about how being part of a group of passionate friends helps me make better business decisions.

Between 2003 and 2009 I was a hermit who barely got out of her office. I remember working fourteen hour days. I became estranged from many good friends because they never got to see me. They did call to grab a cup of coffee, but I rarely went.

As a result, I had no one to learn from but myself. If you’ve been reading my email articles where I often write about my many business mistakes, you know how expensive these lessons can get.

Today I’m a member of a small and unusual mastermind group.

A mastermind group is a small group of people who meet regularly for the purpose of reinforcing personal and professional growth, all while supporting each other.

My group is just me, my boyfriend (who is also a developer on my team), and a close friend of ours, who owns a marketing consultancy.

We meet spontaneously about once a week to talk life, universe, and everything. Because we’re not just friends but also business partners, we end up talking mostly about business.

We never meant to start a mastermind group. We only call it that as a joke, because our meetings are not formal. There was no strict application process. We don’t set meeting agendas, nor do we have a set “mastermind group weekday”. We meet to simply enjoy each other’s presence and to let our stories take us wherever we’re supposed to arrive in our lives. As a result, each of us grows as a (business)person a little each week. The two to four hours we spend together is one of the most motivating things I do all week.

Benefits I get from my mastermind group

Infusion of positive energy. Imagine entering a reality distortion field inside which it is impossible to feel bad about anything. That’s what our mastermind meetups feel like. We feed off each other’s positivity and we take that feeling home.

Sometimes I come to the meetup feeling overwhelmed or perplexed about what lies ahead of me. Seeing my other two masterminds in a cheerful mood makes me want to have a piece of that too. As a result, I have a wonderful time and this contagious positivity often spills over into the next day.

Solving problems and challenges. We often get together to discuss the next important step in our professional lives. Many times we all share the same issue, sometimes it’s just one person’s conundrum. In which direction should we take our businesses? What do I say to a client if this thing happens? Should I accept this opportunity? Is this an opportunity at all, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Sometimes we need to hear a confirmation or an opposite opinion before we feel ready to make a decision.

Personal support. The three of us are now at crossroads in our professional careers. We’re all working on something completely new right now, something that we never tried before. Having support from knowledgeable friends in delicate times helps you keep hope and focus. I’d much rather say: “I succeeded because of the support from my friends” than: “I did this all by myself”. The latter does not sound like much fun. When all things are equal, I always take the choice that includes fun.

Getting out of my own bubble. It’s crucial to let other people’s ways of doing things penetrate our self-inflicted bubbles. Another person’s perspective makes you re-evaluate everything you do.

For example, I’ve always considered myself a true digital citizen. Everything that excites me and that I want to do exists in virtual realms. This way of thinking affects the way I used to approach marketing. Before we formed our mastermind group, I never realized how effective non-digital and non-virtual marketing could be. Mingling with strangers in conferences? Organizing live talks? Sending snail mails? Those things were rarely, if ever, on my horizon. But when you see others succeed with something you once thought was boring or hard or a waste of time, you start looking for other beliefs of yours which are holding you back. You poke that bubble until it bursts.

Learning from other people’s successes and mistakes. At the price of one beer or two teas we share on a typical day, I get to pick another person’s brain for free, and they get to pick mine. Most of our talking consists of sharing stories about how we deal with clients, partners, employees, business colleagues, and events that surround us. What we have learned throughout the week, we share freely. We all have more than a decade of experience in various professional services and it happens very often that we discuss lessons we learned ten, fifteen years ago. Having heard their stories retold in different ways so many times, I feel like their experience becomes mine.

Accountability. We don’t have any rules about keeping each other accountable, and we don’t need any. I said I would write a book and I did. I said I want to start a product business and I’m doing it. Saying those things aloud in a controlled environment, to people who you admire, gives you more push to stick to your plans.

Learning new information. We exchange links, videos, books, tools, strategies and tactics about our businesses. Not one meetup goes by without someone taking home new vital information. Much of this new information makes its way into everything that I publish.

For example, my friend mentioned a video he saw online. In a week, I ended up seeing the video, buying a related book, and integrating the lessons from the book into my mental framework. It was that good.

A safe environment for receiving much needed positive criticism. Not everything we do is optimal. But friends don’t let friends wander around clueless. I trust my masterminds to warn me about my blunders and set me straight.

For example, most friends wouldn’t criticize you over the phone or in an email if they knew they would see you in a few days. But they might say something to you in person, when they feel the time is right to bring it up. That’s the best way to receive and give criticism: in person, kindly. This way criticism is no longer criticism, it’s the kind of support you need.

How to start or join a mastermind group

The best things happen when you’re not trying to make anything happen.

There’s no need to go around telling people “let’s start a mastermind group!”. Most people don’t need another appointment on their calendar. Just go grab a beer with a friend or a couple of them. Let them be the ones who inspire you, who you feel good around, and who are entrepreneurs like you. If your meetup goes well, say: “hey, let’s do this again next week!” and be the one to make the next meetup happen. What you control, happens.

You could meet new people if you go to meetup.com and see where professionals like you meet in your area. Like all public meetups, you’ll meet people who you never want to see again, and a person or two there will catch your attention. I’d exchange Twitter handles with those people, be in contact with them until the next meeting and I’d give them more attention when the next meeting happens. I’d sit right across them and listen to their stories. People who you like are more likely to like you back. It might be a start of a wonderful friendship.

In my experience, anything that gets us out of that office and close to other professionals is a good start. Working too much gets up wrapped up in our own bubble where solutions are limited.

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Creative Commons image license: “Normal” Soap Bubble by Gerwin Sturm

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