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How To Start and Run a Mastermind Group

How To Start and Run a Mastermind Group

Some people like to cooperate with others to achieve their goals, while others prefer to chase their dreams on their own.  I find that involving mutually committed partners in my pursuits is intensely rewarding – especially mastermind groups.  I’ve strengthened my friendships, made measurable progress towards my goals, and continue to grow thanks to the support I’ve received in my mastermind groups over the years.

In this article I’ll lay out what a mastermind group is, the benefits of having a mastermind group, and concrete strategies and actions you can take to start your own mastermind group today.

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What Is A Mastermind Group?

The first place I came across the concept of a mastermind was in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.  In it, Hill describes a mastermind group as:

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The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.

In my experience, my mastermind groups have formed around multiple people striving for a common purpose – from goals as small as college admissions and improving fitness, to as large as your entire life.

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What Are The Benefits of a Mastermind Group?

  • Mutual support. I like to form groups around a specific activity, but even with differing goals you’ll be able to lean on each other for support.  Many times when my progress has slowed on a specific goal, the members of my mastermind are the only people who really understand what has been going on behind the scenes, and give me support in spite of my failed efforts.
  • Differing perspectives.  Hearing the different views my fellow mastermind participants have allows me to see issues I wouldn’t otherwise become aware of – in my life, and in my approach to my goals.  Whether I agree with their assessment or not, it always gives me a better understanding of how I can better improve my approach.
  • Resources.  Everyone in your group will have access to a different skillset and network of people. I’ve often found that when I ask for help in my mastermind groups, these resources help me make progress in ways I never could by myself.
  • Accountability.  My fellow group members hold me accountable to goals I set.  In addition, just knowing that I have a regularly scheduled meeting internally drives me to make progress – because I don’t want to be the only person reporting back that I haven’t made an effort to move my projects forward.

How Do I Start a Mastermind Group?

Starting a mastermind group is deceptively simple in its steps:

  • Pick a Topic.  This may be as narrow as you like, or as broad as you like (such as your entire life).  If you are new to mastermind groups, I would recommend picking one specific aspect of your life to start out with.  Perhaps fitness, your career, school, or some other broad area that you would like improvement with.
  • Pick your Partners.  I’ll discuss this in detail below.  A mastermind group is only as good as the people in it – pick your partners with care.
  • Agree On Ground Rules. I’ll provide some guidance below, but keep in mind the purpose of setting rules is not to stifle anyone – the purpose of the rules is to ensure everyone benefits from the mastermind group. I like to keep a loose set of rules and count on mutual respect of the individuals to keep everyone in line, but you may choose to have strict ground rules if you like.
  • Meet!

Who Should I Invite Into My Mastermind Group?

Two words:  mutual beneficiaries.  Any member in your mastermind group should not only be able to provide you with sound feedback and advice, but should be able to receive some benefit from your feedback as well. Some qualities I look for in a participant include:

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  • Similar Drive and Commitment.  You want everyone in the group to be similarly committed. If one person is striving to compete in a bodybuilding competition, while you’re just trying to cut the sugar out of your diet, you may not be compatible for a mastermind group.
  • Diverse Skill Sets.  For me personally, I am very analytical and approach things from a scientific, engineering perspective.  I enjoy mastermind groups where some people share this perspective, but also gain valuable feedback from people who are perhaps more abstract and in touch with their emotions (as opposed to a “cold” analytical approach).
  • Problem Solvers.  This is my personal preference, I like partners who are active problem solvers.  My purpose in a mastermind group is to get feedback, solutions to my issues and move forward.

I like to limit mastermind groups to between 3 and 5 people.  This keeps meeting short, in depth and on point.  You can experiment with more or less, but I recommend starting with 2 or 3 if this is your first time with a mastermind group.

How Do I Run A Mastermind Group?

  1. Meet Regularly And Precisely. I call this the “nuts and bolts.” Keep to a regularly scheduled time, ensure all members are punctual – and end on time. I typically meet for 60 minutes once a week. You may require more or less time, but ensure that you have adequate time because you want to…
  2. Give each member equal time. We don’t use a timer, but for larger groups that may be necessary.  I keep most of my groups to only three people, and generally we are all aware that we have approximately 20 minutes per person, and try to keep it in that time frame.
  3. Don’t Interrupt. One person at a time, and keep in mind the purpose of the meeting is to give everyone a chance – it’s not always about you. Hold all comments until the person speaking has a chance to speak. We generally do not jump in at all unless someone has a specific question.
  4. Decide if you need an agenda. My mastermind groups typically have a conversation topic (often decided at the meeting prior), but no explicit agenda.  I previously have run groups that had more explicit items on the agenda for accountability and progress reports – try it out and decide what works best for you.
  5. Decide on whether to have a facilitator. In my groups, I start the calls, and act as a very loose facilitator – I point out who is going to go first. That’s it – everyone polices themselves. Perhaps your group will need a facilitator who is more active – keeping people on target for time, and moving you from one items on the agenda to the next.
  6. Capture.  Make sure you capture what happened at each meeting – lessons and triumphs, goals, and items you want to keep each other accountable to.  I like to use Google Documents and Mindmeister.  When I conduct groups online using Skype I use MP3 Skype Recorder (free) to record mp3s of my calls.

Three Question To Kick Start Your Mastermind Group

If you’re ready to start a mastermind group, you may want some very basic structure help you in the beginning.  These three questions never fail to get my mastermind groups off to a great start.  As your group evolves, you’ll come up with your own agenda and questions that you’d like each member to answer – but if you don’t know where to begin, this is a great place to start:

  • What Are You Working On? Nice and broad, and each member can answer with whatever they feel comfortable sharing.
  • What Did You Learn? Very often my groups are focused on similar goals, and lessons learnt by one member benefit all of us.
  • What Do You Need Help With? By having a specific question on the agenda, this helps take pressure of members who want to reach out to the group for help.

Your Thoughts and Strategies?

What do you think?  Have you run a mastermind group before?  Do you have additional tips to share, or perhaps pitfalls to avoid?

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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