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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 September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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