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The term ‘mastermind group’ is being thrown around a lot in the personal development and self-help spheres these days, but what exactly are they, do they work, and how could you set up your own group?

What’s a Mastermind Group?

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Picture a small group of people, if you will. Each has differing skill sets, weaknesses, strengths, and passions. This group meet regularly either in-person, or online (these days, often via Google Hangouts or Skype) not in order to simply ‘network’, but to genuinely help each other solve problems. They meet to spur each other on to become better than they were before, in whichever area of life or work they desire.

The familiarity that comes from regularly ‘bearing all’ (behave!) to each person in the mastermind group often leads to lasting friendships, rapid progress in even the most personal of problems, plus a sense of comradery from a group of people you feel a real kinship with. It’s this kind of comradery that can be a very welcome break to freelancers or to those who feel they can’t (for whatever reason) gain the same type of support from other friends and family.

Why Do Mastermind Groups Work?

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If you’re thinking that mastermind groups are some new-age wishy-washy self-help tool, think again. Arguably the most famous mastermind group (despite the term being coined probably much later) were The Inklings (1930’s) whose lowly members included none other than C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, and Owen Barfield. These chaps used to regularly get together in their local pub (The Eagle and Child) in Oxford, UK. This regular drinking session (ahem, mastermind group) gave these writers the support and encouragement needed to create some of the greatest literary pieces ever written.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Franklin Roosevelt held meetings (which he called ‘Brain Trusts’) with close advisors, which have been credited with helping to bring the US out of the Great Depression.

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When we deconstruct why these get-togethers (along with countless others past and present) may have lead to such impressive results, two primary points jump out.

#1. Public Accountability

It’s been shown that by sharing your goals openly (whether on Twitter, on goal sharing sites like LifeTick, on your blog, in the middle of a keynote speech, or just over a beer with your friends) your chances of success increase dramatically. You can get a lot done with peer pressure PeerPressure For Goals Helps You Get Things Done With A Little Help From Your Friends [iOS] PeerPressure For Goals Helps You Get Things Done With A Little Help From Your Friends [iOS] Setting goals is great, but accomplishing them is the real test we all face. This time of year, everyone is setting New Year's resolutions, but let's be realistic, many people will never actually pull off... Read More .

A mastermind group is the perfect staging ground for fostering open forums where you, as a member of this closely-knit group, can confess, and commit yourself to, even the most embarrassing or lofty of ambitions. Other members can hold you accountable, call you out, give advice, and encourage you to keep on target.

Who knows, if Tolkien hadn’t told his gang about his novel-in-the-works, he may not have been bugged over beverages by T.S. Lewis- “Tolkien old boy, how’s that fantasy world coming along?’- then The Lord of The Rings may never have seen the light of day.

#2. The Right People

What if your group of friends at home are happy to simply watch the football, or have a laugh over some gossip or other, yet shy away when it comes to more serious discussions about dreams, goals and ambitions?

There are a huge number of people who simply don’t have a network to comfortably open up to about serious issues. By creating a mastermind group, you bypass this problem and talk in confidence about what you’re working on. In turn, these are people who’re happy to give their own, unique input into your problems and ideas (and vice versa).

Take Ernest Hemingway, for example. By making close connections with other members of The Lost Generation in Paris (notably Gertrude Stein), he received plentiful and valuable feedback about his writing while being introduced to many contacts who helped to further his career. This happened in large part simply by surrounding himself with the ‘right’ kind of people.

In other words, by holding yourself publicly accountable to the right kind of people (i.e. a mastermind group) leads to plenty of secondary benefits, like —

  • Massively widening your network.
  • Learning about a wide array of topics from people you trust.
  • Receiving advice and input from multiple perspectives about your next course of action.
  • A regular milestone where you’re required to report on your progress (or lack thereof).
  • A great group of people who you’d love to collaborate with.
  • The chance to think bigger than you dared to before.

Setting Up Your Own Mastermind Group

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If you’re swayed, and believe a mastermind group could help you to more effectively reach your goals and ambitions, here are some tips for starting your own.

Have a Common Ground

Your mastermind group should have a raison d’etre, a focus. If you have people all trying to accomplish entirely different things in entirely different fields, then building that comradery and relevant network will be difficult.

If you’re an entrepreneur, consider forming a mastermind group with other entrepreneurs (maybe each in a different industry) who’re all at a similar level. This means you will all be able to help each other out equally. If there’s one expert and several beginners, you’ll simply have a mentor, rather than a group. If you have a couple of writers on board, bring some other complimentary members to the group such as editors, publishers etc.

Pick Your Members Carefully

Related to the point above, make sure you only invite people you know will both commit to regularly showing up, as well as who understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve with your mastermind group. It’s best to not invite complete strangers, but inviting people you know online allows you to easily overcome any geographical boundaries.

Keep it Regular

Whichever schedule you choose (weekly, monthly etc), make sure you stick to it. Each member of the group needs to know (confidently) when and where the meetups will be happening. This helps you to set goals, targets and deadlines to hold you accountable (for example, “I’ll have x done by the next mastermind group”). Along a similar note, keep the way you run mastermind groups consistent.

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If Google Hangouts or Skype conference calls work for everyone, go with that. You also try alternatives like Join.me (read our Join.me review Join.me: The Simplest Way to Have a Web Conference Call Between Computers & Mobile Devices Join.me: The Simplest Way to Have a Web Conference Call Between Computers & Mobile Devices Your friend has called. They have a problem with their computer and are asking for your expertise. You want to help, but everything would be so much easier if you could see what's on the... Read More ).

Keep Your Mastermind Group Small

Generally 4-8 people is plenty. Everyone should be able to quickly get to know each other and learn what everyone in the group is working on. The more people involved, the harder it will be to get everyone together regularly. If one member leaves, try to find someone else to replace them to help maintain the group dynamics.

Structure Your Meetings

It’s likely your time with your mastermind group will be very limited. Often meetings last an hour or less, so make sure you have an agenda or system in place so everyone involved can get as much value as possible out of your time together. You want to remind people about what they promised to do during the last meeting, and hold them accountable.

Find out what people are struggling with, and try to help. Routinely ask people what interesting things they’ve learned since you last met up. Make sure everyone commits to taking action before the next meeting. If you use Evernote, check out these tips on how to use the platform to get the most of our your meetings How To Use Evernote To Manage Your Meetings How To Use Evernote To Manage Your Meetings Did you know that the latest tools and features in Evernote make it a very useful application for managing meetings? Read More .

Put Some Risks/Rewards in Place

If there’s an especially important deadline one of your team members needs to meet, or if they’ve been putting something off for too long, consider using the carrot or stick to push them to act. If they haven’t done x by the next meeting, have them agree to give $100 to a charity of your choice, or publish a video of them singing along to Justin Bieber on YouTube for ultimate humiliation.

Overall, if you don’t already have a group of friends in place who’ll hold you accountable, and who’ll spur you on to achieve your goals, mastermind groups are an option definitely worth exploring to give you that extra push that you may well be lacking.

What do you think?

Could a mastermind group help you achieve more goals? If you’re a member of a mastermind group already, do you have any other tips to share?

Image Credit: The Eagle and Child by Ryan Baumann: Via Flickr; Connection via Shutterstock

  1. Rob
    October 21, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Thanks Renee! Is it something you think you'd try out of you could find the right people?

  2. Renee
    October 20, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I've never actually heard of mastermind groups before, but it sounds so brilliant that I'm amazed it's not brought up more often. Think about what could be achieved if more people knew about this!

  3. Matthew H
    September 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Mastermind groups sound interesting! Great writeup Rob!

    • Rob N
      September 29, 2014 at 6:36 am

      Cheers, Matt!!

  4. Rob N
    September 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks James! Was your mastermind group focused on a specific industry, or quite general?

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