How to Start a Mastermind (and why it’s valuable to do so)
“No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.” — Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your professional development is form a mastermind.
A mastermind is a group of people in a similar place in life who are all striving for similar goals. It’s a group dedicated to self-betterment, personal growth, and the pursuit of individual goals. Four to five members is ideal — less, and you lose the dynamic range of insight and perspective; more, and you lose the powerful bonds of personal connection. A mastermind meets regularly — ideally, weekly — and each member takes a turn sharing their failures and victories for the week, requests help with their struggles, and sets goals for moving forward.
A successful mastermind demands the honesty and respect of all its members. It raises the bar for achievement and realized potential. A mastermind challenges you to grow bigger, reach farther, achieve better. It holds you accountable when you set goals, helps you see your strengths, workshops your weaknesses, supports you when you struggle, and celebrates with you when you are victorious.
With the combined power and energy of multiple people all striving for similar goals, a mastermind can achieve wonders.
The benefits of having a mastermind:
1. Support. When you’re weak and you’re struggling, your mastermind will hold you up. When you’re operating from a place of strength, your mastermind will keep you on track and moving towards your goals. There’s a deep sense of power that comes with the knowledge that you aren’t doing this thing alone. There are others journeying with you every step of the way.
2. Critique. A large part of a mastermind’s purpose is offering feedback. What are you doing well? What could you be doing better? What are specific places you can be taking steps to improve? The group as a whole does a deep-dive analysis into all of these questions. Because the group is built on a deep-seated sense of respect and honesty, this feedback will always be of high quality and intended to catalyze growth.
3. Accountability. Part of your meetings will entail setting goals. Setting goals is easy, but maintaining them alone is hard— there’s a lot of effort expended just in keeping yourself on track. External accountability is key, and a mastermind offers that — along with check-ins, updates, and fine-tuning at every meeting.
4. Insight. One of the beauties of a mastermind is the deep level of knowledge and understanding each member has of the others. Each member knows exactly where you’re at and where you’re going, and can offer insight and feedback accordingly. Other people often see things about ourselves that we miss. Having that steady stream of feedback is invaluable.
5. Energy. The combined energy of a group of people all actively striving towards goals is infectious. It builds off of itself — and with that building energy comes building momentum, which carries all participants forward.
In Practice: My mastermind is one of the most important parts of my week. The group has helped hone my focus and recenter my energy. They’ve pushed me to set more ambitious goals, critiqued my work, helped me through difficult conversations with employers and clients, pointed out strengths and weaknesses I was too close to myself to see — and I’ve gained equal value by watching each of the other members go through the same process. Each time we meet there’s a rush of energy and excitement, and a bringing of our lives back into focus. Our meetings are like whetting our blades at the onset of every week before going back into battle.
What makes a strong mastermind?
1. Each member must be equally driven and committed. Goals are personal and there is no right and wrong, but each member of a mastermind must have relatable goals — not in specifics, but in magnitude. If I’m trying to build a company and you’re trying to do fifty pushups every day, those are probably incompatible goals. But if I’m trying to build a company and you’re trying to become a top-grossing sales rep at your startup, those goals, while different in specifics, are of equal magnitude.
2. Each member must have something to offer and something to gain. As stated above, specific pursuits need not be the same, but each member must have insight and value to offer to every other member in the group.
3. Each member must be committed and reliable — committed to attending every meeting they can, committed to personal growth, committed to providing as much value as possible, committed to fight relentlessly for their fellow members. Each individual must know without a doubt that they can rely on every other member to give everything they’ve got.
4. There must be rapport. If the members don’t connect, deep bonds will not form, people won’t understand each other at a deep level, and the full potential of a mastermind cannot be reached.
In Practice: My mastermind has a diverse range of members: a YouTuber, a startup sales rep, an entrepreneur/CEO building a media company, and myself, focusing on writing, videography, and coaching. At surface level our goals seem very different, but in terms of magnitude our ambitions are at a similar level — we’re all growing at the same rate and expecting the same caliber of work from ourselves. And even though our specific fields are different, our knowledge (and therefore insights) are complementary. We all gain a deep level of value — and with that comes a deep level of commitment to what we’re building, both independently and within our collective mastermind.
So how does it work?
A key element in a mastermind is the regularity of meetings. Meeting frequency and length can vary — weekly hour-long meetings are common. Longer biweekly or monthly meetings are also an option. My mastermind meets weekly for 2–3 hours (on the long side, but we usually have a lot to talk about).
In the meeting, each member takes a turn giving an update of their week, and then breaks that update down in an analysis — what went well, what went wrong, where they succeeded and where they failed, what they could’ve done better, what they struggled with. The group then discusses that information — workshops problems, gives advice, offers insights. The length of this session varies — if someone has a routine update, it can be covered in 10–15 minutes; if someone has something they’re struggling with and want to workshop, the conversation can last for a more indefinite period of time — sometimes upwards of 45 minutes or an hour. When everything has been resolved, each member closes their turn by setting goals for the week to come.
Things to keep in mind when starting a mastermind:
1. Identify exactly what it is you’re looking for. What do you want to gain from a mastermind? What specific value do you want to have? What sort of people do you want to be surrounding yourself with? Remember the adage that you are the sum of the five people you’re closest to — what do you want to be growing towards?
2. Set a purpose for your mastermind. The original purpose of mine was for people interested in entrepreneurship and sales. It’s a very broad criteria, and yet even that level of focus helps to attract people who have similar and complementary objectives.
3. When it comes to rapport, trust your gut. Some people hit it off immediately, and others don’t mesh. It’s important in a mastermind to have people who complement each other and will become close, so in this sense also choose your members wisely.
4. Pay attention to people’s strengths. Soft skills are just as important as the hard skills in forming a mastermind group. What strengths will people bring to the group as an entity itself, and what insights will they be able to offer into other member’s lives?
5. Diversity is a good thing. Strive for similarity in goals, but complement in skills. Part of my mastermind’s strength is in the fact that we all have different skillsets. The business owner’s employee management skills are valuable when the rest of us want to hire employees; my coaching skills are good for drawing out the deeper levels in people’s issues. When we have something we need to sell our sales rep can help us workshop a strategy, and when we need audio gear for a project our YouTuber can walk us through the whole process.
A mastermind is a powerful catalyst for growth, and one of the most beneficial things you can add into your life.
“No mind is complete by itself. It needs contact and association with other minds to grow and expand.” — Napoleon Hill