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What is a Mastermind? How to Start Your Own Mastermind Group

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Have you ever wanted to start a mastermind group? Masterminds, personal board of directors, advisory boards are all becoming a key part of being a modern professional.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

—African Proverb

I have been a part of 7 different mastermind groups and had varying success with each. I get asked about them these days, so I wanted to overview the different kinds of mastermind groups.

Check out my video below with my friend, entrepreneur, author, and podcaster John Lee Dumas on why EVERY successful person needs a mastermind, and read his book for more great knowledge!

What is a Mastermind Group?

A Mastermind Group is a concept where individuals with similar goals or interests come together to support, collaborate, and advise each other. This group functions as a collective brain trust where members can share their skills, experiences, and resources to help each other overcome challenges and achieve success.

A Mastermind Group is like your personal board of directors for success. It’s a select gathering of minds, typically 3-6 smart, driven professionals, who brainstorm, support, and challenge each other. And hey, don’t limit yourself to in-person meetups. Virtual masterminds? They’re a goldmine, especially for remote teams. A few online sessions can spark profound “aha” moments and breakthroughs.

Why Start a Mastermind Group?

Starting a Mastermind group can transform your professional growth and personal development. In “Who’s Got Your Back,” Keith Ferrazzi highlights its significance as a critical factor in his success. Here are some compelling reasons to consider forming or joining a Mastermind group:

  • Leadership Practice: Masterminds offers a low-pressure environment to develop and hone your leadership skills. Utilizing science-backed leadership strategies within the group can enhance your effectiveness and impact.
  • Staying Ahead of the Competition: Mastermind Groups provide insights into practical strategies and emerging trends, helping you stay ahead in a rapidly changing business environment. The shared experiences and knowledge within the group can be leveraged to make more informed decisions for your company​​.
  • Sharing Challenges and Successes: In a Mastermind Group, you can share your challenges and achievements with people who genuinely understand and respect your journey. Seth Godin highlights the importance of contributing individual “gifts” within a “tribe,” This concept aligns well with the dynamics of a Mastermind Group.
  • Enhanced Accountability: Staying committed to goals can be challenging. A Mastermind group, acting as your board of directors, offers a support system to keep you accountable. Research emphasizes the effectiveness of group motivation over individual incentives, enhancing goal achievement.
  • Improved People Skills: Regular interactions within a Mastermind group can significantly boost your interpersonal skills. Further research1 found that groups with members adept at reading emotions and practicing equal communication contribute more effectively to problem-solving.

I also highly recommend John Lee Dumas’s book, “The Common Path to Uncommon Success: A Roadmap to Financial Freedom and Fulfillment,” which is a highly recommended read. This book offers insights and strategies for leveraging Mastermind groups toward achieving uncommon success and financial freedom.

How to Start Your Own Mastermind Group

I have both joined and started my masterminds. I highly recommend trying both — having two masterminds can be a great way to compare opinions. If you want to craft your experience, I recommend starting your own. Here’s how:

Reverse brainstorm your purpose

What do you want your Mastermind Group to be about? Success? Happiness? Lead generation?

These are good starting points, but let’s dial it down a bit.

To uncover a truly unique purpose for your Mastermind Group, try the “Reverse Brainstorming” technique. Instead of what you want to achieve, begin with what you want to avoid. 

Ask yourself: “What are the common pitfalls or failures in our industry or professional lives that we desperately want to avoid?” When considering common pitfalls or failures in your industry that you want your Mastermind Group to avoid, some examples might include:

  • Falling Behind on Emerging Technologies: Not keeping pace with the latest technological advancements in your field.
  • Burnout: Struggling with work-life balance, leading to decreased productivity and creativity.
  • Ineffective Networking: Building-wide but shallow professional networks without meaningful connections.
  • Stagnation in Career Growth: Hitting a plateau in skill development or career advancement.
  • Echo Chamber Effect: Being surrounded by similar opinions and lacking diverse perspectives.

From this conversation, you can distill a group purpose that is not just about achieving success but also about collectively navigating and overcoming these specific challenges.

This method ensures your Mastermind Group has a focused, unique mission that resonates deeply with its members, making it stand out from more generic networking or support groups.

Bonus: Make it goal-oriented. I have a specific structure for setting goals (watch my goal-setting training here), and your mastermind group should have one, too. Everyone can have their own goals — but there needs to be some goal, so your group can be accountable. A mastermind group without a goal is simply a hangout.

Identify 3-6 professionals

The hardest part is connecting with a good group. 3 to 6 people is the perfect number for a mastermind. Less than 3 people and you need to get more varied opinions. More than 6 people and the group goes on too long (and people don’t get enough time to talk). Here’s how to pick the right people:

  • Related Industries or Same Job, Different Industry. The perfect mastermind group comprises people in associated industries (so everyone has the same lingo but needs to be competitive) or in the same role but in different sectors. For example, my favorite mastermind was with other authors and YouTubers who taught various topics. We have the same business models but need to have competitive audiences.
  • Speaks the Same, Lingo. Think of a few professionals you know who may or may not be in your industry but understand your industry.
  • They are SUPER Smart. There is one requirement for your mastermind members: You MUST respect their opinions. This is the whole point of a mastermind! Who do you think is intelligent, open-minded, or collaborative? Who’s opinion would you respect?

Pro Tip: Not all masterminds have to be in person. Virtual masterminds work great, especially if you are part of a remote team! One amazing study2 of virtual masterminds found that just 2 online mastermind sessions were rated as “very valuable” to a group of health profession educators.

Pro Tip 2: Find like-minded NON-COMPETITIVE members. This is the most important thing to remember if you are thinking about starting a mastermind group. Do NOT group with potential competitors or work colleagues who are up for the same opportunities as you. The entire point of a mastermind is to give open and honest feedback and advice. If you are competitive with someone in ANY way, it makes it impossible to have transparency.

And if you’re dealing with really competitive people in your work, check out this resource to help you:

How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

Do you have a difficult boss? Colleague? Client? Learn how to transform your difficult relationship.

I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.

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Send a compelling email

Consider crafting an engaging and personalized email when reaching out to potential Mastermind Group members. Start with a warm introduction, mentioning how you came across their profile or work.

For instance, “I was impressed by your recent article on [industry topic]” or “Your insights shared at [event name] resonated with me.”

Then, briefly describe your Mastermind Group’s purpose and why you believe they would be a valuable contributor. Include a brief overview of your professional background or highlight key achievements of existing members, such as “As a digital marketing consultant, I’ve helped brands increase their online presence significantly.”

Conclude with a friendly note about looking forward to collaborating and include your contact details and social media links for easy follow-up. Remember, consistency is key, so aim to reach out to a few potential members regularly until your group is complete.

Decide how often your mastermind should meet

Crafting the perfect meeting schedule for your Mastermind Group is like conducting an orchestra; each session should hit just the right note.

For example, a friend conducts bi-weekly Mastermind meetings in the tech industry. The first hour is dedicated to discussing industry trends and breakthroughs, like the latest advancements in artificial intelligence or innovative user interface designs.

This is followed by a 30-minute session where each member presents a specific challenge, such as optimizing user experience in a new app or tackling operational challenges in remote team management. 

Action Step: Start by proposing a monthly meeting. This frequency works well for most. After a couple of sessions, take the group’s pulse.

Are monthly meetings sparking enough progress? Or is there a need to shift gears more frequent or less? The key is to remain flexible and responsive to the group’s dynamics and needs. Remember, the ultimate aim is fostering a space where accountability drives progress, and every meeting leaves members energized and inspired.

Your mastermind should aim for each member to have accountability and progress.

Pro Tip: Give it consistency. It doesn’t matter when, how, or where you meet — as long as there is consistency. Once you decide to meet monthly, make sure you meet every month. The moment you lose consistency, you lose accountability.

Define ground rules

Setting ground rules in your Mastermind Group is crucial – it’s like laying down the foundation for a house where ideas and growth will live. Imagine it as creating a safe space where open support, non-judgment, and positive reinforcement are the norm. Think of confidentiality as a sacred principle, ensuring that whatever is shared in the group stays in the group.

Action Step: Collaboratively create a Google Doc listing these ground rules. This document can act as your group’s compass. Every meeting starts by swiftly revisiting your goals, keeping everyone aligned and focused.

Regular goal check-ins reinforce commitment and foster a sense of collective progress and accountability. Remember, these rules are the pillars that uphold the integrity and effectiveness of your Mastermind Group.

Pick a structure

This is the most crucial part of a mastermind–the structure. I have only been in 1 unproductive mastermind. It was a great group of people, but the problem was there was no structure. At least not one that worked for everyone. After trying many different structures, here is my favorite. Every time you meet, ask the same questions.

The best questions to ask in a mastermind group:

  • What was your biggest success since the last time we met? This allows everyone to share success and get support. We rarely get as much encouragement as we like — this is a great way to start a meeting (and it pushes you to achieve success to brag about!)
  • What is your biggest challenge right now? It is good to dig into at least one specific challenge every meeting. Just meeting and chatting is not a real mastermind.
  • What one goal do you want to achieve before our next meeting? I like to keep goals as specific and achievable as possible. If you have big goals like annual or seasonal goals, you can do them in addition to these mini-goals. This also gives people’ homework’ in between meetings.
  • How can we help you? This is how the mastermind group can get accountability. Remember: Think of these mastermind group members as your board of directors – they are there to help you!

Let it grow

You will find that your group will grow independently—in terms of rules and members. Remember, you do not want it to be too big because you want everyone to feel supported; otherwise, let members dictate the group’s direction.

Let them help keep you motivated. One of the secret benefits of a mastermind group is allowing them to keep you motivated and accountable.

You can develop a mastermind or personal board of directors for yourself and reap the benefits of having such a positive support system in your life.

When is the Right Time to Start Your Mastermind?

The prime moment to launch your own Mastermind Group is when your career journey leaves you craving deeper connections and more stimulating conversations than your current circle provides. It’s for those times when you’re brimming with insights and expertise yet still seeking fresh, challenging perspectives.

Ideal for seasoned professionals, Masterminds are about feeling ready to lead a group, not just participate–a sign you’re prepared to drive engaging discussions and harness collective intelligence.

If you’re at this crossroads, where you can both enrich and be enriched, it’s time to take the initiative and start your Mastermind Group.

What a Mastermind Group is NOT

While great in many ways, a Mastermind Group can often be misunderstood (or not taken seriously). It’s important to clarify what it is not to set the right expectations:

  • Not a Coaching Session: Unlike individual coaching, a Mastermind Group is not centered around one-on-one guidance from a single expert. Instead, it’s a collaborative effort where all members contribute equally.
  • Not a Therapy Group: While supportive and empathetic, Mastermind Groups are not substitutes for professional mental health support. The focus is on professional and personal development rather than emotional healing. If you need emotional or mental help, please check out Mental Health America’s resources.
  • Not a Networking Event: While networking may occur naturally, the primary purpose of a Mastermind Group is not to exchange business cards or garner referrals. The emphasis is on collective growth and problem-solving.
  • Not a Casual Commitment: Participation in a Mastermind Group requires a serious commitment to attending meetings, contributing to discussions, and respecting the group’s confidentiality.
  • Not a Quick-Fix Solution: Joining a Mastermind Group is not about instant solutions to business or personal challenges. It involves ongoing effort, sharing, and collaboration for gradual improvement and success.
  • Not a Lecture Series: Unlike seminars or workshops, a Mastermind Group is an interactive, participatory experience where learning and advice come from peer discussions rather than formal lectures.
  • Not a One-Sided Affair: It’s not a place for individuals to continually take without giving back. Balanced participation and contribution are key to the success of the group.

Bonus: Napoleon Hill and The Origins of Mastermind Groups

Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” is the book where the concept of the Mastermind Group was first introduced. Hill emphasizes the power of collaborative effort and collective brainpower in achieving personal and professional goals. He suggests that when individuals unite in harmony and collaboration to focus on a shared goal, they create a synergy that amplifies their capabilities.

Hill’s philosophy is grounded in the belief that a group of like-minded, achievement-oriented individuals can challenge and motivate each other, leading to more tremendous success than any of them might achieve individually. \He advocates for forming Mastermind Groups as a strategy for individuals to leverage diverse perspectives, experiences, and skills, thereby creating a rich resource for innovative ideas, problem-solving, and motivation.

Remember: Mastermind groups are wonderful ways to ask for support from the people in your life formally. It’s hard to ask for advice. A mastermind makes it easy. If you’re still waiting, take the step! It can turn out to be a life-changing decision. Want more on life-changing things? Check out 10 Life-Changing Steps to Become the Best Version of Yourself.

2 thoughts on “What is a Mastermind? How to Start Your Own Mastermind Group”

  1. Vanessa, thank you so much for sharing about John’s book!! I read it cover to cover on a flight and absolutely LOVED the format, the speed of read, and the great stories. I think that JLD is going to continue to impact a LOT of entrepreneurs with this book and his continued thought leadership. It’s meant a lot to help direct his launch, and it means a lot to see your support because his message deserves to be elevated!

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How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

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I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.

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