A couple of years ago I joined a group. It cost what felt to me at the time like an incredible amount of money. More than I’d spent on anything (including my car) in my life. Granted, my car is a beater, but STILL. It cost in the mid-four-figure range and it was a lot of money to drop.
I thought I was signing for mentorship — in business, in writing — from someone who is super successful doing what I want to do. What I wasn’t expecting though was the deep, life-changing relationship that formed between the twelve of us who’d signed up for this year-long program.
Napoleon Hill defined a mastermind group like this: “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”
Hill believed that putting two or more minds together created an additional, MASTER mind. Something bigger and different from any of the individuals.
If you’ve ever tried to pull together a mastermind group, then you know it’s way harder than it might seem. Keeping everyone active and engaged, figuring out how everyone can help each other without sacrificing their own needs. Figuring out how to have a group without a single leader.
It’s HARD and it takes time and patience. And sometimes everyone gives up before the cohesion happens.
Here are six things that I think will help you develop a mastermind group, if that’s something you’re looking for.
It feels like magic, but it isn’t.
When we made the shift between being a group of people who’d been thrown together by our willingness to pay a mentor and a mastermind group that feels like family it did feel like magic. It literally happened overnight (but after months of NOT happening.)
And the connection was so strong that it, in itself, felt pretty magical.
But the truth is that there isn’t anything magical about it. We stuck it out long enough for trust to build. We were willing to be vulnerable. And we opened ourselves up to being part of something bigger than ourselves.
It takes time.
My group experience started in March 2016. We didn’t really click as a cohesive whole until the second time we met in person, in September.
We had twice monthly mastermind phone calls between April and September, but it still took months for us to really coalesce. There was a definite feeling of stepping up during that second in-person meeting. Then, once that happened, the bond was tighter than I could have imagined.
I came into that second meeting pretty sure that I was going to quit. I went home a few days later feeling like we were going to change the world.
Go all in for a year and then see what happens.
The mentor is the least important person in the group.
I know this probably sounds pretty harsh, but it’s true. The mentor was the least important part of our group.
He was the thing we had in common during the months when we were slowly building up to becoming a bonded group. And he had something to teach us. But, our real bonding (and in many ways, our real work) happened after the official hours of our meet ups were over.
That happened over drinks and in the living room of a house someone rented for the weekend and over 7 a.m. every-other-Saturday phone calls. Our mentor wasn’t there for any of that, and that’s how it should be.
I came very close to having a different group make this leap between individuals connected by a mentor and a cohesive mastermind. We were on fire and had made that leap — which I think is even harder to do when there isn’t an in person meeting involved — but the mentor wouldn’t let go. When we started our own Facebook group, she asked us to take it down and join her larger group of past students. It utterly derailed us. Not only did we not connect with the bigger group, we lost our fledgling connection as well.
If you’re ever in the mentor role, I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember that it isn’t about you or what you want. Let your mentees have the space they need to take the next step without you.
And if you’re in a group you’ve paid to be in (a mentorship group like I joined, a class you’re taking, whatever it is), don’t be afraid to connect with your peers away from the mentor. Hopefully they’ll encourage it, but even if they don’t, do it anyway.
Be willing to be vulnerable.
A mastermind group is NOT the place to try to make everyone else think you’re more comfortable or more successful or more ready to take on the world than you really are.
Community happens when trust happens. Be willing to say the scary things, share the hard things, ask for help. Cry if you need to. Hold up someone else when they’re in the pits of some crisis of faith or conscious or confidence.
Both sides take a certain amount of vulnerability, right? I mean, it’s obvious that being the one who needs support is a vulnerable position. But offering up your time and energy and opening your heart to another person when they’re in need — that’s a kind of vulnerability, too.
Trust the process.
A few years ago, I was a student in a low-residency BFA (bachelor of fine arts) program at Goddard College. The motto there has stuck with me, as I’m sure it has stuck with just about every Goddard student: Trust the process.
It basically means to open yourself up to the hard parts and the parts where it feels like you’re wasting your time and money and the parts where you just want to give it all up and go get a nice nine-to-five even if that means being a Wal-Mart greeter.
Trust that on the other side is something you can’t even fully imagine until you’re there.
A commitment to the group is a commitment to yourself.
I don’t know how else to say this. If you commit to a mastermind group, SHOW UP. Even if you don’t really want to. Even if you’re doubting the whole fucking thing. Even if your call is at 7 on Saturday morning and you just don’t want to.
I’m going to be very honest here and say that there have been some 7 a.m. Saturday calls where I didn’t even remember why I’d set my alarm until the call was over. I turned off my alarm and went back to sleep.
And I had to face that breaking that commitment to show up wasn’t only breaking a promise to my friends. It was breaking a promise to myself and my business and this thing that I’ve set out to do.
Community happens when you show up. And when community happens, it’s the most exponentially awesome thing I’ve ever experienced.
It’s been three years. The official mentorship of that group I paid a small fortune to join is long over. It only lasted one year. But I just had a call with the Mastermind of Awesome last Friday. Even when I went dark while I was finishing my MFA, they were there cheering me on. A mastermind group that works, really works.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.