The “mastermind group.” You may have heard this topic come up while networking, or stumbled upon it while cruising Quora. For me, the mastermind group is one of those phenomena that seems extremely simple and incredibly complicated at the same time.
I mean, there are entire eBooks written on the strategy of creating mastermind groups… but some of the most successful ones in history have formed casually and organically.
I think the best way to look at this practice without reaching the “oh my gosh I need a margarita” level of overwhelmed is to approach it with moderation (which is also a good approach for margaritas), and a healthy appreciation of popular television shows.
Think of some of the most successful TV shows of your generation. For me, shows like Friends, Cheers, Seinfeld, and Law & Order were always on my radar because of their popularity and longevity… whether I actually watched them or not.
While many elements contribute to the success of a TV show, one of the most crucial factors is a strong ensemble cast.
The best ensemble works smoothly together by using individual strengths to further a common cause.
This recipe for success is ideal not only on-screen, but also in a kick-ass mastermind group.
But first: What is a mastermind group?
American author Napoleon Hill is said to be the originator of the mastermind group theory. He believed that a regular meeting of the right combination of human minds could produce highly innovative results.
While Hill may have made it an official theory, he is by no means the father of the practice. There are quite a few examples of successful mastermind groups in history, including the Inklings (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and others) and the Vagabonds (Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Warren G. Harding, Harvey Firestone, and others). Even King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table have been considered a mastermind group. The men involved attributed their great successes to the ability to share and debate ideas with people on the same intellectual and creative levels as themselves.
That’s the part we, the modern-day freelancers, need to focus on when it comes to mastermind groups. The meeting of the minds.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Two heads are better than one,” right? Well, the mastermind group takes that time-honored theory to the next level, and comes with a set of criteria needed for true success.
Find your lovable collection of personalities.
Let’s talk about those successful tv shows again. While, of course, everyone has their favorite actors and characters, the truth is that shows like Friends and Cheers worked because of a team of actors rather than one single person. Were there standout actors? Sure, but would the show have worked well without the others? Absolutely not. The individual strengths of each actor allowed for creative exploration that would not have occurred in a group of people with identical styles.
The mastermind group has a similar dynamic. When creating a mastermind group, your ultimate goal is to bring together a collection of minds with differing interests and strengths, and direct those minds toward a common goal.
Because of the ever-changing freelance landscape, our businesses (and our lives in general) can benefit hugely from a mastermind group. For example, a freelance graphic designer will be knowledgeable in design software, but it’s likely that he or she will know of more basic and less-expensive options and methods that will benefit those who are less-experienced. A freelance accountant will be able to offer tax and bookkeeping insight, a copywriter will have the word skills, a marketer can counsel on basic PR practices… and hopefully, you get the picture. That list could go on and on.
They’ll be there for you.
Now, sure, differing strengths and skills are an essential piece of the mastermind group puzzle… but if you can’t work well with the people involved, you’re not going to have much success. This is where the “common goal” part of the equation comes into play.
Those prolific TV shows that last decades? They’re doing something right, and that “something right” usually has to do with a group of people sharing the same vision.
When everyone involved wants the same things, people are more likely to compromise in order to stay happy.
When one or two members start changing the vision, resentment sets in and beloved characters get killed off or end up jumping over a shark on water skis.
Members of a mastermind group must stick to that common goal, whether it’s simply to lift one another to success or something more specific like reaching a certain collective income level.
A few more guidelines for keeping your mastermind group on-task and on the road to success:
-Keep the group small. 4-6 people will allow for creative variety and minimal chaos.
-Meet frequently and regularly. This is important. Meeting weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly is ideal; too much time in between meetings will make accountability and focus harder.
-Incorporate an official structure. I know that, for freelancers, “structure” can instigate an instant eye roll… but in the world of mastermind groups, structure is necessary. Notes should be taken at each meeting, personal and group goals should be set, and the members must hold each other accountable for meeting those goals. Assigning accountability partners will raise your success levels.
-Strive to provide value to your fellow members. A spirit of generosity will keep egos in check and create an environment that welcomes idea sharing. The purpose of the group is to lift one another up, rather than shine a blazing light on any single person.
-Make meetings mandatory. Barring some kind of tragedy, these meetings should not be missed. Too many meetings without one key member (all of the members are key, right?) will alter the tone and flow of the group, and will make it more likely to be disbanded.
-Utilize organizational apps. Project management programs like Trello and Basecamp are a great way to communicate, share ideas, and keep your group on task. Slack is another great option for easy communication.
How do I find a mastermind group?
One of the easiest ways to find a mastermind group is by looking online for members. Facebook groups, industry and niche-related forums, and even the comments section of your favorite blog are full of people looking for an accountable community, just like you. Technology like Skype and Google Hangouts allow groups to meet virtually, regardless of location, making it easy to mastermind online.
If you’re interested in something local and in-person, take a look through your business network for colleagues and peers who might be interested. You can try talking to your local chamber of commerce representative or putting up flyers at relevant places like a university or public library.
Regardless of your prospect-collection methods, it’s important to screen or interview those who are interested. Allowing someone to join simply because they’re “fun” or you “just like them,” could prove to be the downfall of your mastermind group. Can you imagine casting a handful of people in a sitcom, simply because they’re fun to hang out with? There’s nothing wrong with holding an audition for potential mastermind members. These interview sessions don’t have to be long, but they should be thorough, and include discussion of goals and past achievements.
Freelancing works best when we work together.
At first glance, the freelance life looks a lot like a one man show. In some respects, that’s true, but when it comes to surviving and thriving in this line of work, you’ve got to be willing to accept the fact that there is always more to learn.
A mastermind group provides you with opportunities to not only learn, but to explore possibilities you may never have considered without the help of a dynamic ensemble of freelancers.
You’re the director of your freelance career, and there’s no one else around to say “Lights, camera, action.” So why not give it a shot?
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