Start your own Mastermind

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A Mastermind group is something I didn’t know I needed or wanted until the opportunity presented itself. Three years later, I’m so thankful it did. It’s much easier to grow and learn with a supportive crew cheering you on.

How did the Mastermind I’m in start?

An internet acquaintance in Paris reached out to me back in 2015 with an email whose subject line said “Mastermind group?” The idea was sparked by some articles she’d come across. Because I talked about my work online, it was a natural fit for her to reach out to me. I right away said I was interested! I knew I needed something like this in my life.wo

Her first idea was to invite a couple women doing interesting things in Australia. I knew right away this wouldn’t work for me. I already had well established “freelance therapy” sessions (Skype calls with friends elsewhere in the world running their own business). What I was craving was something IRL. She understood and agreed.

We brainstormed a list. I knew I wanted it to be a range of voices, doing different kinds of work, who weren’t too busy, and I liked the idea of bringing a bit of age diversity into the mix. In the end, I ended up knowing everyone in the group, but had I not, it would have been an amazing opportunity to reach out to people whose work I respect and I’d like to get to know better.

For the first meeting we picked a coffee shop and did introductions inspired by some of the articles (shared at the bottom). Remember, when not everyone knows everyone else, it is important that everyone can feel comfortable and build trust.

So what is a Mastermind group?

It’s what you want it to be.

For us it’s a 2 hour session from 10am to noon that’s usually held in some establishment where coffee is served and we can own the table during that time. While we all own, and run our own businesses, most of us have flexibility in our work days, one has a workplace she has to be everyday. It brings a different perspective to the group.

In general, our format is to each go around the table (~15-20 min each) to share our wins, struggles, and a resource with the group since we last met. In the beginning we framed it as a win (good stuff that happened) and a lose (but that seemed too negative and not always the reality; we realized most of the time we were facing a struggle). The resource could be anything from an article, book, podcast, movie, website, newsletter, or cool thing that you discovered or inspired you. At one point we were sharing goals too, but that seemed to fizzle.

I find many of my favorite moments during our sessions happen when we go off script. Particularly with the struggles, it can lead to discussions where we drill down and start to think differently. We may share commentary from an industry as a whole, or work to push past one of our own mental blocks. When a lot of ideas come out that you never would have thought of yourself alone at your desk, it’s really invigorating. It helps too when there’s a certain trust, vulnerability, and honesty within the group so you can really “get real.”

We meet every 3-4 weeks in general, but finding a time for six engaged, busy, women can take a bit of effort, but it’s all worth it. At the end of each Mastermind session we pull out our calendars to try to find a time that will work for the next session or two. If too many people can’t make it to the session, we’ll often cancel or reschedule. Life happens.

We also have a private Facebook group where we can share links and resources. For a time we were recording our wins, struggles, and resources there — first by the note taker, and then by individuals. We’re not very consistent with this, but it is nice to have a reference you can go back to. Go back in time, and you can start to see real growth. I want to be better at documenting along the way myself. It’s hard when it’s not so great, but it’s amazing once you overcome the hurdle.

We also have a WhatsApp group which more people are likely to see. It helps that we’re small so it doesn’t get out of hand. This is where the more urgent stuff gets communicated, or more recently, some of our best cheerleading has been happening. ✨ Sometimes you don’t want to wait a month to have to share your latest win with the group.

Many people also do Mastermind groups online. Technology makes it easy. We just happen to make ours an IRL kind of thing.

The trajectory.

In order to truly be successful, members need to be committed, and it should be a priority to get the most of it. After the first meeting we did have one person drop out; not because they didn’t enjoy it or want it to be part of her life, it just didn’t fit into her schedule.

In hindsight, 6 members was a magic number for us. We could get through six updates without being too rushed. From a practical standpoint, it also made finding tables in cafés in Paris where everywhere is less spacious a bit easier.

We started consistently at the same coffee shop, but as they outlawed computers we used it as an excuse to try elsewhere. (The computer was just for our notetaker, but for awhile now, we’ve gone completely analogue.) We’d have stints of regular places. Opening days vary in Paris, so sometimes it forced us to try other places still. Most recently, we’ve come to enjoy hotel lobby/restaurants.

Every year around our anniversary, we make it a special lunch. This year we chatted about our words/themes for the year (and the varying levels of success), our biggest achievements, and lessons learned. It’s a nice way to step back and reflect before thinking forward.

From time to time, we’ll integrate different exercises or activities. This is always fun for me. In one of our first sessions we did Ikigai which one of the group members had discovered (long before it became a main stream thing!). We made it “homework” for the next session.

Three years in now, over the years, we’ve learned, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve lost (professionally and personally). The thing about business it’s not just the work you do doing the day, it’s also the work you do on yourself. And it’s what makes having your group so essential.

What’s next?

Like many things in life, we’ve had ups and downs as a group and most recently have agreed for the need to spice things up. We’re playing with other ideas, formats, how we can each teach each other something new, where we meet, how its structured. We’ve done this in the past too, where every week one of us gives a mini presentation about a topic. It’s a nice way to learn something new, and a good exercise for the “teacher” too. There are so many possibilities.

Mastermind resources

Here are some resources that helped get us off the ground and going:

Mastermind groups are really about finding your tribe who are there for you when things are up, or down, stuck, or going great.

I’d love to hear how any Mastermind (or similar groups: accountability groups, or otherwise) have worked for you. What’s your “formula”? What have you experimented with? What have you been wanting to try? To start? Please share in the comments below so we can all learn and grow!

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