“You become what you focus on… and similar to the people you surround yourself with.” This is the single most important lesson I’ve learned in my life so far. How did I learn it? By understanding the power of: Mastermind Groups.
Nearly 28 years ago – I failed out of college. After my first year at the University of Miami, in Miami Florida, I had a stellar 1.6 GPA!! Unfortunately, all of the people I was hanging out with had lower GPA’s, so it did not seem like that big of a deal… until I was expelled. I then moved to Gainesville Florida to restart my college career and met an incredibly wise professor (Roger Strickland) who strongly recommended that I start a “study group” – a.k.a. — a mastermind group. So I stood up at the front of the class and invited anyone that wanted to join me in creating a study group – but the catch was that you had to have a 3.6 GPA or higher to be in the group! Forming that study group changed EVERYTHING. My college career completely turned around because now I was surrounded by bright, sharp, talented students who were focused on getting good grades, staying healthy, having fun and preparing themselves for their dream lives and dream careers. How well did it work? I graduated in the top three students in the United States in my major from the University of Florida (Go Gators!).
Since that time I have been a fanatic for surrounding myself with the best people I can possibly get on my team and making sure that I am always focused on the very best information possible to move my life and career forward in a positive way. This is one of the main reasons that I have read a minimum of 100 business books a year, every year since 1989, because I know if I fill my brain with the right information – information that will be valuable in the work that I deliver to my clients – that every book I read is a direct investment in my own future and in the security of my career = and who doesn’t need a little extra job security these days?
I have also continued to create mastermind groups in my life. In my early 30’s I created a group of young CEOs that met once a month at a local restaurant to help each other, share ideas and support each other as we tried to grow our businesses. For the last few years I have had two mastermind groups that meet at my home every month. The first group are all senior leaders, people who have been in business for 20 or 30 years, and in that group we discuss politics, religion and life in general. It’s a wonderful conversation that challenges each of us to clearly articulate our life’s philosophy and the role we want to play in the world as we move into the latter stages of our careers. The other mastermind group I formed are all younger entrepreneurs, people who are in the middle of building their first big business and on the launching pad of the major part of their careers. In this group we talk about the challenges that we are facing, how to overcome them together, who we have in our networks that can help each other, and what it’s like to devote so much of your life to a business… yet still try to keep some semblance of life balance and family connection.
The reason I share my experiences with these two groups with you is to show you how incredibly powerful they can be in helping to guide, support, motivate and direct your life. I cannot possibly express how valuable it is to be an active member of high-quality mastermind group. But here’s the catch: for most people if you truly want to be in a mastermind group, you’re going to have to create it yourself! So here are my recommendations for how to start and sustain a mastermind group.
- Although there are many successful mastermind groups that meet via phone, or Skype – I believe the most powerful ones meet in person, once a month or once every 45 days. So the first step is to take a look around in your local community and find one or two people who you truly respect and would deeply enjoy learning from. Approach these folks with an invitation to create a mastermind group with you, ask then each of them to choose two people that they deeply respect and would like to learn from and invite those folks to join the mastermind group too.
- The goal is to have your first initial meeting with six or eight members in attendance. At the first meeting is a good idea to take some time to set the framework for how the meetings will run and discuss the expectations that the members have about what they want to achieve in the mastermind group and what things would be of real and significant value to them.
- In our mastermind groups we typically pose a single important question and ask everyone to come fully prepared to discuss it in the meeting. For example in our last two meetings the questions were: “What are the three most important lessons you have ever learned in your life?” And the next month we asked everyone, “If you were to turn your business over to your children, what are the three most important pieces of business advice you would give to them?” Sometimes we all read a book and discuss what we felt was most important in the book and how we will apply those ideas in our lives and businesses. Other times we allow one of the members of the group to bring a specific challenge they are facing to the group, so that all of us can give them our best advice and connect them with anyone and everyone in our networks that we feel might be able to help them.
- One of the biggest challenges of creating a mastermind group is keeping it to a manageable size once the word gets out that you have created something so powerful. I highly recommend that you have no more than a dozen members – which means you’ll likely have about 8 to 10 people in attendance at each meeting. If you get much larger than that, then you end up with cross conversations and a lack of focus. Once the group exceeds about 15 people, it’s a good idea to break it into two mastermind groups and let someone else manage one of the other groups – so that you can just be an attendee and not have to run the meetings.
- Currently, my wife and I host the meetings at our home, we offer some light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and we all sit on the back deck in comfortable chairs for about two hours discussing the assigned topic, sharing stories, asking for help and getting advice. Not only is this incredibly beneficial session for learning new ideas and tools for improving your life and career – but it is truly a blessing to be surrounded by such incredible people and to count them among your closest friends!
- Although it was not specifically formed that way, the mastermind group of senior leaders is all men, and they have not shown an interest in inviting their wives to participate in those meetings. Interestingly, the mastermind group of the younger leaders has pretty much insisted that their wives be involved – which I think is absolutely fantastic. We do not charge any money to belong to the mastermind group, and we often rotate the meetings between different people’s houses. The setting is always informal, some light food, maybe a bottle of wine or two. You could easily hold mastermind meetings at a local restaurant and let everyone go Dutch. The real wealth is generated from mastermind group is from the friendships, learning, and access to each other’s networks…which is priceless.
So I’d like to give you a piece of advice that I believe can have a dramatic positive impact on your life and career – start a mastermind group. Do it today. Look around at the people you really admire and enjoy and ask them if they’d be willing to create a mastermind group with you. You can host it at your home or apartment, at local restaurant, meet in a park… the only thing that’s truly important is to surround yourself with smart, values-driven, creative and highly successful people – and then focus that group on important questions that all of you feel will add real value to your lives.
Great time – spent with quality people – focused on important ideas. There are few things that I can think of that will contribute more powerfully to the happiness, joy and success of your life and career.
I hope you found this article of value – and that will motivate you to start your own mastermind group. If you are already involved in a mastermind group, please leave your comments and tell everybody what it has meant to you and how important it is in your life. I hope that we can start a small campaign here to get people around the country – around the world – forming small mastermind groups to solve their personal problems, their business problems, their community’s problems and yes… even the world’s problems.
Thanks and take good care, John Spence
**** IMPORTANT: As many of you know I have been nominated as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America. A big part of winning the award is how many votes I get from people in the business community. It would truly mean a great deal to me if you would take just a moment and vote for me (you can vote every day – and there’s only one week left in the competition) and send out a note to your network asking them to vote for me as well. I’m a front-runner – so every vote is critical. Thank you so very much for your help and support!!! John
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