In 2019, I pulled together a group of 4 women who all wanted to make big lifestyle or career changes. Over the course of 6 months, we worked through a lifestyle design process. We helped each other:
- Identify our most important values
- Brainstorm ideas
- Build confidence
- Take steps toward our goals.
At one point, I was telling someone about the group, and she said, “That sounds like an awesome mastermind group!”
I had a moment of confusion. I had heard of masterminds before, but I assumed that they were strictly for entrepreneurs who were building businesses.
So, I did some research. Yes, some masterminds are focused on helping people start or grow businesses. But, they also cover a variety of topics: finances, lifestyle design, personal goals, career changes, and more.
You may be in the exact same place I was in 2019. Maybe you’ve heard the term mastermind group. But, maybe you also feel like the term does not apply to you.
I’m here to tell you that mastermind groups can cover any topic. In fact, I would go so far as to say, everyone who has goals would benefit from participating in a mastermind group.
What is a Mastermind Group?
According to Wikipedia, a mastermind group is “a peer-to-peer mentoring group used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from other group members.”
The term mastermind can be traced back to Napoleon Hill’s 1925 book, The Law of Success. In a later book, Think and Grow Rich, he described the mastermind principle as, “The coordination of knowledge and effort between two or more people who work towards a definite purpose in the spirit of harmony… no two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.” This “third mind” is the mastermind.
Even though the term wasn’t coined until 1925, people have utilized peer-to-peer mentoring groups for centuries.
Examples of Mastermind Groups
Before we get deeper into a mastermind group, let me share a few examples.
Currently, I’m part of a mastermind group with 5 other women through my Online Impact Membership. All six of us are building businesses online, but that’s where the similarities end. We live in different areas of the country/world. We offer different types of services (coaching, courses, digital products, etc.). One woman recently even bought a brick-and-mortar popcorn business. In the group, we have different backgrounds, skillsets, and life experiences. Although we are very different people, we all have somewhat similar goals. We are all looking to grow our businesses and to do it in a way that provides us with the flexibility we want.
Last year, a few members of the Slow FI Enthusiasts Facebook group came together to focus on upcoming career transitions. One person put out an “anyone interested?” post in the group and got many responses. They called their group “Career Pivot.” One member of the group recently shared that the most valuable thing that he got out of it was “non-biased input and different perspectives from other groups members.”
After participants go through my Design a Life You Love group coaching program, they have the opportunity to join a mastermind. The groups’ common goal is that they all want to design lives that they truly love. People have very different focus areas. Some want to:
- Build a new business or hobby
- Transition out of traditional work into contracting or consulting
- Figure out how to make a job they actually enjoy work for them
- Improve their day-to-day lives and health after making a shift of some sort
- Become digital nomads or travel full-time
Even though people have very different goals, it still works. They are coming together around a common goal or purpose, which is to take steps to design lives they truly love.
What’s the Purpose of a Mastermind Group?
There are many reasons why someone might choose to participate or create a mastermind group. A few key reasons include:
- Accountability to work toward your goals
- Thought partnership: Brainstorming ideas or working through roadblocks
- Encouragement: Often members of your mastermind believe in you long before you believe in your own abilities
Who is in a Mastermind Group?
Mastermind groups will look different depending on what the focus of the group is. In a mastermind group, you’ll often find people who are in a similar life stage/role (e.g. entrepreneurs, people in career transition, etc.). Or, you’ll find people who have similar goals (e.g. designing a life you love, working toward FI, advancing your career, improving your health, etc.).
Mastermind groups can have 3-8 members. I’ve found that the sweet spot is 4-6 people.
What do Mastermind Meetings Look Like?
Mastermind meetings typically have two purposes:
- Sharing updates, progress, and wins.
- Digging into challenges.
The updates part of the meeting usually takes up the first 10-20 minutes. Depending on the size of the group, each person might take a few minutes to share their progress and wins. I think of this as gentle accountability because people show up to the meetings wanting to show others they’ve made progress. We hold ourselves accountable because we don’t want to show up to the group “empty-handed.”
The main purpose of the meeting is to dig into challenges. Usually, in a mastermind, there’s a “hot seat” or a “deep dive” discussion, where 1-2 people take 30-45 minutes to present a challenge that they are facing.
My favorite question to guide a mastermind discussion is, “Where are you stuck?” This provides the person in the “hot seat” with an opportunity to ask the group for exactly what they need. During this time, you could ask for:
- General feedback on an idea
- Brainstorming ideas or ways to solve a problem
- People to listen and ask probing questions
- Help to work through a barrier or limiting belief
- Encouragement or a pep talk!
What are the Benefits of Participating in a Mastermind?
There are so many benefits beyond the obvious (i.e. thought partnership, encouragement, etc.).
The first benefit of participating in a mastermind is that you’ll move further faster and have more fun along the way. One of my favorite teachers, Kerry Ann Rockquemore, calls this “finding your wolfpack.” By this, she means finding a person or a group of people who are moving in the direction you want to go. They can help you figure out your direction, support you, and push you forward.
I’ve also found it very important to find a group of people who “get” me. These people are often also living their lives in counter-cultural ways. They don’t stifle my “out-there” ideas. They encourage and help develop them.
Finally, one unexpected benefit of being part of a mastermind is that you build your own confidence by helping others. When you brainstorm ideas and solutions with others, you realize how much you already know. When you provide encouragement or a new perspective to help someone work through a barrier, you start to think, “Why couldn’t I apply this to myself?” The voice of your inner coach starts to become stronger than the voice of your inner critic.
How to Start Your Own Mastermind
Sometimes, you can find a mastermind through an existing program that you are a part of. Other times, you can sign-up for a program that has a mastermind component.
There are times when it’s a challenge to find exactly what you are looking for, even if you are willing to pay for it. In this case, you could decide to start your own mastermind group.
Let’s talk about how you could go about doing that.
Step 1: Decide on the Purpose and Structure for the Group
To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
- What common purpose or goal do I want to bring people together around?
- Do people need to be in similar life situations? Or is a common goal enough to unite the group?
- In general, how often do I want the group to meet? And, for how long?
As shared above, the common purpose can be as broad or specific as you want it to be. For example, the mastermind I’m a part of has all female entrepreneurs in their mid-30s to early 40s. We all want to grow our businesses and do it in a way that feels sustainable for our lives. While it is helpful that we are all entrepreneurs, I don’t necessarily think that the fact that we are mid-30s women matters. If someone older were to join the group, I think they’d add a lot of value.
Every year, I take part in an Annual Planning Process. After the process, people have the option of participating in “triads” or groups of 3 to work toward goals. Last year, I decided to participate in a triad for a period of 3 months. The group came together because we all wanted accountability and support around our physical health goals. We were all different ages (30s, 40s, and 50s), and we all had completely different goals. Our common goal was that we wanted to feel better, in one way or another. This group provided a lot of accountability and support as I figured out the approach I wanted to take to address my foot pain.
When you create the group, you get to choose:
- How broad or specific is the common goal you are focused on
- How different the group members experiences are
- The duration of the group and the frequency of meetings.
Step 2: Find the People and Ask Them to Join!
Once you know the topic you want to focus on, you can find like-minded peers with similar goals. Then, you can ask them if they want to join your group!
To generate productive discussion in a mastermind, it’s important for people to be on the path toward whatever goal you decide to focus on. You want a group of peers who can support each other on their journey. You don’t want one or two people who are teaching and the rest of the group following. I’d consider that a class and not a mastermind.
So, the biggest question is… How do you find people with common goals on a similar path?
To be honest, this depends on your goal. Here are a few ideas:
- Connect with others through themed Facebook groups (like Slow FI Enthusiasts, if that’s the right topic for you).
- Go out of your way to meet people at events, meetups, conferences, classes, or membership programs.
If you want to reach out within a themed Facebook group, I recommend reaching out to the owner of the group first. You can ask if you can do an open call to see who might want to participate in a mastermind. There have been multiple people who have done this in the Slow FI Enthusiasts Facebook group, and I’m always happy to encourage it.
If you feel like you want to bring together a group of people who have a much narrower focus, it will likely involve getting to know them first. There are so many ways you can get to know people. Here are a few concrete ideas:
- Attend a Camp FI, EconoMe Conference, or FI Chautauqua
- Go to your local Choose FI meetups
- Join a membership like Women’s Personal Finance, Online Impact, or a local Chamber of Commerce or Women in Business group
- Sign-up for a class or coaching program and get to know others in the program
Once you start getting to know a few people that you’d want to be in a mastermind with, the scariest part is actually asking them. It can feel like you are in middle school again, trying to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria.
Remember, sometimes people will say “yes” and be delighted to be part of a mastermind. They’ve been wanting this for years, like you, but they didn’t know how to find the right people. Others might say “no.” They are simply too busy and can’t focus on this right now. Either way, it’s okay. If someone says “no,” it’s not personal.
Step 3: Set Clear Expectations in the First Meeting
Once you determine who is interested in participating in your group, you’ll need to schedule your first meeting.
Typically in this first meeting, you will:
- Get to know each other a little bit
- Have each person share a little bit about their goals and how they think the group can support them
- Create Group Agreements
Whenever I bring together groups of people, it’s important to make sure that we have a concrete set of group agreements that everyone has agreed to. This includes things like the timeline and frequency of meetings, roles, and expectations for each member of the group.
Either in the first meeting or before, you’ll want to agree on the timeline and the frequency of meetings.
- How often will you meet? Every week? Every other week? Once/month?
- How long will the meetings be?
- When will we meet? (Note: I encourage you to set a consistent meeting time, even if you end up deviating from it periodically)
- Who will put the meetings on the calendar?
- What technology will we use (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.)?
- If someone cannot attend, will we reschedule the meeting? Or will they miss it?
- How long will the group last? (6 months? 1 year? Indefinitely with check-ins?)
- When will we check in as a group to see if we want to continue? Or invite new members?
Then, you’ll want to determine roles for the meetings. As a group, you can decide if you want to have fixed or rotating facilitation. I’ve participated in some groups where one person facilitates every session. Other groups have a different facilitator for each session or change facilitators each month.
You’ll then want to decide on the hot-seat/deep dive schedule. Depending on how long your meetings are, you can decide how many people will be in the hot seat during each meeting. You want each hot seat session to be at least 25-30 minutes. One-hour meetings usually include one hot seat since you need time at the beginning for updates. Ninety-minute meetings can include two or three hot seats.
From here, you can create your hot seat schedule. It’s important for everyone to have access to this schedule so that they know when they are up. This will allow them to prepare the questions or challenges that they want to talk about with the mastermind group.
Lastly, it’s important to set group expectations or norms for how you want to interact with each other. I do this in all my group programs and have seen this done (to great effect) in many other settings.
Some of the group norms could include:
- If you can’t make the session, let the group know ASAP.
- Show up on time out of respect for the group members
- Be mindful of your own speaking time to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to share ideas
- Honor your expertise and the expertise of others
- No complaining
- Focus on solutions
- Full Engagement/No Multi-tasking
You could even have some topic-focused group agreements. For example, in my coaching groups, we always have these agreements:
- Be kind to yourself
- No “shoulds”
- Focus on possibilities
- Couragous vulnerability
- Accept that your best is good enough (A great one when you have a bunch of type A folks coming together!)
Step 4: Show Up, Play the Role You’ve Agreed On, and Crush Your Goals
If you’ve done the upfront work to set clear expectations about roles and responsibilities for the group, all you’ll need to do is show up! When you are assigned to the facilitator role, you will facilitate. Whenever your turn comes up in the hot seat, you’ll ask for exactly what you need.
If everyone in your group is committed to moving forward, you’ll be amazed at what you will all accomplish together.
You may decide that you want to take more ownership at the transition points of the group, but you might not even need to.
How to Get the Most Out of Participating in a Mastermind
There are two main things that will help you get the results that you want to out of a mastermind:
You want to show up consistently and remember your purpose for being there. I always ask, “What do I want to get out of this meeting?” This allows me to be intentional about the way that I show up.
Continually revisiting our group agreements helps to remind us of our purpose and the commitments we’ve made to ourselves and each other. Sometimes, it’s challenging to remember and abide by all the agreements, so it’s important to remind ourselves of them.
Lastly, stay committed to working toward your goals and working through roadblocks. This will allow you to be a strong contributor to your group.
To get the most out of each mastermind meeting, it’s important to prepare. I’d recommend regularly reflecting on your goals, so that you are prepared to share updates and what you are struggling with. With the masterminds that I run, each person does a monthly reflection on their goals in preparation for the meetings.
When you are in the hot seat, you’ll want to decide what you want to discuss with the group before the meeting. This will allow you to use the time as effectively as possible and get exactly what you need from the group.
Remember, you can ask for:
- General feedback on an idea
- Brainstorming ideas or ways to solve a problem
- People to listen and ask probing questions as you share what you are learning
- Help to work through a barrier or limiting belief
- Encouragement or a pep talk
- Whatever else you need!
Further, Faster, and More Fun!
Your mastermind group will help push you further faster, and you’ll have a lot more fun accomplishing your goals.
Even though my original 2019 mastermind no longer meets, I absolutely love checking in with the women to see how far everyone has come.
- I went from having what I thought were “pie in the sky” ideas to becoming a full-time entrepreneur doing those exact things.
- One woman found a completely remote job that would allow her to become a digital nomad and provide her with time to focus on her other passions.
- Another decided to take a sabbatical and then semi-retire and run her online business on the side.
- The fourth built two side hustles (tax preparation and financial coaching) that she eventually wants to use to transition out of her full-time teaching career.
Even if you only meet for a short period of time, you’ll have a lasting impact on each other’s lives.
Periodically, we’ll send each other updates. After one of our most recent exchanges, someone said, “Seeing everyone going toward their dreams has been very encouraging.” We’re still inspiring each other from afar.
I got lucky when I joined a membership group for a different program in Oct 2021.
I had a lifetime membership but my participation was waning since I wasn’t paying monthly towards it.
I eventually saw a post from someone starting a mastermind for young women starting an online business.
With my ADHD, accountability is paramount. Especially since I’m on my third trying with blogging.
Glad to see the four of us are implementing a lot of this. I still don’t have a product for my site like the others in my group, but it feels nice to not be alone in this process. ?
To me, the personal finance community on Twitter is my version of a mastermind group. A bunch of like-minded individuals, all passionate about one thing, and happy to help eachother! Can’t get enough of it.
Definitely a great group of folks! 🙂
I actually started doing something like this recently. There’s a couple of friends of mine that are entrepreneurs and we talk on occasion. But recently, we’re meeting more frequently with more of a fixed agenda every 2 weeks. And we just discuss goals not just in business but other areas of life as well.
This is awesome! Good luck with it!
Oh my goodness! I started the Career Pivot Mastermind group and it was so satisfying to see it mentioned on your blog as I’ve been following you for quite some time.
The Career Pivot Mastermind group is near and dear to my heart. The group of us all had the similar goal to transition out of an unsatisfying (in some cases toxic) job and into something that better fit/suited our lifestyles. We’ve all taken different approaches to do so, but we’ve ended up in better places than we were. One person transitioned to semi-retirement. Another is on the verge of doing the same (waiting for an annual bonus). Another made some financial changes to give the freedom for an upcoming mini retirement. And organizing the group was so gratifying and fun for me that I’ve made progress exploring some options for group facilitation, coaching etc. as a possible career change.
Thank you so much for the compliment of mentioning the group in your blog! And keep doing this work. It is hugely valuable and improving the lives of so many people, myself included!
I’m so happy that this group made an impact on people’s lives, and I feel so honored that I got to play a small part (if only to run the facebook group where people connected)!