How to be a Mastermind

How to be a Mastermind


“Mastermind” isn’t a word unique to crime fiction; the term “mastermind group” has been around at least since Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich, defining “masterminding” as “coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” In other words, discussing your goals with like-minded peers concentrates shared positive energy to make planning and achievement more effective.

Formal mastermind groups are popular as a tool for growing business. However, there’s no reason you can’t form a group focused on health goals, personal-development goals, or parenting goals. You can also use the principles in family meetings at home.

The secrets of effective masterminding are:

Always Be Positive

The trouble with most planning groups is they easily turn into gripe sessions, everyone subtly competing to come up with the most sympathy-evoking account of personal trials and what’s wrong with the world. That’s not masterminding; it’s a closed loop that keeps everyone running all evening just to revisit the same points. Real mastermind groups do their “running” on a straight track that leads ever forward—where seeing someone falter is a signal to help them up gently but firmly, rather than sitting down in the dirt with them.

Watch Your Language

To keep positive energy flowing in the right direction, avoid letting negative words slip in (a habit just about everyone finds all too easy to develop). Say:

  • “Challenges,” not “problems” or “obstacles”
  • “I choose to,” not “I have to”
  • “I will,” not “I hope”
  • “Remember to,” rather than “Don’t forget to”; “Keep going,” rather than “Don’t give up”; “See you at 7 sharp,” rather than “Don’t be late”

Understand Your Shared Purpose

Everyone who joins a mastermind group won’t bring identical goals, but every goal should focus on a single category—anything from “find and live out my life’s purpose” to “get into better physical shape.” Keep all discussions centered on that purpose; you’ll probably need a designated facilitator to keep conversations from wandering off on tangents. (Of course, leave time before and after the formal agenda for socializing and networking.)

Keep on the Upward Track

All members should bring two or three well-defined goals to each meeting, and be ready to share related progress, plans, and challenges. But keep the goals list evolving—a “once all this is crossed off I’m ‘made’ for life” attitude leads many into the crush of workaholism or the quagmire of stagnation. There are two things to remember when a goal (or a step toward a goal) is met: celebrate it with your group, and have another goal waiting to take its place.

Equal Rights for All

  • Verify that all members know their personal goals, and are fully committed to attending regularly.
  • Take turns in facilitator positions: no one person should be strictly “in charge.”
  • Limit the response time allowed after each member shares his or her progress. If you get caught up in piling advice on advice, everyone will run out of attention before most of the group has a chance to share.

Used effectively, a mastermind group will help you master your goals—and ensure a life of personal growth.