There’s no lonelier feeling than telling your friends and family that you aren’t “going back to your desk job” because you’ve decided to go forward with your entrepreneurial plans.
“But what about a steady paycheck?”
“How will you pay for health insurance?”
“Are you sure?”
Sure, they were all for you chasing your dream and pouring your free time and energy into your 5-to-9, but when it finally came time for you to make the jump, their encouragement dissolved into doubt.
Folks — especially young folks — who buck traditional career trends and set off on their own into the land of entrepreneurship often find that support is lacking or self-serving. “Coaches” pray on unsuspecting newbies. “Gurus” pitch their fix-all courses.
In an ambiguous career environment, without traditional “role models” — those found in typical hierarchically structured careers — finding the support, real support, to navigate the unsteady entrepreneurial waters is hard to come by.
But that doesn’t mean support isn’t there.
As a young supply chain analyst, I dreamed of escaping the corporate rat race and “doing my own thing” someday. For years I worked alone, desperately trying to conceive of something, anything, that could replace my livelihood and provide for my family. I struggled.
Eventually, I met Todd. Todd was this cool writer guy on Twitter who also liked the Muppets. I sent him an email introducing myself. We struck up a bond.
Soon, Todd introduced me to Alex (yes, this Alex). We three hopped on a call. It turned out we all had the same escape the rat-race dream. We decided to meet again the following week.
The weekly calls kept going. A few months later I introduced another escapee-wannabe, Kyle. Each week, we set aside one hour to do nothing more than talk about our efforts, share our goals, and most of all, get past our failures. Over the course of five years, one by one, all four of us managed to escape the shackles of corporate work.
How did we do it?
Meet the Mastermind principle
Collectively, Todd, Alex, Kyle, and I contribute a variety of “skills, perspectives, and experiences” every time we meet. We hold each other accountable to our goals and help one another to better visualize our futures and outline the steps to get there. It’s a productive use of our time that draws upon careful reflection of our past and extrapolation of our near future.
What we’ve formed is an example of peer-mentoring, also known as the “Master Mind principle” à la Napoleon Hill. A mastermind group, according to Mr. Hill (the original self-help guru), “consists of two or more people who work in perfect harmony for the attainment of a definite purpose.”
Now, terms like “perfect harmony” and “definite purpose” are a bit phooey for my taste and are part of the reason I don’t particularly enjoy consuming Mr. Hill’s work. But he does have a point, I’ll give him that.
The mastermind principle is no doubt at the heart of my, Todd’s, Alex’s, and Kyle’s collective successes. Our mastermind is a place to share knowledge and experiences to help the other members of the group navigate similar challenges.
What’s even more strange is that I’ve only met Todd and Kyle once in real life. Alex has always been in another part of the world since we first met via email half a decade ago. The question I keep asking myself is this:
Why are masterminds so powerful for manifesting your entrepreneurial desires?
I think I know the answer from my own anecdotal experience, but let’s dive into what the science has to say.
What makes Masterminds tick
Surprisingly, very few studies exist on the benefits and effects of mastermind groups. A quick search of “mastermind studies” yields a few articles here and there, but nothing concrete.
And yet, for anyone who has participated in a mastermind can attest, the benefits are so obvious that we don’t need science to tell us what they are. However, I did find one to help back up my own claims.
An empirical study conducted by the Department of Health Sciences at Lund University in Sweden identified four “themes” that described the experiences of young medical professionals who engaged in frequent mastermind mentorship groups.
- The importance of having a safe place to share conversations in confidence, especially around failure in a non-judgmental way.
- The inspiration and motivation to visualize their future careers in more concrete terms.
- The quality time for reflection upon one’s own experiences.
- The learning provided by listening to other participants’ challenges.
The authors of the study say that “these groups can be effective toward shifting focus from the negative aspects of a challenge faced by a group member to the positive aspects of a potential solution.”
I have failed a lot over the past five years and each time, I’ve had a safe space to unpack the why and how of my failure in a judgment-free and constructive environment. I come away after each call eager to go after my goals and never feel like the hour is a waste of time.
Each of us has helped one another secure opportunities, uncover trade insights, conceive new (and profitable) projects, and offer advice around big life and professional decisions.
What makes masterminds tick? They tick when you bring together a group of selfless individuals who remind one another of their potential.
Entrepreneurship is ripe for mastermind groups.
For one, business and finance can be broken down into simple rules. Unlike life which is unbounded and hairy (both figuratively and literally), an entrepreneur can navigate the business waters through trial and error and for the most part, adjust along the way.
When the entrepreneur combines forces with two or more entrepreneurs, their trials and errors compound. Suddenly, the learning curve is flattened a lot more quickly. And when one member strikes gold, it’s not long before the others follow.
Now I know I’m mixing up a lot of metaphors here to describe the entrepreneurial journey, so I’ll pivot for a second and quote Mr. Hill himself:
“[The Mastermind Principle] is the principle through which you may borrow and use the education, the experience, the influence, and perhaps, the capital of other people in carrying out your own plans in life.”
Entrepreneurship is nothing more than the carrying out of plans. And plans are nothing unless you have the means and resources to see them through.
So when you’re just starting out, like I did on my own five years ago, having a mastermind available to supply you with “the education, the experience, the influence” that are lacking in your entrepreneur toolbelt is immensely beneficial.
The Self-Made Man doesn’t exist
Anyone who says they did it alone is a liar or a fool.
Success is always earned. And the greatest chance of earning success comes from sharing and experiencing success with others.
No one ever attains individual success. If they do, it’s nothing more than dumb luck. Real success is arriving at a point in life where you have the knowledge and resources to extract whatever you want out of life, “without” as Mr. Hill says, “violating the rights of others and by helping others to acquire [success].”
In other words, when you set out on your entrepreneurial journey don’t ask, “Who can help me?” Ask “Who can I help?”