“Your life is a direct reflection of the expectations of your peer group.” Tony Robbins.

You need more than a business book. A seminar. An MBA. Every guest we have had on PivotMe podcast has made mention of it. Every expert sings it. And admittedly, this was one of my own biggest career mistakes… Going it alone. Believing I would simply figure it all out on my own.

At the beginning stages of my career, I did not seek out mentors or a peer-to-peer group. I did not have a team of people holding me to a higher standard, helping to accelerate my growth. I was attempting to DIY success without someone checking my roadmap. It was the Long Way Up. And unless you are Ewan McGregor or Charley Boorman, I don’t recommend it.

But that all changed years ago when I leveled up my peer group and began participating in Masterminds.

 “The single best business decision you will ever make is to intentionally work with a peer group on a regular basis that questions assumptions, asks hard questions the kind you hope nobody will ask, alert you to icebergs, raise the bar, and hold you accountable.”  Keith J. Cunningham, The Road Less Stupid

I couldn’t agree more.

 What is a Mastermind?

A Mastermind is a small group of individuals, each in their own pursuit of a goal, that meet on a regular basis. Sometimes masterminds are business-focused, as many of mine are, while others incorporate personal objectives, health, productivity, relationships, and contribution. When done right, they are a powerful combination of brainstorming, education, accountability, and support to level up your skills. The key element in every group is this: outside perspective that is not personally invested in the outcome.

Imagine for a moment a entrepreneur or leader, surrounded only by an echo chamber of employees or stakeholders, insulated from rebuttal. Who does that entrepreneur or leader turn to when seeking new growth avenues or great personal change? Who do they discuss their ideas and challenges with?

Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Group Rich, believed that no mind is complete on its own. The mind needs others to grow and expand. Through masterminds, we can essentially borrow experience, perspective, and influence. But it should be the right influence. A truly effective mastermind team operates as a growth team, helping you achieve success. They push you, challenge you, to set significant goals, and to be accountable to what you say is most important.

If we are the average sum of the five people we spend the most time with, then how often do we contemplate who those five people are?  We must choose our influences with strong intention, design our peer group. Without that intention, we inevitably stick with our default peer group. Who is that? Your coworkers or employees, your neighbors, your old friends, your aunt Sarah? And while these folks may generally want what’s best for you, I must caution: Do not ride or die with only your default peer group.

Plus a well-designed peer group normalizes success in the arena of your goal. You can no longer believe it is impossible to make the New York Times Best Seller list, when you meet regularly with eight people who have already achieved that success. You can no longer say the 75Hard Challenge is unattainable if you have kids, if you talk to a group of fellow parents that are doing it every week.

How does the Mastermind Get Results?

You attain effective results through learning high-performance habits, best practices, and borrowing from the experience and perspectives of others. Your mastermind group might have 100+ years of collective experience, more than you could ever obtain alone. Further, faster, but together. Invaluable advice from pioneers and trailblazers turned friends.

When people are really focused on directing (or re-directing) their business and accelerating personal growth, masterminds are the surefire way to do it. Rarely do we have a consistent, reliable forum that is laser focused on getting us better. A place where the only goals for the team are 1) Actively working to be better and 2) Supporting each other to be better.

No hidden agendas

Why? Because in traditional networking groups we all have an agenda: Getting business!

And when there is an agenda, vulnerability cannot exist

Because now you have a dog in the fight. Tim, who is working on referrals for his roofing business, would be remiss in mentioning his struggle to make payroll that month. Sonali is unlikely to feel at ease discussing her impending divorce with a networking group for whom she is also their CPA. Agendas are valuable in networking groups, whereas impactful masterminds are free of ulterior motives.

Let’s get into what makes them great.

5  Ways a Mastermind Accelerates You:

1.   Consistency. It is scheduled and does not get moved. I have some that are weekly, some monthly, and others quarterly. But the times never change. We manage what we measure, and experience has taught me more frequency = more effective.

2. Pursuit. No two individual goals are necessarily the same. One member might seek to increase their income while another may want to write a best seller. However everyone should be in ACTIVE pursuit of their goal.

3.   Accountability. Show up, be seen, hold yourself (and others!) to a standard. If you get off track (spoiler alert—we all do) you get back on track faster and have the courage and ability to call out your mastermind team when they are off track. There is no perfect execution, you aren’t German engineering, just consistency.

4.   Vulnerability. Yeah, I know. This can be particularly challenging. Especially for high performers and successful leaders. But you can sit next to someone in your office for five years, and never let them really see you. Being free from agenda means you can be vulnerable and unfiltered with your Mastermind. You can and will enjoy deep connection and form lifelong friendships with people who “get you” and truly rally behind your success.

5.   No Dog in the Fight. Rarely do we have a place in our lives or business, where someone does not have a dog in the fight. If you make mention of training for a marathon, your spouse’s first thought may be “ugh, that means the alarm will go off earlier and you’ll wake me up!” Or if you are thinking about starting another new business, your current business partner may not be able to separate their own interests from yours.

The hard truth is, much of our default peer group is heavily invested in keeping us the same. And though the people that love us may have our best interest at heart, they are rarely capable of separating their own self-interest from the matter.

So, what? I’m meant to leave my current peer group behind? Nope. Don’t think of it as subtraction. Think of it as addition. It means you benefit from adding in a group of people who, like you, are hustling for something more. Think of it as locking arms with other ambitious folks, people who are ready, willing and able to help you achieve your goal.

What does this result in?

Better business performance. Stronger relationships. More contribution and impact. Goals are achieved quicker, and the journey is a hell of a lot more enjoyable with a squad of people willing to push, pull or drag you across the finish line.

But it’s hard to find the time…

Well actually, it has never been easier to be part of a Mastermind group. Some meetings are in person, but most are now virtual – making for a more expansive reach. One benefit from the “upside down-ness” of 2020 is that it gave many people an opportunity to get comfortable meeting virtually. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Facebook, there are so many ways to connect with your Mastermind team – without the added time and pressure of a commute!

Does it have to be a “paid” mastermind?

In theory—no. It can simply be a tight band of people that agree to meet regularly. But going it alone, without a facilitator or coach, has it’s own set of drawbacks. First off, if you don’t already know a group of folks who are interested in meeting, how and where do you find them? Who facilitates and sets the structure of the meetings and who holds the members accountable for staying focused? Now let’s talk financial commitment. This answer can best summarized as this– people who pay, pay attention. Paid masterminds have a built-in facilitator who does the legwork of finding solid members, structuring meetings, even providing lessons & exercises, and holding everyone accountable. Masterminds that go without slowly fall apart.

Let’s Recap

  1. Masterminds shorten the path to success and fulfillment through experience, accountability perspective, and connection
  2. Absence of agenda is critical for impactful masterminds
  3. A consistent schedule creates predictability and growth
  4. Structure and financial commitment are correlated to their longevity and success
  5. Vulnerability is required for true connection and richer achievement. Be honest about both the joy of achievement and the pain of growth.

If you are reaching for that next level of success, don’t do it alone or just with your default peer group.

I started this article with this quote “Your life is a direct reflection of the expectations of your peer group”. So let me ask you, what is your current peer group expecting of you?

What Next?

To learn about what makes Masterminds so successful, or to know more about the PivotMe Masterminds we run each Wednesday, send us a message or shoot us an email at [email protected]. Masterminds give you the power of perspective, connection, experience, vulnerability and – perhaps most important – accountability for the future version of you.

Choose your peer group. Choose the team you are doing life with. Don’t let it be by default.

This article first appeared on April McKeegan-Garcia LinkedIn page.