Mastermind Groups: the best-kept secret of some of the world’s most successful people.

Okay, so maybe mastermind groups aren’t really a secret, but I was late to the game and, if you’re looking to expand your network, create more success in your life, increase your accountability, form a support group, and make new friends in the process, then joining or creating a mastermind group is just the thing for you.

I first learned about mastermind groups from super successful people like Michael Hyatt. A few years ago, Michael had a paid mastermind group called the Inner Circle. I believe it was $8,000.00 or $10,000.00 to join for a short period of time.

Jeff Rose (someone I would consider a personal mentor of sorts) joined Michael’s Inner Circle and talked about it on his YouTube Channel. Given this was my first exposure to mastermind groups, watching that video did two things for me: it introduced me to why mastermind groups are so important, and it made me think they were exclusive paid-only groups.

But here’s the kicker: I later learned that paid mastermind groups aren’t the only kind of group—there are free ones too! And you can start benefitting from the power of a mastermind group right now by joining or creating one yourself.

I wish I had learned this secret a little sooner, but hey, better late than never, right?

If you’ve heard the term mastermind group and wondered what they were, how to join one, how to create one, or how to run one, and so on, then I want to provide all of those answers here today.

Co-creating a mastermind group was one of the best things I did in 2019, and that’s saying something given I also wrote my first book in 2019. So, in addition to the what and the how I also want to provide you with the why.

After we explore the ins and outs of mastermind groups, I want to talk about my eight favorite reasons why mastermind groups are so important to me and my groupmates.

So, What is a Mastermind Group?

I love this question because the answer can depend on each person and their unique goals. Mastermind groups can be as structured or unstructured as the members want the group to be. They can have a very narrow focus, or they can be broad and loose. It’s up to the members!

When Stephen and I formed our mastermind group, the focus was to create a group focused on high performance and goal setting, but over time, the group has evolved in a lot of cool ways.

In addition to holding one another accountable to our personal and professional goals, we aim to help each other overcome obstacles, and we talk each other through the problems we’re experiencing at work or in our personal lives.

The group is also a safe place to brainstorm new ideas, teach each other new things, and ask for some much-needed advice. We talk about books, psychology, philosophy, mindset, personal development, mental health, and so much more.

To summarize it in one sentence, our mastermind group is a group of close friends who aim to help one another grow in all areas of our lives.

But your mastermind group can be totally different. You could seek a group like Michael Hyatt’s Inner Circle, where one person, a mentor or coach, helps the group achieve success must more quickly than if they were to go it alone. Often, these are paid groups with an expert serving as the group’s leader.

You could join a mastermind group that’s focused solely on personal development, goal setting, or networking. It’s entirely up to you, but it’s essential that you find a group that aligns with your goals. If you join a group hoping to focus on goal setting, but the group is all about networking, then you might not enjoy the group too much.

And if you can’t find a group in your community or one that aligns with your needs, you can always do what Stephen and I did and create your own.

Photo of Austin Bollinger and Stephen Schott, Founders of the Cape Catalyst MasterMind Group.
Photo of Austin Bollinger and Stephen Schott, Founders of the Cape Catalyst Mastermind Group.

Creating Your Own Mastermind Group

To get started in creating a mastermind group, you should start by thinking about what kind of group you want to create. You can cement your vision if you’d like, but I would recommend that you stay somewhat flexible until you have time to chat with a few other people.

You don’t want to end up in a group focused on one thing while your vision was something else entirely, but you also don’t want a vision so rigid that no one wants to join your group. Combined vision and buy-in are essential.

Not to mention, the vision for the group might become more apparent as you connect with other individuals who have brilliant ideas of their own.

Getting Started: Finding Potential Founding Groupmates

To get started in building your group, reach out to your social networks by posting a message about what you’re doing and ask people to direct message you if they’re interested in chatting about it. In the post, be sure to explore your motives and why you’re forming a group. Explain the goal and the desired outcome.

Then, grab lunch or coffee to chat about the vision with anyone who’s interested, even if they’re a friend-of-a-friend that you don’t really know. Starting a group with strangers or distant acquaintances will take you out of your comfort zone and help you grow even more.

You could also attend professional events in your community. Stephen and I met at the 2018 Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce’s Emerge Summit for young professionals. Then, we met again when I spoke at the Summit in 2019. Because of our shared passions and interests, we connected almost instantly and decided to get lunch a week later.

At lunch, Stephen shared his idea for a men’s group focused on high performance and personal development, so I encouraged him to reach out to his network to see who might be interested, and the rest is history.

Aside from social media and networking events, you could also ask your boss, any mentors you have, your parents, and other people you might know about people who might be interested in something like this. Tell them what kind of people you’re hoping to connect with and explain your goal. Then, ask if they know anyone that might be interested. If they do, politely ask for an introduction.

There are many ways that you can begin seeking out members for your group, but as a note, don’t try to build a large group right out of the gate.

Instead, focus on finding two or three groupmates and align your collective vision for the group first. Talk about how often you want to meet, when you want to meet, what you want to focus on, and how you’ll stay connected and accountable.

These types of things are easier to figure out in smaller groups, and you can always expand the group once you’ve nailed down the structure.

Forming the Group’s Mission and Vision

With your other potential founding members, talk about what you hope to get from the group. This meeting is where you need to state your vision. Tell your potential new groupmates what kind of group you wish to create as well as what type of group you don’t want to create.

(For example, I did not want to create a BNI-like networking group. No offense to any BNI members out there; I just don’t like forced networking.)

In these early discussions, it’s important to make your goals known, but it’s also important to be openminded and flexible. You and your new groupmates may all want slightly different things, and that’s okay. Try to find a creative way to blend your ideas without sacrificing the integrity of your core goal.

Do you want to focus on accountability while someone else wants to chat about personal development books? That can work! Do you want to focus on sharing your goals every week while someone else wants to brainstorm business ideas? That can work too. Stay flexible and be creative.

However, sometimes ideas may not blend.

Does someone in the founding group want to create a BNI-like networking group, and you are steadfastly against it?

If so, you don’t have to create a mastermind group together just because you began talking about one. Simply and politely explain that you don’t think you’re after the same things and reach back out to your network for new candidates.

It’s okay to want different things, and it’s important not to rush the group’s formation. In the early brainstorming phase of forming your group, you’re not committed to anything—it’s okay to keep looking for groupmates that share your vision.

Be patient and get started on the right foot, or your group may fall apart, leaving you to start all over. Once you narrow your focus, refine your vision for the mastermind group, and solidify the founding members, you can start talking about the more detailed structure.

Structuring Your Mastermind Group

Again, mastermind groups can vary from group to group. Some are free-flowing, while others are very structured. Make it your own and, if you want, allow it to evolve over time.

Once you have your core group of members and a unified vision, talk about the following items:

  • How often will you meet? Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly?
  • When will you meet and for how long? Weekly for an hour at lunch? Bi-weekly for drinks after work?
  • How structured do you want to be? Will there be a set agenda that you follow, or will conversation flow freely?
  • How important is attendance? Is this a formal group where lack of participation gets you voted out of the group, or is it okay to miss a lot of meetings?
  • How large of a group do you want to create? Is there a fixed number of members?
  • How are new members added, and who gets to invite new members? (My group checks with one another first before inviting new people as a way to ensure our close-knit group dynamic isn’t threatened by unknown conflicts. If any single member votes no on a new candidate, we don’t invite the potential new person to join the group.)
  • How will you stay connected? A group text, a Facebook group, or something else?
  • Will the group be all guys, all girls, or both? (Our group is all men, not to exclude women based on gender, but because we want to be able to discuss any appropriate, male-specific topic that may arise within our group. We wanted to create a safe space for men to connect and form vulnerable, trusting relationships.)

Once you get all of this ironed out with your founding group, brainstorm together for other individuals who might enjoy and add value to the group. When Stephen and I did this, we both thought of a couple of people to invite, and the group grew.

We meet weekly for lunch, so capping the group at eight was necessary to give everyone enough time to talk. Attendance is important because that allows us to stay accountable to each other and allows us to support one another consistently. If you only show up when you need help, you might not be there to help someone in return.

If someone stops showing up, we ask them if the group is still important to them or if it’s something they no longer have time for. Over time, some guys have drifted out of the group. That’s okay! Priorities change. Seasons of life change. If this happens, chat about it. If they can no longer make it, open the group up to new candidates.

Our group is a little more structured than some, but yours doesn’t have to be. The sky is the limit! Just be sure that the group is in agreement, and you’ll be good to go.

Okay, now that we’ve covered what a mastermind group is and how to create one of your own, let’s talk about all the amazing benefits.

The Many Benefits of a Mastermind Group

Mastermind groups, depending on how you structure them, can have countless benefits. Stephen and I started our group on June 6, 2019, and in the past year, I’ve personally noticed several key benefits that I want to share with you here (with some help from my groupmates.)

1. Unbiased Guidance and Advice

Last year I was struggling with goal competition in a major way. I was trying to maintain my weekly blog and podcast schedule, write my first book, train for a half marathon, build a deck, and maintain my career and relationships. (You can read all about that nutty Summer here.)

The problem is, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I was getting frustrated because I felt like I was underperforming, and I couldn’t understand why. This group of guys helped me to realize that I had taken on too much and that my goals were competing for my time. I wasn’t underperforming; I was overcommitted.

After they helped open my eyes, I put the blog and podcast on hold and spent the rest of the year, focusing on my book. Without this group, I may have continued like that for the rest of the year. I would have failed in getting my book done, my blog content would have suffered, and I would have been burnt out with little to show for my efforts.

Often, we have blind spots that others around us can see more easily. Having seven other guys to lean on, to talk to, and to go to for unbiased guidance and advice is one of the things I value the most.

“No man is an island. When left to his own thoughts and actions he will in fact begin to doubt himself. Being surrounded by others who have high aspirations and goals helps to mitigate my own thoughts of inadequacy. It also helps me realize my own strengths and weaknesses, learn different view points, and acts as a beta test for any product, service or advertisement I am considering releasing.”—Greg Pursley

2. Shared Knowledge and Wisdom

When eight guys from different backgrounds and professions all come together week after week, you’re bound to learn a few new things. In the past year, I’ve learned about real estate, investing, psychology, health, marketing, sales, business, and so much more.

It’s amazing! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned.

And, they say the best way to learn is to teach. When you teach others, you commit more things to memory, and you begin to seek out new knowledge to share. Since joining the group, I’ve found my thirst for learning to be at an all-time high.

I want to continue bringing value to my groupmates, so I keep raising my bar by reading more books and listening to more podcasts. A rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s something that a mastermind group can do for its members. Together, everyone improves.

“I like this group because I feel like everyone knows more than me in a lot of different areas. Every single person in this group is better at something than the others. I’m just getting into my professional career and I have questions almost every day. I know when I do have those questions, someone in this group has undoubtedly experienced something similar and can help. And for me, to be able to get feedback is invaluable. This group gives me confidence and an edge in my endeavors. It’s a combination of years, careers, and lifetimes, and you can’t put a price on that. I’m truly thankful for a group of such high performing individuals to keep me accountable.”—Trey Halter

3. Accountability and Support

Accountability was never the primary reason I wanted to create a mastermind group, but I can’t help but notice how much more likely I am to stick to my goals when I know I’m reporting to my group every week.

I have a lot of ambitious goals, and I love to share them with the group, as do most of the members. Sometimes, they see me struggling to meet my objectives, like last year with the book. Week after week, I was slipping with my goals, and the group began asking me helpful questions that helped me form a new plan of action.

The accountability isn’t harsh, either—it’s not a way for each of us to come down on one another, but it’s a great way to say, “Hey, whatever happened to that goal you had last week?” When we do that, we can remind each other to stay focused and coach each other through obstacles that we might not see for ourselves.

We also stay accountable to the group itself. We show up, week after week. We’re all busy, so to show up means valuing and respecting each other’s time, even when we may not feel like it. When you show up on a bad day, the group can help you through it. When you show up on a good day, you get to return the favor.

Staying accountable and showing up week after week keeps the group motivated, inspired, and ignited.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t struggle with motivation sometimes (or as often as I personally do), so I find a lot of motivation from connecting regularly with the mastermind group I’m in with Austin, Stephen, and the other guys. I may not crush every weekly goal, but I continue to make more and faster progress on important goals and I think in large part that’s because of the motivation, energy, and support this group brings. Even when I miss a meeting or two in a month, knowing the group meets, texting with the guys, or just reaching out to one of them individually is a tremendous help.”—Jakob Pallesen

4. New Perspectives and Ideas

Another one of my favorite things about a mastermind group is the unique perspectives, opinions, and ideas that each member brings to the group. To further explore this benefit, I’m going to lean on my good friend and groupmate, Jakob Pallesen:

“Connecting with a group of people that have different perspectives and insights on a lot of relevant issues is a great way to help yourself make better decisions. I don’t always agree with everyone’s opinions or advice, but that’s often the most important thing to hear and learn from.

“In Steven Johnson’s book, Farsighted, he explores how we can make better decisions, and one of the most consistent findings in research on decision making is the importance of input from diverse sources.

“I think some of the biggest traps we easily fall into are “group think” (groups without varying viewpoints) and “confirmation bias,” where our inputs only align with what we already believe in. These are dangerous traps that can cause us a lot of pain, but they can often be avoided if we’re willing to consider the ideas and opinions that others are willing to share.

“But this kind of diverse input extends beyond direct conversations. Having a group of people that can share recommendations on resources, books, blogs, podcasts, and speakers allow you to expand your understanding every day.

“The recommendations I receive may not always be the ones I thought I wanted or needed, but I can trust that it will bring me some value I would likely have missed otherwise.”

5. Inspiration and Motivation

In our group, our members are always working on interesting and exciting things that keep the group motivated and inspired.

Greg is working on building a platform aimed at helping people lose weight. Julian is a TedX speaker and certified success coach with several projects in the works. Nate is having a blast with his Walks with Nate video project.

Stephen and Trey are working on building their real estate businesses along with some other top-secret projects that I can’t reveal. Jakob has a side hustle in business consulting that he’s working on.

With all of these cool projects in the works, our meetings are a buzz of exciting updates, challenges, and opportunities to help each other. Even if I’m having a particularly bad day, it’s inspiring and uplifting to see what all of these guys are striving to do with their lives.

It’s a privilege to get to spend an hour with such stand-up guys every week. It’s honestly kind of selfish, but spending time with these guys fills my passion and energy buckets. Sometimes I worry that I’m getting more from them than they are from me, but that’s what keeps us all growing and striving to add value to the group.

Think about what you could achieve if you could share your time with other individuals that continually inspire and motivate you.

“What I love most is the ability to be around other guys who continually inspire me to keep doing cool things the rest of the world is missing out on.”—Nate Gautier

6. Networking

Earlier, I mentioned that I didn’t want to build a mastermind group around the goal of networking, but I have to mention networking as a benefit. Some groups form as a way to deepen each member’s connections through intentional introductions and so forth, and that’s cool, but that’s not what this group was built around.

However, once you enter into a group of people, your network is bound to grow organically. Since being in my mastermind group, I’ve met so many new people, which has led to many new friendships and shared opportunities.

According to the New York Times, the average American knows about 600 people, so a group of eight could share an immediate network of about 4,800 people, assuming no overlap. And that’s not counting those 4,800 people’s combined 600-person networks!

The benefit here is being about to ask your group things like, “Hey, does anyone know a good accountant/contractor/lawyer/plubmer/etc?”

Do you need to restructure some debt? Maybe one of the people in your group is good friends with a banker. Are you looking to set up a new business? Perhaps one of your groupmates knows a great attorney. Need an MC for your next event? Yep, someone in the group might just know someone who can help.

As soon as you ask the question, your groupmates will begin to sift through their combined network and, if they don’t have an answer, I’m sure one of their 600 friends will know someone. That’s the power of networking.

These types of connections and introductions are fantastic. Best of all, they’re organic and beneficial to everyone involved.

7. Cross Promotion

I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining this one because it’s pretty similar to networking, but cross-promotion is a massive benefit of a mastermind group.

With all of the exciting things my groupmates are working on, I can’t help but cheer them on, share their social posts, tell my other friends, and so on. And, each of my groupmates does the same for me.

It’s not expected. It’s not required. It’s just organic and awesome!

If you’re trying to start a new business, blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or anything else, the cross-promotional power of your combined network is a powerful tool.

8. Friendship and Comradery

I’ve saved the best for last: friendship.

The main reason that creating this mastermind group was one of the best things I did in 2019, maybe ever, is the deep new friendships I’ve gained. Before joining the group, I had very few close friends. In fact, most of my friends were colleagues that I didn’t spend much time with beyond office hours.

I had two close friends in high school. I married one, and the other passed away in a tragic accident. My wife and I bought our first home at 19 and skipped out on the college experience that so many people use to build lifelong friendships.

I don’t mean to paint a sad picture—I’ve had an amazing life so far—it’s just been a life with few friends. But this group opened my eyes to something I had been missing for a long time. Our group is about far more than setting goals and achieving success—it’s about comradery and brotherhood.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. This group of guys is a group that I want to go far with. I value their friendship, and I wish each of them all the success, happiness, and fulfillment in the world.

The gift of their friendship has meant the world to me, and if you were to join a mastermind group for just one reason, do it for friendship. Trust me; it’ll change your life forever.

Create Your Mastermind Group Today

Okay, so we’ve explored what a mastermind group is, how to start and structure one, and why they’re so amazing. So what will you do? Are you going to start looking for a group to join today? Are you going to reach out to your network and start building your own group?

I’d love to know! If you’re going to join or build a group, or if you found value in this post, drop me a comment below. I love hearing from my readers, and I can’t wait to hear about what you’re going to do.

Until next time, take care!


Photo Credits: Dr. Greg Pursley

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.