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If you've ever been a follower of Napoleon Hill's “Think And Grow Rich,” then you've certainly heard of the concept of the Mastermind Group.

The concept is quite simple: find people you want to associate with, and try to meet with them regularly. People who you admire and trust, who are supportive, and whose opinions you value.

But there's a big difference between what Napoleon Hill teaches, and the way most groups today are formed. (And in that category I include blogs and forums, too.)

In fact, participating in one may hurt you. And perhaps do so without you even knowing it.

Mastermind Groups are great. They can become sounding boards to bounce your ideas off of, hangouts to learn new tips and angles from, and communities that allow you to share tips and advice with.

And a whole lot more.

But here's what I mean when I say they can hurt you. First, let me quote Jim Rohn, who once said:

“There are two parts to influence. First, influence is powerful. And second, it is subtle. You wouldn't let someone push you off course, but you might let someone nudge you off course and not even realize it.”

Mastermind Groups may be great, but not all groups are masterminds, either. You got to be careful, and carefully select those groups you want to join (or people you allow in your group).

And that includes carefully selecting those blogs you wish to subscribe to, or forums you wish to participate in.

Many people automatically assume that a group of people wanting the same thing is the same as a group of people doing the same thing or thinking the same way.

Not true, and I'll come back to this.

The premise behind Hill's lesson is not to have a group of likeminded people, but a mastermind group. The difference is subtle, but significant.

A mastermind is an alliance of people who have achieved the same things you want to achieve, whose business or success you want to model, or whose income you want to duplicate. They are “masterminds,” hence the term.

And granted, some have ideologies you support and believe in, and perhaps some you wish to follow, debate with or discuss on.

However, in some cases many people in the group may be where you are or they may believe in the same things, but they may not necessarily want the same things or share the same goals.

When I see people start groups (or blogs, or forums, or whatever), they turn out to be more support groups than mastermind groups. They assume their group is a “mastermind” just because it's comprised of likeminded people.

Emotionally, that may be gratifying. But financially, it can be devastating. Why? Because when you start growing, you are no longer of “like mind.” You become the outcast.

Either the group will shun you or attempt to pull you down to their level, or you will stagnate.

(In here, I'm NOT talking about groups that encourage healthy debates and constructive criticisms, which are powerful, productive and insightful. And I'm not talking about individual thinkers within a group, either. What I am talking about is the group mindset that can be detrimental to your own.)

Why can this hurt you?

Blame it on peer pressure that can cause you a great deal of distress and doubt, that can subtly influence you and take you off course, or that can distract you and cause you to lose your vision and abandon your ideas… without you even realizing it.

Or blame it on the fact that you are learning what obviously doesn't work (at least, for you), or sharing unproductive techniques that can only stifle your goals. Or your motivation.

Again, as Jim Rohn noted, “Let the views of others educate and inform you, but let your decisions be a product of your own conclusions.”

Some people get so wrapped up in debates and collective ideologies that they fail to see the forest for the trees. They analyze and pontificate. They debate and argue. They whine and complain. And they leave money on the table, never accomplishing much.

They “study the roots while others are picking the fruit,” as Jim Rohn said.

Here's a true story:

I was abused by an alcoholic father. This caused me to grow up with tremendous emotional difficulties.

(Although that became the springboard, which motivated me to succeed. More on this later.)

I constantly sought approval and feared rejection — a common problem among children of alcoholics. In fact, I feared it so much that I became agoraphobic and antisocial.

So to fight my fears, I left home at a very young age and dove into sales in order to fight my fears dead-on. (What better way is there to fight the fear of rejection than sales, right?)

At first, I failed miserably.

I even declared bankruptcy at 21, because I was living on credit card debts and loans just to pay the bills. And even to buy food. (In fact, I once lost everything in what seemed to be a single week, including my home, furniture and car. I was literally forced to sleep at the local YMCA.)

When I first started out on my own, I was told to “join a group.”

“Good idea,” I thought to myself. So I joined a local group of people who met weekly. People who were like me.

They were based on A.C.O.A. (Adult Children of Alcoholics), an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous.

It was a great group, the guys were fun to be with and they were incredibly supportive. But one problem:

Group meetings usually start off with each peer discussing their week, how their week went and what they were thankful for.

But the problem was, they were all public servants (not business owners) who hated their jobs, yet justified their scarcity mindsets and their jobs by speaking against entrepreneurship, marketing and sales.

And how do I know this?

(Before I share this with you, please note that this is a commentary about my specific group, not ACOA in general. And being in Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada — much like Washington, D.C. — the vast majority of the population works for the government.)

Over time, although it was a struggle (believe me, it was!), I started taking courses. I started listening to tapes. I started attending seminars. And yes, I finally started making sales.

In turn, this started building my self-esteem and my self-confidence.

One week (and I remember that week as if it was yesterday), I hit the jackpot. Up until that time, it was my biggest week in sales. I had just made a $5,000 commission paycheck.

(Considering that this was close to 20 years ago, and the fact that I was dead-broke, this was indeed the jackpot.)

I was so proud. I was motivated. I was ecstatic! So ecstatic, in fact, that I couldn't wait to share it with my group.

But when my turn came at that week's meeting to speak, the group listened and looked at me in complete and utter dismay.

You could feel a chill in the air. You can see frowns on my group members' faces contemplating this horrendous act I have just committed. And it was so silent in the room that you could hear a pin drop.

After I was done, and after what seemed to be an eternity, you could hear grumbling and mumbling from across the room. They all started rebuking me for my newfound success.

I was devastated. In fact, the person who spoke after me (and remember, we were to only talk about things we were thankful for), “Jack” said this:

“I hate it when people make that kind of money. I'm so thankful that I don't, because it enrages me to see how an NBA star can dribble a ball down a court and make millions, while there are starving children in underdeveloped countries.”

(Not his exact words, but pretty darn close.)

And here I was, a person who sought approval being scolded by my group for having a successful week.

What I didn't know at the time, however, was that Jack changed my life. His words were brilliant. I say “brilliant” because shortly thereafter I had an epiphany.

At first, I didn't react or rebut. I felt so downtrodden and reviled by my vituperators that I kept quiet for the remainder of the meeting.

Later that night, I thought about something I initially should have said, but was later glad I didn't, which was:

“But Jack, maybe that basketball player is a philanthropist. And thank goodness for those guys, because millionaires give more to charity, per capita, than the crowds of thousands who come to watch them play (or buy their products, or whatever). Take Bill Gates, for example.”

I'm so glad I didn't say anything because they would have rebuked me further. But after some reflection, this became the “a-ha!” moment that opened my mind.

It changed my life.

It's when I started to learn more about this whole concept of an abundance mentality (as opposed to a scarcity mindset), now made famous by the movie The Secret.

Which also led me to seek out and join Mastermind Groups of people who were not like me but were like who I wanted to be.

The rest is history.

Nevertheless, the point is this: there is a difference between a support group and a mastermind group. And when selecting a mastermind, don't just stop at what the group is about. Learn who they are and where they want to be.

There's an old saying in my native French Canadian, which goes:

“Dis-moi avec qui tu te tiens, et je te dirai qui tu es.”

Which translated, means, “Tell me who you hang around with, and I'll tell you who you are.”

So who do YOU listen to? Who do you hang around with? And who's websites (or who's blogs) do you interact with? What forums do you participate in?

If you don't like who or where you are, don't go where you don't want to become. As Richard Bach said, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours.”

That said, here's an interesting read that totally captivated me, and I wanted to share it with you. Don't be turned off by the fact it comes from an Internet marketer, because it's actually somewhat of a scathing report on the nature — and future — of Internet marketing.

Mike Filsaime may be a good friend of mine, but his report does bring some insightful criticisms about trends and processes that, admittedly, I'm just as guitly of.

He covers issues such as overdone product launches; the overuse of “hype;” the prevalence in reverse-engineered products and salesletters; and the growth in user-driven tools, content and interactivity (such as Web 2.0).

(And it also supports some of the points I've made, here, and have been posting about on my blog of late. Pay particular attention to the section about joining joint-venture groups.)

It's one of the most fascinating reads I've come across in a long time, and I highly encourage you to read this free report.

In closing, here's a brilliant quote from Mike Filsaime pulled from the report, which made the most sense to me:

You want to create a service that keeps blood pumping into people's businesses rather than a service that requires people to evaluate the profit they are getting from the information you provide.

Michel Fortin

Chief Experience Officer at Supportibles, Inc.
A copywriter and consultant for close to 30 years, Michel was instrumental in selling millions worth of products and services. His most notable success is a salesletter that sold over a million dollars online on launch day. Today, Michel is a best-selling author, in-demand public speaker, and highly sought-after marketing consultant. Get his free report, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," at Supportibles.com.

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