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How Your Mastermind Group Is Holding You Back (if You’re Not Watching for This One Thing)

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Just a few months ago, a client told me a story that really got me thinking about how a mastermind group — even great ones with great intentions — can hold us back.

My client (I’ll call her Betsy) joined a mastermind group for all the right reasons: the network, the advice, a tight-knit community of like-minded women working toward similar goals, and open-minded people to bounce business ideas off of.

Betsy brought to her mastermind group the copy for a new offer she and I pulled together during her previous coaching session. She was looking for some feedback from her peers on the offer and the copy.

Much to both of our surprise, she received some pretty harsh feedback.

But it wasn’t the criticism itself that startled me; they had some points that were quite valid. What concerned me was that some of the group’s strongest feedback went directly against what I know works — based both on my own business and the work I’ve done personally with over a hundred other business owners.

So I got curious. “How many of the women in your mastermind group have created financially successful businesses?” I asked Betsy.

“None.” she replied.

A-ha.

How a Mastermind Can Hold You Back

Mastermind groups are an amazing way to get support and ideas and learn from others. But as a new entrepreneur, you must remember where the advice is coming from.

How great could someone’s business advice be if they haven’t created a successful business?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t join a mastermind group or that someone’s input isn’t valuable if they aren’t making millions. I’m simply saying that you need to take into consideration where the advice came from before you let it direct the big decisions in your business.

I’ve even been caught in this trap — twice.

My Mastermind Blunders

The first time I made a mastermind mistake was when I was a brand new coach. I joined a group of fellow coaches. None of us were making money in business, but we decided to band together and help one another.

Although the camaraderie was fantastic, the results were nonexistent. None of us knew what we were doing or how to get our businesses off the ground. As a result, nothing happened, and we got nowhere. (It was pretty sad, actually.)

The second time I got stuck was pretty recent. My current mastermind group is amazing, and we’ve helped one another reach great success in our businesses. But when we were scheming our next leaps, we came up empty on ideas for one another. We knew how to reach the level we’ve achieved, but we didn’t know how to take it much further (without simply working harder, which we weren’t willing to do!). Simply put, we got stuck.

Getting Out of the Mastermind Trap

So what do you do when you’re in a great group but they’re not the ones who can help you get out of your current scenario?

Do exactly what I did both times: reach out for help.

Get out of the “group think” by getting new input and information.

Find a mentor. Hire a coach. Take a new program.

Even better, have everyone go out and learn something new and bring it back to the group. That’s definitely going to get your group grooving with fresh ideas.

I Really Do Love Mastermind Groups

To be clear, this post isn’t telling you to quit your mastermind group. I love mastermind groups and think they’re one of the best ways to keep your energy and momentum up. Those who work in groups have much greater success than those who work alone.

However, as you’re masterminding, consider where the advice is coming from when you take it.

And most importantly, keep learning about business. That’s how you’re guaranteed to keep moving forward, reaching for your dreams. You’ll be amazed at how far fresh input can take you.

It’s Your Turn

Now I want to hear from you! Tell me…

Have you been a part of a mastermind group? How was it?

Can you relate to the experiences I’ve mentioned above?

How do you keep yourself moving forward in business?

As always, I can’t wait to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below!

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Teri

Wow Jenny I can relate and actually this has been on my mind for a few weeks. Although I have never been in a mastermind group I’ve been in different networking groups and have noticed something just recently. Although the groups I interact with are great with some awesome people I find that I need something more, something that will move me up a level. Something that will challenge me. I realized just recently that I’m not growing because I am in groups which are at a certain level that I want to climb above. I’ve considered a mastermind group for this reason, and want to thank you for this very timely advice! Now I know to look for a group that will be a level (or more) above where I am now. This is so important! We need to make sure we are surrounding ourselves with influences that will help us grow, not stay at our current level. Thank you for the great advice!

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2 Jenny Shih

Smart thinking, Teri!! I definitely see that happening in networking groups. Everyone seems to be at the same point, plus or minus. It’s like that quote:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. — John Rohn

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3 Kortney K

Thanks so much for sharing a healthy dose of reality! As a new coach, I’ve thought about joining or creating a group, but this is very helpful to know before I jump in — recognizing and staying conscious of that awareness of our own businesses and each other’s successes. Great to know when just starting out. Thank you! :)

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4 Jenny Shih

You got it, Kortney! It’s not that you shouldn’t be in a group of your peers. It’s just that you need to be conscious and aware of it!

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5 Anna

great article. The thing is that for me the word “mastermind” is being miss used a lot online. I have joined groups that are supposed to be ‘mastermind’ groups, but end up being a place for self promotion and all over the place advice coming from people who are not making money. Personally, I believe they could be called Networking group or such, but not mastermind.

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6 Jenny Shih

Interesting. I haven’t encountered that, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Connecting with people who can help you collaborate, brainstorm, and troubleshoot to grow your business is a powerful thing!

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7 Stephanie Watanabe | The Girl Who Knows

Your timing is incredible with this post Jenny! I just recently left a Mastermind group after 8 months of working together. I’m getting ready to take my business to a new level and felt the need to go solo, into my creative cave, rather than continue to meet once a month. Leaving the group was hard for me (I hate feeling like I’m letting others down), but I feel SO rock solid about the decision.
You really articulated a lot of things that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time that I left. But after reading this, I feel even clearer about why I needed to leave and what I will look for if and when I decide to re-enter the Mastermind world.
Thank you x thank you as always for your candid and honest posts! xo

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8 Jenny Shih

I did that twice before, Stephanie, so I totally know that feeling and I’m sending you a ton of love and support. I can feel how ready you are, and I’m cheering you on!!!!! xo

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9 Clare

Such a fantastic post Jenny. I had never thought about mastermind groups this way before.

I am currently in an awesome mastermind group of hugely supportive women. A number of us are relative newcomers to online business and one of our members has already had good success with her online business.

What we often help each other with is managing the ups and downs of being a business owner – plus what we are testing and implementing in our own businesses.

Your points were really pertinent to what we should be considering next. Thanks for the timely post.

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10 Jenny Shih

Love that you’re in a great group, Clare! Not that you need to change anything right now; just keep your awareness up for when you guys may be unable to help one another because you’re all in the same place. And keep it up — great groups are amazing and they really help one another grow!

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11 Michelle

WOW! I love this, really got me thinking… and more about the Facebook groups I am in and how many of them do not have very successful people within the group and if they do they rarely share things. Time to go and de-clutter these.

Thank you so much for this post!

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12 Jenny Shih

Smart thinking, Michelle! :-)

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13 Sara Mazenko

Another great post, Jenny! I have so many thoughts on masterminds — I’m in one and it has changed my life. The most important part for me in finding it was surrounding myself with women who were living the lifestyle and experiencing business success like I desired. And obviously when you work intimately with anyone, you get a different vantage point of the success AND the struggles (of which there are more than imagined no matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey). What I love about my mastermind that I’m in my second year with, is that we talk about everything — not just business or relationships, but the whole picture of our lives. I’ve found that if you try to focus solely on your biz, other things slip like health, self care, relationships. So a holistic approach felt best for me.

The other day I was talking to a new client, who’s also an entrepreneur, and she mentioned how she’s in a mastermind but she doesn’t want to tell them how hard she’s struggling because she doesn’t want them to think badly of her. My heart sank when I heard this but I’m thinking that many experience it. This is why it’s soooo important that you trust your mastermind implicitly. I feel like you can’t get anywhere unless you’re willing to be vulnerable and get real. But having the right group of people or hiring a coach who runs a mastermind, which is the approach I took, makes curating the right support lightyears easier. We need to be picky about the people we trust with helping us build a life we truly love!

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14 Jenny Shih

Well put, Sara! I agree on all fronts. My mastermind is that for me, too, a place where I can bring anything, business or otherwise. And that’s really important, especially for those of us whose businesses spring from our hearts! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here today!

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15 Dinorah

Great article Jenny. It has been something I have thought about, up to a certain level, but your insight completed that thought by explaining the reasons why is important to be observant when taking in the opinions of others. So glad I read it. Thank you!

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16 Jenny Shih

So glad to complete that thought for you, Dinorah! You’ve totally got it right: listen to others and at the same time simply remember who it’s coming from. That will keep you on track.

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17 Jen

I read this post and have a super basic question.

I hear the term “mastermind” used all the time. If you were telling a third grader (or me) what it is exactly, how would you describe it?

Thank you!

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18 Jenny Shih

I’m not sure he was the first one to coin it (though maybe he was), but Napoleon Hill was famous for using the word Mastermind. Basically, he defines it as a collaboration of two ore more minds to collaborate and create something better. The books he’s written that include this topic are “The Law of Success” and “Think and Be Rich.”

In today’s modern terms, we entrepreneurs think of masterminds as small or medium sized groups of individuals that collaborate to help one another achieve greater success.

For myself, my mastermind is a group of 4 women who meet weekly to help one another in topics of life and business. We support one another in getting through difficult times and achieving more success in our businesses.

Does that help?

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19 Brighton

I’m kinda with Jen. Hearing the term a lot, but not sure how to find a “mastermind.” And after reading your advice, I’m thinking starting one with other folks who are at the same place in starting a business might not be the best idea.

I have no problem finding networking groups, but what about masterminds?

Thanks!

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20 Jenny Shih

Networking groups are easy to find because they’re always looking for members. For a mastermind group, you have to hunt and often create your own.

Start by reaching out to people you know and asking them if they want to join a group with you. Then try it for awhile and see if you click. Keep searching and trying and you will find your group!

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21 Tova

Wow Jenny

This post is Brilliant. I LOVE it. It’s so true, I have found myself asking advice from people who weren’t even in business! And although outside feedback can be helpful, it’s important to also take into account where it’s coming from, and ultimately to listen to the inner knowing that tells you what you really need to do ( and sometimes that means hiring someone or just trusting your own instinct on the final call)

This is one of my most favorite posts I’ve read in awhile, and it really hit the perfect spot. Thank You!!

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22 Jenny Shih

Sometimes the worst advice comes from people who have no idea what it’s like to be in your business! (Sometimes they have great advice, though, so don’t always discount it.) But just remember where it’s coming from :-)

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23 Alicia Vaz

Thank you Jenny, this was very helpful. This is my first year at B-School and I’ve never had the privilege of being a part of a mastermind group—really excited about doing it though. I’ve asked a few of my friends but after reading your post, I think I’ll be going about my search with some modifications. Of the friends I know, only one of them is having great success in business, some are in the corporate field and the others are stay at home moms. My goal is to help salon owners do business better, I was thinking to maybe have two groups, one where I can get feedback from the consumer’s perspective and the other for business inspiration and motivation. Thoughts?

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24 Jenny Shih

It’s going to be personal for everyone. What lights you up and what do you have time for? If you want 2 groups, go for it,… if that’s what you need. It’s really about what you need and making sure you get that.

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25 Peggy Freeh

Great post, Jenny. I’d love to hear your thoughts about paid mastermind groups, where you pay to be with someone who is a lot further along than you to avoid just what you are talking about.

And when are you going to offer one of those groups? You can put me on the list. :-)

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26 Jenny Shih

Even when I was in a paid group, I still had MY group. Paid groups can be really effective (though like all coaches and programs, not all are…). The biggest tip I can offer is get clear on how the group will run and exactly what you’ll get out of it. That way, like with any other business investment, you can decide if it’s really right for you.

The one program I offered so far with the group masterminding component was Make It Work. http://makeitworklive.com I’ll be opening up registration again this September. I do have another similar program in the scheming phase targeted at more experienced business owners. All info will be sent via my list in due time :-)

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27 Sonia Ruyts

This has been on my mind lately too! I’ve been in groups where commiseration and/or complaining seems to be the focus, rather than productivity and growth. It can be tricky to find the right group. Do you have any advice about finding a virtual mastermind group?

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28 Jenny Shih

Ask around… a lot. It took a lot of searching for me to find the right group. Get clear on what you need and the type of people you want in your group. Then put the call out online. Reach out to people you know, personally. It will come together; it just takes a little effort.

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29 Natalia Real

Okay, this is something I’ve been thinking about for many months but still hadn’t seen anyone outright SAY. Thank you :)

And I love the concept of sending everyone out to learn something new and bring it back to the group. Perfect.

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30 Jenny Shih

I think you’ve been thinking right :-) Yes, bringing fresh ideas to the group can be really powerful. So glad this resonated with you, Natalia!

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