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That’s a huge promise; a ‘mastermind’ group as an answer to all of your questions. The key to success, a silver bullet. It sounds too good to be true, right?

You can achieve anything you want – if you help enough people get what they want

Zig Ziglar

I understand how this sounds. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the principle that I describe in this article is the key to success for (personal) growth. This doesn’t imply that you won’t need training after reading about the mastermind principle. It’s about getting even more out of those training sessions you do participate in. It will help you achieve the goals you set.


The mastermind principle in 1 minute

The mastermind principle was introduced in 1937 by Napoleon Hill. The briefest definition of this principle is that it consists of two or more people working in perfect harmony for the attainment of a definite purpose

The idea behind it is that you work with someone else or a small group of people towards your goal. The goal can for example be to start up your own company, but also reinforcing your knowledge after a specific training can be a starting point.

The goal doesn’t have to be a shared one among the group. In the example of starting up a company, you might want to talk to other entrepreneurs that are having the same kind of struggle you are.

You meet for example monthly to track and discuss your progress. The feedback and new insights you gain during such a mastermind session help you take bigger steps forward than you could have had you operated alone. 

A mastermind group ensures frequent evaluation of the progress towards your goals, so that you keep focusing on the things you want to achieve.


If only I had known this sooner

It took me over 7 years to complete my studies (which normally should take 5 years). It wasn’t until I had almost finished that I realized something I wish I had known much sooner; when you work together, you can achieve more.

Starting my studies, most lectures were interesting, and the courses’ contents seemed logical. That is to say; when the teacher explained or discussed an exercise the theory was clear. Working on the exercises myself, they turned out to be more difficult than I thought. When I couldn’t figure out how to complete an exercise, I simply moved on to the next topic. During the exam, it often turned out that I had never come back to the exercise to solve it. This, to say the least, wasn’t beneficial for my grades.

During the master’s phase of my studies, the lecture groups became small scale and their contents increasingly challenging. One indicator of the increased difficulty is that you can no longer find the answers to exercises in the back of the book :). This enforced me to cooperate more with my fellow students to arrive at the correct answers. This lead me to new insights:

  • The exercise changed from my problem to our problem.
  • Once I got stuck, someone else could motivate me to push through.
  • If I couldn’t figure it out myself, someone else might have the missing piece of the puzzle.

Also, when we were all fed up, we would jointly complain about the difficulty 🙂

A lesson learned

If I had realized this sooner, I might have completed my studies a lot faster. Yet I have no regrets, as I am convinced that all past experiences make me into the person I am today. Looking back I apparently needed this time to go through the developments that brought me to where I am today.

The past has no power over the present moment

Eckhart Tolle

Is the main takeaway just that you can achieve more together? Certainly not, however, the essence of a mastermind group is that you can achieve greater things together than you could alone. A mastermind group? Yes, in this article I will explain the idea of mastermind groups.

The mastermind group

The mastermind principle was introduced in 1937 by Napoleon Hill in his bestseller Think and grow rich. In this video, he explains the mastermind principle. The most general description in the video clip is: It consists of two or more people working in perfect harmony for the attainment of a definite purpose.

Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn from him.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Three years ago I attended a personal leadership training by Remco Claassen (which I highly recommended for my Dutch-speaking audience!). This was the first time I came into contact with the mastermind principle. At the end of the 3.5 days of complete immersion in personal development theories and exercises, Remco gave the tip to start a mastermind group with other participants. The purpose of that group would be to keep working with the theories and frameworks provided during the training. The pitfall of this training, as it is with the content of any training, is that you leave totally inspired but ultimately do nothing with its contents. By frequently reminding each other of the contents of the training, you will keep applying the knowledge.

How do you work in a mastermind group?

After Remco’s tip, we decided to start a mastermind group, with which we gather approximately every 1.5 months. As the quote from the video mentioned earlier in this article shows, the purpose of the mastermind group should be clear. In our case, this is clear, namely to help each other work on and achieve our personal goals. The starting point was writing down our personal mission statements.

Nowadays, we basically discuss anything that is keeping us busy and we want to talk about. The subjects range from our one-year goals to our relationships and from challenges at work to uncertainties. The foundation for our mastermind group is an enormous amount of trust between all participants. If it weren’t for that, we would not be able to help each other move forward. In the end, we are a group of like-minded individuals who trust each other and are willing to tell each other the truth, even when it is unpleasant. It is my mentor group for advice and inspiration.

I have a very intense personal relationship with these people. Yet we don’t go to a bar together and we don’t meet that frequently. This is actually an important element of our relationship. The moment you start mixing your mastermind group with very close personal contact, you might become (too) careful with each other. When that happens, the power of the mastermind group is gone.

Your mindset sets the result

In my experience, it is the growth mindset we all bring to the table that gives our mastermind sessions so much energy. During every meeting, I get an energy boost to keep working on improving myself. More specifically, the growth of others motivates me to also keep working on myself. It is the seventh habit Stephen Covey describes in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, namely ‘sharpen the saw’. By this Covey implies that you have to keep working on improving your personal development.

In the book, Covey also describes two types of mindsets. The first mindset assumes a zero-sum game. The basic idea is that everything one person gains comes at the expense of someone else. Not a very positive starting point when you are striving for positivity and collaboration. The second mindset is that of an abundance mentality. This has to be the basis for any mastermind group. It is the idea that everything you share will lead to much more good things. The latter is precisely what I experience in my mastermind group. We help each other without immediately expecting anything in return.

If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.

Lao Tzu

A mastermind is a joy forever

You can start a mastermind group yourself. Start by determining the purpose and the group members. In my experience, every participant decides for himself what he wants to talk about. You will become more familiar with one another in the group, which enables you to get to the core of challenges faster. We all do this at our own pace and the feedback from the group should always be aimed at helping the other person grow. That doesn’t imply that you can only have positive feedback! On the contrary, the participants in my mastermind group can name exactly those pain points I would rather not hear. Every individual brings a unique point of view and can therefore provide a new perspective on things.

A concrete example of when my mastermind group helped me out is with starting this blog. I had almost finished the website and I actually had my first article completed for months already. Nevertheless, I could not manage to take the last step, namely to launch my website. During a mastermind discussion, it became clear to me that this was due to my strive for perfection, the importance I place on the opinions of others, and my difficulty in sharing personal matters. The great thing is that the session didn’t end at the analysis. My peers provided me with a number of tips on how to tackle this challenge. After that mastermind session, my blog launched within 2 weeks.

There is a good reason for the subtitle of this website, “Only applied knowledge is of value“. Nowadays we are all exposed to so much information, but only the information you apply yourself has value. It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do.

Where focus goes, energy flows

Tony Robbins

How to apply this yourself?

The mastermind principle is not limited to a specific area or subject. There is a common denominator though, namely growth and improvement. These can be found in any area of expertise. Do you want to get better at your job? Gather some colleagues from your field of expertise and get together for example every month to discuss your goals. My advice would be to look for group members with ranging backgrounds. The individuals in my mastermind group have a diverse set of interests and backgrounds, which is one of the crucial elements in making the mastermind discussions successful. In addition, I encourage you to look for people outside of your own organization. That way there is little limitation to the ideas everyone can bring to the table.

Also, don’t go for big group size. A large group leads to increased complexity in scheduling the group sessions and there is a higher risk of social loafing. In addition, it takes time to build the trust required to make the mastermind discussion successful. The larger the group, the more time this will take. As a guideline, restrict the group size to a maximum of 6 participants.

Finally, it is important to keep experiencing the added value of your mastermind discussions, especially when times are tough. In our mastermind group we have had people that could benefit from the mastermind sessions but ultimately decided that they wanted to follow a different path.

Success requires no explanations. Failure permits no alibis.

Napoleon Hill