Have You Tried This? The Biggest Difference Maker in My Life in 2014

Published on July 7, 2014 by

Start Thinking Bigger IllustrationI squirmed in my chair, trying to calm down my breathing.

I was sure everyone else could hear the thumping of my heart, which was beating hard and rapidly. I raised the paper up a bit higher so I could see it  in spite of my shaky hands and blurry vision.  I started to read the first scene of my chick lit novel;  my voice shook as much as my hands were!

It was 2010 and I was at my first writing group, sitting among a group of women, authors and writers with a lot more experience than I had. I joined this writing group, not on my own volition, but at the invitation  of a woman who my beloved grandpa introduced me to. Carol, had been encouraging me to come for months and I finally squelched my nervousness and made my way to Shirley's home, where the meeting was held.

The first meeting was the hardest to get through, but once I realized what a supportive group I was in, I let down my inhibitions. I began to write, spurred on by meeting together each month. Several months later I finished my first manuscript.

The Write Bunch is a group of women writers who meet to read aloud their writing projects  and give encouragement and critiques to one another.  It is a place to be encouraged and grow. Shirley, the hostess and leader, started the group more than thirty years ago, when she first started her writing career.  I am not able to attend any longer but the last time I checked the group was going stronger than it ever has.

That, in essence, is what a mastermind group is. A mastermind is a group of like people who have a similar end goal and vision (writing a book, starting a business, growing as an entrepreneur, etc.) who come together for accountability, encouragement, and clarity and to learn from one another's expertise.

And these groups have had the biggest influence in moving me forward in my journey as a writer, an artist, and an entrepreneur. This year will be my most prolific and productive year and I believe the groups I'm a part of are responsible for my growth and momentum.

Some endeavors feel very alone. Whether you are an entrepreneur, artist, writer, photojournalist- there may be a lot of time spent on your own.  You may find your regular group of family and friends don't quite get what you are doing.

The work we're doing is harder than we thought it would be and doesn't turn out like we thought it would. Everything can get a little quiet and all we hear is crickets chirping.

While we creatives often thrive on our alone time, the dark side can also rear its ugly head.

Disillusion giving way to giving up.

But a mastermind group, like a good writing critique group, can change feelings of frustration in to a healthy discussion where problems are dissected and solutions are discovered.   By meeting together and encouraging one another on, we listen to one another. We offer encouragement. We dare to speak what we want to accomplish and create weekly goals. We laugh and share.

It's about you, but it's not about you.  It really is a give and take atmosphere where we all learn, share and give to become the people we want to.

I'm in a few different groups and each one, while different, share three specific factors.

1. Enthusiasm & a positive attitude

Call me crazy, but I don't want to be in the best, most brilliant group, if there is not some laughter and joy. Who wants to be around a grumpy or jaded person, even if they are brilliant? It's hard to stay down (if I'm feeling down) when I get together with the people in my groups.  Each personality is different and not everyone is jovial, but each is encouraging, supportive and helpful, even in critiquing.

And we laugh- oh, some of these groups-especially when it's all women- we have so much fun, it feels like I'm getting together with a group of friends I've known forever.

2. Weekly Goal Setting to Move to Our Big Goals (Accountability)

We say our biweekly goals out loud and then we come back to them at the next meeting.  If we didn't meet them, we may share the holdup or an area of struggle. One thing is for sure: I don't want to show up at a meeting without having made progress on what I said I would do.

3. Problem Solving & a Focus on Doing the Right Things to Lead to Achievement

Recently, I made a significant shift to a project I was working on because the group helped me see something I was blind too.  I was stuck and they helped me get unstuck by identifying an issue I wasn't addressing and then asking me questions and giving me suggestions to address this issue.

A mastermind is not about more busy work. Instead, it is stream lining your work so you are focusing on the right things at the right time.

If something hard is shared, it's for my growth and benefit. Often it is the hardest things that become the difference makers in my ability to move forward.  The other people in the group can see my blind spots a million times better than I ever can.

How to Start

I love face to face interaction but it can be hard to find people in your local area. However, you, like me, may be involved in online forums of like minded people. Look for people who you interact with- who might join up with you to start a group.

Lay out the expectations and the goal for the group. Set a regular date and time to meet. Set an ending to the group (sixty or ninety minutes works well).

If necessary, set a time such as three months, then re-evaluate at the end to see if it's still working for everyone.

Nervousness is o.k. I remember when I started. I was excited, then I was terrified.  I'm not even sure why, maybe I felt very vulnerable about sharing this part of myself with others and being o.k. with them speaking into my ideas and knowing I get to accept it or let it go.

No more than five to a group. Anymore and it gets a bit big. Participation at four or five people is just the right amount.

Be kind but be honest. It doesn't do any good if we're all so polite that we don't share concerns and speak the hard questions. It may be uncomfortable, but push through. Remember the end goal: to grow, to reach our own goals and help others reach their goals.

Have fun. The biggest surprise is how much we laugh together. I have such a good time with these women.  It didn't take too long before I started referring to them as friends- what a special gift.

Questions? Are you in a accountability or mastermind group?  How is it working for you?



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