A guest post by Clotilde Dusoulier
Clotilde belongs to two mastermind groups: One online and one in person. She is the French food writer behind the blog Chocolate & Zucchini ( http://cnz.to ), which she has been writing for more than 13 years. Her focus is on fresh, seasonal, colorful foods with a French twist. She also enjoys sharing behind-the-scenes tips with fellow bloggers.
To help you set up your own mastermind group, Clotilde put together a swipe file you can download for free, as a reader of this blog. It’s at http://cnz.to/mastermind-swipe-file. Thanks Clotilde! — DJ
I have been a full-time food writer for almost 12 years. And although I thrive in my solo bubble of words and ideas, I find it critical to connect with peers. For the past year and a half, I have been part of two mastermind groups that bring immense value to my professional and personal life. The benefit has been so great that I am now a mastermind evangelist. So let me answer a few questions:
Wait, what’s a mastermind group?
A mastermind group is a small group of like-minded professionals who get together regularly to discuss their professional lives. They offer each other support, feedback, and accountability. I think of it as group therapy for professionals.
What’s the benefit for food writers?
I first heard of the concept for top executives and seven-figure business people. But it dawned on me one day (in the shower, if you must know) that I needed a mastermind group in my life, too. Writing can be a solitary pursuit. Having a dedicated support group helps the members gain clarity of purpose, work out difficult situations or hangups, and motivate us to reach our goals.
The overarching benefit for me has been to become more of an essentialist, as described in Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism. One of my mastermind friends recommended we all read it. I am much clearer about my intent now. I’ve defined it as, “Making meaningful connections with others around our shared love of food and French culture.” With the group as a sounding board, I now find it easier to say no to opportunities that won’t move the needle in the direction I want.
Checking in with trusted peers on a regular basis lets me track my progress and growth. That can be hard to do when it’s just me alone with my doubts and my perfectionism. Thinking back on conversations we’ve had weeks and months ago, I see how far I’ve come. I find this process empowering.
Is it the same as a writing group?
Writing groups typically focus on the writing craft itself. They offer members a chance to read what they’re working on and exchange feedback with one another.
The purpose of a mastermind group is a little different. It’s the place to discuss everything that’s around the actual writing, such as mindset, business relationships, the systems that allows us to get work done, and our productivity hitches.
How do the sessions work?
There are many ways to organize the sessions, but here’s what we do. We go around the table (in no particular order) and each one of us shares four things:
- A win. We state an achievement or something good that happened since the last session. This is an opportunity to explain how this success came about, what we can learn from it, and how we can all generate more such wins. Example: I shared how I was massively clearing up my schedule to focus on wrapping up the manuscript for my new cookbook.
- A lose or struggle. An opportunity to make sense of a difficulty, and figure out both how to resolve and avoid it in the future. Example: Even with the assistance of a literary agent, book contract negotiations can be fraught. Several members of my groups find it helpful to discuss concern or frustration.
- A resource. An article, website, tool, podcast, course, conference, or idea that inspired us recently. Example: I shared how I was keeping a monthly list of accomplishments, as a sort of reverse to-do list. It’s a way to keep track and celebrate what I was actually getting done.
- A goal. Something we will set for ourselves, to report back about next time. Example: I created a mind map of everything that I do in relation to my blog and writing projects. The point was to identify what I can delegate or cut loose.
Occasionally, we change this structure to do a group exercise together, such as drawing up our personal ikigai. Or we’ve allocated time for people to do a short, informal presentation on a topic they’ve recently learned about, such as design thinking, mind-mapping, or nonviolent communication.
Someone (usually me) types up quick notes on a laptop during the session, and post them on a private Facebook group or share via email so everyone can benefit.
It’s important to set a duration — two hours works well for us — and stick to it, to be respectful of everyone’s time. If some want to linger and chat afterwards, of course that’s fine. And every participant should get a comfortable amount of time to talk, 15 minutes or so. Though one person’s turn may last a little longer if a group discussion ensues.
Mutual trust is absolutely essential. In all discussions, members must feel comfortable sharing their experience without worrying about being judged, or having their information shared outside the group. But members should also be open to constructive criticism, and offer it in turn with the other members’ best interests at heart.
How do I get started?
As you read through this post, perhaps you thought of one or two people you know, and with whom you’d see yourself forming a group. Reach out to these people. Ask if they would be interested. You can even link to this post to explain what you’re talking about. If they’re game, figure out together who else to invite.
If you can’t think of anyone, perhaps you belong to a Facebook group of writers or some such forum. These are good places to discuss the possibilities with would-be mastermind partners.
Ideally, the members of your mastermind group will be people who have things in common with you. They could be other writers, but not necessarily food writers. They could be creative entrepreneurs with the same kind of values and approach. Choose people with a comparable level of advancement in their careers, so the relationships are balanced. Avoid direct competitors, as it may be difficult to create a safe space where you can share vulnerable experiences and sensitive or confidential information.
The best people to get into a mastermind with are those with an abundance mindset. That means they get excited for others’ successes, knowing that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Aim for four to six members, the ideal size to generate a good group vibe that feels abundant yet intimate. It also means that if one member can’t attend, the group doesn’t feel depleted.
Depending on your respective locations, hold the sessions in person, at one another’s houses, or in a coffee shop. There is magic in face-to-face interactions, but it’s not always possible . Otherwise, Skype or a Google Hangout will work.
Decide on a frequency that feels realistic. (My in-person mastermind group meets every other week, and my online group meets every three to four weeks.) Be ready to adjust one way or another after a few sessions. Set expectations in terms of attendance. It’s fine to miss a session if you have a good reason, such as a work trip or a sick child. Members should make the meetings a priority, or it feels like they’re not committed.
During your first session, and regularly after that, check in with other members. Ask what they are hoping to get from the group and contribute to it, so you can all remain on the same page.
Now, a few questions for you
Do you belong to a mastermind group? If so, how do you conduct it? And if not, do you think you would benefit? How will you go about setting one up for yourself?
(Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.)