Why Your Career Needs a Mastermind Group

Here’s how to build one for yourself

Kristin Wong
Forge
Published in
6 min readNov 27, 2018

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Credit: Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision/Getty

I’ve always hated asking anyone for help, a reluctance that can be attributed mostly to social anxiety and shyness (and also, sometimes, to pride or sheer laziness). Whatever the cause, I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid it at all costs — but as I got older, those costs got higher. During a trip abroad, I wandered aimlessly around foreign cities because I refused to ask for directions. Early in my career, I missed out on jobs because I was too stubborn to ask for recommendations. “I’m a hard worker,” I told myself. “That should speak for itself.”

Which is why it felt like such a shock to the system when, earlier this year, I decided to join a mastermind group — a small accountability group that meets regularly to talk about career goals, brainstorm ideas, ask questions, motivate each other, and get support. Journalist and self-improvement guru Napoleon Hill coined the term in his 1925 book, Think and Grow Rich, defining it as “the coordination of knowledge and effort between two or more people who work towards a definite purpose in a spirit of harmony.” It sounds kind of mystical, but despite the dubious nature of much of Hill’s other advice, the mastermind group has caught on in contemporary career and business circles.

There’s ample evidence, both research-based and anecdotal, to suggest that mastermind groups can be useful. One study, for example, found that 70 percent of people who had accountability partners achieved their goals, compared to 35 percent of people who didn’t. The Inklings was a famous mastermind group of fantasy writers, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien, who would meet to talk fiction, share their work, and get feedback. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin discussed his own mastermind group, or “club of mutual improvement,” which he called the Junto. Franklin wrote, “We met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discussed by the company.” Once every few months, members would write and read an essay on any subject they liked.

The rules, theme, and structure of your own mastermind group will vary. You might have a writer’s mastermind group…

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Kristin Wong
Forge
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.