I fired off an email to my awesome mailing list last week and mentioned something that had happened in my mastermind group meeting that day. That got me wondering whether actors know how powerful masterminding can be, so I asked. Whoa! Gorgeous actors worldwide filled up my inbox with “tell me more” requests. All right! When that happens, that means it’s time to write a column on the topic. Done. Here goes.

Napoleon Hill is credited with having first identified a group of people gathered to coordinate “knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, for the attainment of a definite purpose” as a MASTERMIND. This was in 1937, in his book Think and Grow Rich. Over the years, many businesses owners and entrepreneurs have championed the mastermind process, and it’s just as useful for creatives, although the issue of structure can sometimes be a snag for this particular population.

As usual, I’m here to try and help make something that’s not necessarily easy for actors to embrace (in this case, all the structure and the consistency and the focus on the business — consistently over a long period of time and in front of others) easier to do. Granted, there are going to be some personality types that are better suited than others for starting up and maintaining a mastermind group. If you discover that you’re not great at getting something going, please keep trying. Or find a group that you can join without having to do all the heavy lifting! The value to being a part of a mastermind group — well, of a mastermind group that works — is huge.

Especially for actors, who live such a solitary experience in this business (truly, it can be an isolating journey if you let it), getting plugged in and staying plugged in with a group that ups your game can make a gigantic difference in your career and in your life. If masterminding sounds good to you, here are the four elements you must at least consider (if not seriously map out) before getting started.

The Mastermind Mission

In general, your mission should be to meet regularly so that all members of the mastermind may grow, improve, challenge themselves, be held accountable (out loud, in front of others, because when you say you care enough about your show bible to update it, you’re more likely to do so — or you’ll have to admit it’s not a priority to you, when you consistently don’t do it), talk through issues in a positive way (you’re not creating a group to come together and whine about what’s unfair in this business), collaborate, improve clarity surrounding your own issues, be of service to one another, support and encourage one another while providing reality checks (never succumbing to the “yes man” syndrome but also never pooh-poohing harebrained ideas that just might work), and generally stay open to the way others run their actor business (from which you may learn a lot).

Whatever your particular mission as a masterminding actor, make sure the group’s purpose and focus is clearly stated upon inception so that there’s a value structure on which to fall back, when things get muddy or cloudy or busy or otherwise scattered (which will happen). Basically, this is your mastermind group’s logline. Its intention. Its raison d’être. Hold true to this.

The Mastermind Population

In my mastermind group (not ones I lead for actors, but the one in which I participate as a small business owner), we are each in different fields. I’m the only one whose business is focused on the entertainment industry. That all the other members are NOT in my world is of great value, because they share ideas that wouldn’t pop up in conversation with showbiz types. And when they need to shoot a vid for their small business’s sales page, I have referrals so they’re not starting with the vast offerings of Google to get the job done right.

But for masterminding actors, you’re going to want to jam with other actors — or at least with other creatives, with other hyphenates. You’re going to need to collaborate with those who understand this business and all its quirks. You need to be able to discuss acting coaches and headshot photographers and life as a bicoastal actor and navigating the pressline at Sundance.

Where you do want variety is in the level of success you’ve each tasted. If you’re all just now union-eligible; moving from copy, credit, meals gigs to those first paid gigs that will make you “must joins;” you won’t have a lot of leverage in your weekly SHARES with one another. Now, you may wonder what a network costar looking to shift to guest star gets out of a mastermind group with a bunch of nonunion actors, and that’s where I’ll remind you that mentoring and giving back is a beautiful thing (and people at higher tiers know that — or they should). But don’t make just ONE person in your group the heavy hitter. Go for levels! A new-to-town theatre actor can inspire an “on the cusp of studio features” actor to remember why she got into this crazy business. Don’t underestimate the value to that.

Also vary the ages, castable types, number of years in the business, primary focus (theatre, commercials, voiceover, network TV, new media) of the actors involved. Be sure there’s a content creator in the bunch. Someone who loves to write his own material. Maybe he’ll write something for you. Include someone who has a historical perspective of the changes in this industry and who can speak to the trends and whose show bible has decades on yours. Make sure one member is brand new to town, filled with all the optimism you miss having. Don’t just assemble your five best friends and call it a mastermind group. That’s rarely gonna be a good fit, long term.

You’ll need different levels of success, personalities, types, values — but everyone will need to agree to the mission of the group. I can’t understate the importance of VETTING your mastermind group. Because you’re going to want to be plugged in about opportunities for one another, because you’ll become a sounding board for one another, because you’ll “yes, and…” with some great ideas for one another, and because you’ll all hold one another accountable, your differences will make you stronger. Endure the odd personality conflict to get to the gems you’ll discover, by connecting with someone you’d otherwise never encounter.

The Mastermind Structure

Using the mastermind mission as your guide, make some decisions about the structure of your mastermind group. You may want to make the first meeting of your masterminders one in which you discuss each of these issues and determine what will work best for everyone. If you’re more “leader-y” than that, you may set the structure up before inviting the vetted participants to be a part of your group. Either way, get your structure locked down. Be open to the flow that could change it for the better, but make sure to stick with what you’ve outlined until predetermined checkpoint moments, at which points you may try to shift based on feedback and trial and error.

Will your group be led by a mentor, by you, by another member, or will it be fully collaborative and led by each participant, rotating leadership duties per meeting or within some other system? How many people will be in your group? My small business mastermind has five members. The mastermind groups I lead for actors are capped at four participants. I’ve seen some industry mastermind groups that have 15 actors. Some welcome more than 20 people. That just seems excessive to me. It also makes it less of a mastermind and more of a power group. The amount of time totally focused on each person is a lot less. The feeling of tightknit accountability to the population can be low. The ability to blow off a meeting (since so many others are there, who will notice if you’re not there) is high. That’s not masterminding. Not at all.

Will you meet monthly (this is good for high-achieving folks who really just need a wee bit of check-in to stay on target 12 times a year), biweekly (this gives time for implementation without too much time for getting stagnant between meetings), or weekly (this is great for those who need to kill off any “shiny new thing” tendencies and get focused)? Will there be a penalty for absences or tardiness? Will there be a fee for participation (whether it’s to cover meeting space rental, purchase of the cheese plate you’ll share, or to have “skin in the game,” making you more likely to follow through due to the “gym membership” component of having put money into it)?

How many minutes will each person have the floor to share his or her issues? How much time will be spent in feedback by the other members of the mastermind group? Who will be in charge of monitoring the allocated time? Will you change up the location each meeting, to serve everyone geographically? If a mastermind participant is out of town, is Skyping in for the meeting an option?

In each meeting, will you include time for sharing good news? Celebrating bookings? Socializing? Who will keep “minutes” of the meeting so that there’s actual accountability behind the statement, “By next meeting, I will have my demo reel uploaded to Actors Access and IMDb”? Will there be an online forum at which masterminders have ongoing support and connection between meetings? Who will moderate that space?

Again, setting all this up either ahead of time or in your first meeting makes for a much more successful experience, long term (which is what you’re going for, of course).

Long-Term Success of the Mastermind Group

Most importantly, you need a plan for when things go astray from your initial plan (which they will). Will there be regular check-in dates along the way to determine if everything is working as planned? (For the groups I lead, we do a three-month re-evaluation period, at which time folks who aren’t clicking can be shifted to other mastermind groups.) Will you have an agreement in place with all members for how to evolve the group when necessary? And will everyone agree on what those terms are? If you’re charging a fee, how will you deal with people who are slow to pay? How will you handle members who outgrow the mastermind? What happens when your pre-paid location falls through?

Consistency is key, here. Even if you don’t lay out every single possible “what if” and plan for it before you launch, you can have a successful mastermind experience. Keep showing up. Keep at it for whatever amount of time you’ve laid out as “the first run.” And even if attrition comes into play and your group goes from six to two, those two of you who *do* show up will be upping your game by staying the course. Stay committed.

Yeah, that’s a lot of work, it’s a lot to have in mind, it’s a lot of balls to keep in the air over a long period of time, if it’s done right. But you can do it. 🙂 Masterminding is powerful even though it’s a lot of work (and that right there is why so few people do it, long term). If you’re certain you cannot pull it together but still want to be a part of a mastermind group, there are little groups all over town (and online for those spread out geographically) with which you can get involved. I even run a few, and we’re populating our February through April mastermind groups right now. If that intrigues you, the application process starts here.

Wherever you are and with whomever you jam, just keep doing it. You will move forward in areas of your career you never imagined possible in such a short time. Stay plugged in. Stay accountable. Stay open. Keep masterminding!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001769.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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