As you were growing up I am sure your parents were concerned about the friends you hung out with. They did not want you falling in with the wrong crowd. If you have children you are probably concerned about that as well. What about for your professional life? Are you concerned there as well? Perhaps you should be. Ask yourself who do you associate with on a regular basis?
Quality of your connections
Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, says it is critical for every person who wants to achieve success that they must surround themselves with a “Mastermind” group. This is a group of people that are smart, know more than you, who know different things than you do, and they are willing to advise you. At the same time you have to be willing to offer to them a benefit of being associated with you. Hill emphasizes that without this Mastermind alliance you will not be successful. A man I consider to be a mentor, Alan Weiss, said in his blog “The only way you’re going to grow is by forming close relationships with true all-stars and people who are better at many things than you are.”
Where to find connections
Some of you may be lucky enough to work with a group of people who are the best and brightest and you gain from that association. Most of us are not that lucky and perhaps only one or two co-workers will qualify. So where do you find people with whom you can associate on a regular basis that you can learn from and profit from their experience?
Fortunately for us in today’s world the definition of “associate with” has broadened considerably from the days when Napoleon Hill wrote his book. At that time the association needed to be “in person.” You had to physically meet with and associate with the mastermind group. Today you can still do that. There are any number of groups you can join that will give you the opportunity to meet people that would make good candidates for a “brain trust.” I have met a number of very smart and interesting people at networking events, Meet-ups, Rotary meetings, SHRM meeting, wine clubs, etc. The only problem with these situations is that you then have to make a concerted effort to develop the relationship and then to keep it going. After all Napoleon Hill says you should meet with your mastermind group members twice a week. In today’s world that is nigh on impossible. But there is a solution.
The use of social media has actually been a boon to setting up a mastermind group. First it broadens the world of possible relationships. With Twitter you get to sample peoples’ points of view and opinions in small bites. If they are bloggers you get even more information. In fact one potential version of a mastermind group is to decide on a group of people who you find interesting and follow their blogs. This will help the constant interaction component. You can read the wit and wisdom of these people on a weekly basis.
Beyond that you have an opportunity to interact with them and provide value to them (a requirement of Hill) in the form of feedback and comments to what they have said. Perhaps you can add an additional resource that they had missed or were not aware of. Then you can engage in an email relationship where lengthier and more personal items could be covered. From that point, depending on physical location, you may even have an opportunity to meet in person. Many of these people are very approachable. After all most of them got to where they are by who they know.
Naturally such a relationship will take time to develop, just as it would if you saw them on a weekly basis. There are issues of trust and confidentiality. There is the issue of making sure the relationship is one of give and take on an equal basis. Never enter into a relationship with the intent of taking only. Bring as much to the table as you expect to get, if not more.
So reflect on the people you are engaging with on a consistent basis. If they are not the kind of people that will make you better for being associated with them, then work on setting up a mastermind group in order to improve your situation. You will be happier for it, more prosperous for it and more fulfilled as a result.