A Time for Collaboration

Napoleon Hill developed the term Mastermind Alliance to identify the concept of bringing two or more people (minds) together for a singular purpose in a friendly, trusting, and harmonious environment. The outcome of this focused collaboration often yields extraordinary results that could never be reached alone or in loosely connected partnerships.  This synergy has been the secret ingredient for many successful people and organizations. I believe it offers a timely solution to many of the challenges facing individuals and small businesses during this global pandemic.

I am currently a participant in such a group, gathered to help a friend and small business owner decide how to move forward when business has all but stopped.  As we are all sheltered in place, we are using one of the many programs available for video-conferencing.  This solution to overcoming the restriction of not being able to meet in person provides the added benefit of collaborating with people who can offer invaluable experience and wisdom but who live hundreds of miles apart.  These digital gatherings are energizing, thought provoking, and highly interactive.  They regularly bring people together who would not have this opportunity to share knowledge and offer support.  And not only does the recipient benefit, but so do each of us.  Just today, while listening to a suggestion made to the facilitator, I realized a need of my own that requires action.  We also get to see and talk to people, which mean physical distancing doesn’t necessarily mean social distancing.  And we always get when we give.  This feeling of contribution and helping others feeds our own needs to be of service and to feel valued.

So I’m wondering aloud if this is way of coming together online in small groups might be something all of us could offer a friend or colleague who is facing a challenge brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.  There are many references to the concept you could find using Google or other search methods.  Of course if you have any questions I might be able to help with, feel free to reach out in our comment section.  I will be happy to respond.

Wishing you all good health and strong connections.

No Downside!

Henry’s idea is difficult to respond to because what ‘s not to like? The concept makes perfect sense. An individual struggling to make important decisions regarding business or future has the opportunity to consult with a group of people all focused on that one situation or problem. I love the idea. I could use some masterminds right now to help me deal with the forced isolation I am experiencing because of this awful virus. By myself, my imagination runs wild, and I come up with the worst-case scenarios and doom and gloom. A group of people focused on helping me deal with that situation would provide a great opportunity. It seems like a win/win situation. I am sure they could come up with ideas and solutions I cannot even conceive of.

I can see this being an incredible add on to therapy and constructive goal setting and achieving. I guess you have to pick your advisors/collaborators carefully, but beside picking people who aren’t focused on the problem or who have even less common sense than I do, I can’t see any downside to this idea. What an opportunity to socially undistance ourselves through technology at a time when we have too much time to contemplate, fret, and worry. The process sounds great, and seeking others’ advice through a group effort where ideas can be discussed and kicked around is a great opportunity to define your problem with razor-sharp clarity. I really find the concept perfect for people like me whose minds race during the early morning hours when my imagination gets locked on a pessimistic solution to a problem that won’t go away. That is when I have no sensible, realistic conception of what to do, whereas if I had had such a gathering, I would be able to replace my worry and concern with ideas presented by the group. But what is more significant is that I would feel responsible for seeing the solution put into action so as not to let the other participants down. That holds much more weight than doing it for myself! Imagine having a team of intelligent people all addressing your needs over time. What an opportunity to succeed!

Great idea and a great piece to discuss. I do, however, worry about Wal’s reading list as a teenager. When I was in my teens, I wasn’t reading books like Hill’s. I was reading The Hardy Boys and Ralph of the Rails, along with magazines that I had to hide from my parents, but hey, to each his own!

Lateral Allies

Hen suggests that the Mastermind Alliance can serve several goals: a) help others b) help yourself, and c) maintain positive contact with a group.

I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill when I was a teen. This book, published in 1937, is one of the all-time best selling business books. Hill describes 13 principles that are the foundation of a philosophy of success — the Mastermind concept is one of them. 

When I read the book, the principle I focused on was ‘auto-suggestion’… still use it as a matter of fact. Hill said you don’t need an alarm clock; simply look at the clock when you lay down and say out loud what time you wish to awake. Works like a charm! Your internal clock wakes you up. That alone gives Napoleon Hill some street cred. 

The Mastermind Alliance principle is an example of lateral thinking in a group. While individuals certainly can succeed on their own, collaboration can increase our favorable odds. It end-runs our tendency to define a problem within a narrow frame of reference and therefore limit the boundaries of a solution. It’s interesting to listen to Hill’s account of how Andrew Carnegie came up with a Mastermind Alliance to understand how to make and market steel – (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuGW8ZCJUDE). Although the Mastermind Alliance concept is over 80 years old, it is still remarkably fresh.

In fact, there’s a Facebook community devoted to spinning off new products and ideas that uses the Mastermind approach: The Inventor’s Mastermind. Rules are simple:

In a Mastermind group, the agenda belongs to the group and each person’s participation is key, your peers give you feedback, help you brainstorm new possibilities and set up accountability structures that keep you focused and on track.

In order to use this concept effectively, preparation is important. Hill emphasizes that a person needs to know exactly what they want and be ready to work diligently to attain it. What does diligent mean, exactly? I think it means examining the details that surround us. Being observant. Being aware of the world around us and being ready to enter into new situations with an open mind.

But it is also about being ready to go beyond the bounds of common expectations. To stretch out laterally – creative confidence. To connect dots in different puzzles… to synthesize.

In order to do this, it helps to cultivate a diverse set of connections. You need to form an alliance with others so that you are not trapped by your own perspective. This is well illustrated in Dr. Tina Seelig’s, (What I Wish I Knew when I was 20). She describes the ‘$5 Challenge’ she assigned her students at Stanford. Each team was given $5 and asked to increase the investment within two days – and present their results to the entire class. The most successful teams never used the seed money, but rather brainstormed solutions to problems they observed around campus — solutions that could be monetized. One group offered to check bicycle tire pressure for students and simply asked for a donation. Another team noting the long lines at restaurants, secured reservations at several restaurants and sold them to folks waiting on line. They made over $600. She makes a fine point about being a “T” individual: deep in one specialty, but reaching out to other areas to seek out connections – an alliance.

The most successful person I ever met didn’t work the hardest and was not the smartest individual I ever knew, but he had a super optimistic attitude – he expected to be lucky and he was. He was open to new ideas and rewarded people for creative approaches. He connected an array of colleagues to dig up good ideas – a Mastermind Alliance. Even if he did not have expertise that was deep in any one field, he did have the motivation to stitch ideas together and get others to mine the rich resources of information. Essentially, he mirrored the approach Andrew Carnegie used. Many new projects flourished in this incubator. Was that luck? I don’t think so. All I know is that it seemed to permeate all areas of his life… he was one of those people who found more lost golf balls, made more good friends, avoided the sporadic consequences of mistakes, and lived a long, healthy life. Perhaps the fruits of a Mastermind Alliance?

2 thoughts on “A Time for Collaboration

  1. Thanks Brooks for bringing awareness to Mastermind Alliance. Choosing a Mastermind team truly is key. You want to be accountable to those you trust most. You want to have the burning desire to do your best work so everyone sees that you respect and appreciate their intelligence and time. You aren’t looking for people that agree with everything you believe but rather those that will challenge you to do the hard work and push you to stretch yourself beyond your limited belief. Where we are in the world today makes it the perfect time to be a part of an alliance group whether you start one or know someone that you feel could benefit from a Mastermind Alliance just do it. You will find it so valuable to you and those around you.


    1. Much appreciated Teresa! Thanks for detailing the advantages and challenges this process affords those of us who are willing to do the work and reap the benefits. Your comments are inspiring!


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