Should You Really Join A MastermindI had a chat about mastermind groups today. You know – mastermind groups, networking groups, meetings with alliteration in the name. (Women Who Work! The Wednesday Wowers! The Networking Nerds!) Basically, we’re talking formalized methods of getting together to support one another.

The person I was talking to is on the fence. She dreams of a mastermind group that truly supports her. She wishes for a group of business owners who are her “right people”. She is hoping to find her tribe.

Her conflict stems from two places. One, she doesn’t know if those people exist. Two, if they do exist, they might be hard to find.

The process of separating “right people” from “Oh my God, I hate these people” might be gruelling.

This is a common issue. The perks of a great mastermind group are, well, great. And bad mastermind groups are the ninth ring of hell. Sorting through an unknown number of bad ones to maybe find a good one is unpleasant.

So what should you do?

Joining a mastermind group is kind of like getting married.

When you’re in the dating marketplace, you meet a lot of theoretically viable candidates. If you are a straight single woman, there are a lot of straight single men in the world. (New York City notwithstanding.)

The guy driving your bus might be single. The guy pouring your drink might be single. The guy two mats over at yin yoga is definitely single because he vocally laments it every Saturday morning.

There are a lot of men out there, but not many of them are a great fit.

Maybe you like him and he doesn’t like you.

Maybe you like him and he likes you, but he’s 22. Your youngest child is 26, and you’re just too self-conscious to go there.

Maybe you mostly like him, but he has this one habit. It makes you want to drown yourself in a latrine.

Maybe you like everything about him, but he has no ambition. You know that won’t work long term.

Maybe you like everything about him, but he has too much ambition. You know that won’t work long term.

Maybe he doesn’t want kids.

Maybe he wants kids a little too urgently.

Maybe he already has nine kids and you don’t like any of them.

There are plenty of reasons that something might not work out. If you consider 100 single straight men, probably only one of them is a great fit.

It’s kind of the same with these groups.

Out of 100 theoretically suitable humans, probably only one is a great fit.

In a marriage, you have to find one person to meet four criteria. You can’t hate them. They can’t hate you. You both want to be married. Neither of you is already married to anybody else.

In a mastermind, you need six of these people.

Your odds aren’t fabulous.

I like marriage. I do. I started getting married at 18, and I can’t seem to stop. Marriage can be a rewarding endeavor, if done consciously and with a suitable and compatible person. Marriage is good stuff, but you have to be willing to look and keep looking.

You can’t look around on the bus, not see Prince Charming, and say never mind, marriage isn’t for you. You can’t go on one sucky date with the bartender and one with yin yoga guy, and promptly write off the whole institution.

Ditto masterminds.

At the same time, you might not want to go too far the other way. You might not want to make finding the right marriage partner your whole life’s work. You might not want to make it your mission. You’ve got to be prepared to wait a while for the right fit. Yes, look around. Yes, be available. Yes, make your interest known. But obsession is bad for your liver.

Ditto masterminds.

“Is it a good idea to join a mastermind?” is a similar question to “Is it a good idea to get married?”

You’re going to want to be very careful who you ask. But the criteria for joining a mastermind group isn’t that far off of the criteria for marriage. Granted, sexual compatibility is probably less crucial. If your members get progressively fatter and more conservative as the years go by, you’re unlikely to care all that much. But there’s a lot of similarity.

You want people who know how to listen without interrupting. (You also have to know how to listen without interrupting.)

You want people who support without agenda. (You also have to support without agenda.)

You want people who will be there for you when you need them. (You also have to be there when they need you.)

If you can find those people, you don’t have to worry so much. Don’t worry about similar styles, similar philosophies, or similar industries. You wouldn’t want to marry your twin, and you wouldn’t want to be in a mastermind with your twin either.

Our differences make us dynamic, in marriage and in masterminds. Opposites create polarity, yin and yang, energetic conversations, life.

A group of good people, with your best interests at heart, who are willing to listen and support and grow – that’s all you really need. It may take you a lifetime to find it, but I have no doubt it would be worth it.

So should you join a mastermind group?

Sure.

Why not?

Just sign a prenup, okay?

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

How To Stop Your Business From Sucking Up All Your TimeOnce upon a time, I got cranky about a book I read. I responded with How To Double Your Revenue and Profit. Really. The fifth of five steps in that article was “Get a ****ing system already”.

If you don’t have systems, your business is pandemonium.

If your business is pandemonium, it eats your life.

I’m sure you have experienced this to one degree or another.

For some people, systems are easier said than done. I am one of those people. For other people, even saying the word out loud causes them to make a sort of hacking noise. It sounds a little like throwing up.

Over the years, I have honed in on a handy way to make a Kinda System. It offers similar results to Real Systems, without those pesky… um… systems.

Granted, Real Systems are better, but here are your choices:

  1. A Kinda System started NOW.
  2. A Real System started NEVER.

Exactly.

Let’s take a few steps today to stop the pandemonium.

First, start respecting your time already.

This is a great first step. It can potentially allow you to avoid ever having a system in the first place.

Decide that you’re not going to give away your time for no good reason. Decide to value and respect your time because it is COSTING you something. Generally, we are not aware of the cost of our time relative to the value we’re getting.

If you’re doing pointless stuff, you are not respecting yourself.

It’s like kids and money. They want candy every time you go to the store when they’re spending YOUR money. But if it’s their money, look how fast things change. “Well, I don’t want to spend MY money on it!”

Indeed.

When you’re spending your own money, you don’t waste it on stupid stuff you don’t want.

Not so with time. We’ll throw that stuff out the window like Big Mac wrappers on the freeway.

Until!

One day you realize that all that time is coming out of YOUR pocket. You can’t do the OTHER things you want to do because of the way you run your business.

That’s a lot of unpaid overtime. It’s keeping you from going to the movies. It’s keeping you from spending time with your kids. It’s keeping you from snuggling with your Schmoopie Schnookums.

No one can make you value your time. But when you finally decide to do so, you tend to create your own “systems” pretty fast. Even if your new system is “The hell with Facebook.”

(One tip? “The hell with reading IttyBiz” is a BAD system. Just saying.)

Second, work on stuff that leads to real money before you do anything else.

In the Emergency Turnaround Clinic, we talk about “closest to cash” a lot. Things like running promotions. Following up on invoices. Cold calling or cold emailing. Finishing that 90% done product. Getting that damned sales page up already.

We do this for two reasons.

First, if you work on the things that are closest to cash, you get money in your hands. This is a stellar use of time.

Second, when you do things that lead to cash, you have less patience for things that don’t. You stop goofing off and use that time to write newsletters. You stop reading all those junk blogs and pick the three that are actually useful to you. Things like that.

When you work on closest to cash, you tend to stop the time drain without even thinking about it. So do that.

Third, work on stuff that fixes your weaknesses.

This is completely in line with the profit leaks we talked about earlier.

Fix the weaknesses on your website. You’ll get more people on your list.

Fix the weaknesses in your sign-up process. You’ll get even MORE people on your list.

Fix your random content strategy. Put a real strategy in place. Then you won’t have to spend so much time hustling for traffic. And backlinks. And retweets and Facebook likes and God knows what else.

Fix your vague branding. Make it specific enough to be identifiable and relevant to new visitors.

Fix the typos on your About page. Get help on making your sales pages better. Find out where your traffic is coming from. Get a more cohesive email signature. Fix your customer follow-up so that you’re actually following up. Get those outdated posts off your blog. Clean up the sloppy formatting on your auto responders. Etcetera.

Your weaknesses are costing you sales that you SHOULD be getting.

“Picking up the money you are already dropping” is a very good system.

Before you run toward the next hot webinar trend, focus on fixing your weaknesses. That’s what we could call “second closest to cash.”

Mmmm. Cash.

When you’re done with that, you can do anything else you feel like doing.

Sometimes that will be more work stuff. Sometimes it will be snuggling with Schmoopie Schnookums. It’s your choice. Either way, your business no longer eats your life.

Thus ends the official IttyBiz almost-like-a-system-system.

Start respecting your time.

Work on closest to cash.

Then work on fixing your weaknesses.

Don’t shell out business time for anything else until that’s done.

That alone will show you every system you’ll ever need to create.

(Or close enough to it.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

When I was in the process of quitting smoking, I was having a discussion with somebody and heard myself say this:

“God, I’m just trying SO HARD, you know?”

After making this (in hindsight quite self-pitying) statement, I had a thought.

“Am I trying hard?”

Like, I’m certainly thinking about it a lot. I’m guilting myself a considerable portion of the day. I’m embroiling myself in the drama a lot.

Sure, I’m putting a significant amount of effort into talking about how difficult it is, self-flagellation, whining, reading endless articles on the Internet, and sundried other ignoble pursuits, but am I putting a comparable amount of effort into not putting a cigarette into my mouth and setting fire to the end?

On observation, it would appear that I wasn’t. I wasn’t trying very hard at all.

What would trying really hard look like?

It occurred to me that trying only really counts if it occurs at the place in time and space where the trying makes a difference. Like, “trying” to quit smoking doesn’t count when you’re thinking about it on the bus, or reading an article about it, or musing on the topic while chopping carrots.

It only counts as trying when you are in the act of almost putting a cigarette into your mouth and setting fire to the end. The rest of the time it doesn’t count as trying – it counts as intending or researching or thinking or musing or sometimes whining.

Because “try” means “attempt”. Attempt is a verb, yes, but it is also a noun. In order to attempt (the verb) there has to be an attempt (the noun).

In order for an attempt to have taken place, there had to have been a thing, and a visible effort. Like, you have to be able to replay the tape of the day and point to the footage of yourself in the act of doing the trying.

If you tried to hang a painting on your bathroom wall, you could replay the tape of your Saturday afternoon and point to yourself in the act of trying.

If I’m “trying really hard” to quit smoking but there’s nothing I can point to on the tape, there wasn’t really an attempt. If there wasn’t an attempt, I wasn’t “trying” at all, and I certainly wasn’t trying “really hard”.

So it made me wonder, what would trying really hard look like? What would have to happen so that I could replay a tape and point to the trying really hard part?

If we’re talking about smoking, maybe it could look like pulling my little “what to do when you’re thinking about smoking” list off the bulletin board. It could be picking up a Rubik’s Cube to distract myself, or taking a shower, or painting my nails, or going for a walk, or drinking a bottle of water, or taking deep breaths, or listening to my hypnosis audio.

I could show you the tape and point to myself doing something and you could say, “Oh! There it is!”

Now what about business? What would trying really hard look like on the tape?

A little trying exercise for today:

Step one:

Think of a thing you’re “trying” to do. (You know you have one.)

Step two:

What would “trying really hard” look like in that arena? Like, on a screen? If you played me a tape of someone “trying really hard”, what would you show me? What would you point to?

Step three:

Now look at what you’re doing. Do the tapes look the same? (I’ll tell you – mine sure don’t.)

Step four:

Regardless of your answer in step three – whether the tapes looked the same or different – think about what you can do today. What could you do today – one small thing – that would look like the tape of someone really trying?

Example!

  • If you’re “trying really hard” to write more content for your blog, perhaps you could open your word processor and type some words for a sustained period of time. (Furrow your brow a bit, too.) That would look like trying on a tape.

Example!

  • If you’re “trying really hard” to keep in touch with your contacts, perhaps you could open up your email client and write to one of them and say, “Hello! I was thinking of you today! How are you?” That would look like trying on a tape. (If you wanted to put the “really” into “trying really hard”, you could even do this more than once.)

Example!

  • If you’re “trying really hard” to keep your desk clean, perhaps you could pick up a thing that is on your desk and put it somewhere that is not your desk, and then you could repeat that process several times. That would look like trying on a tape.

Let’s do it together.

Here, I’ll go first. I’m writing this on a Sunday, so today is not a work day for me. I’ll pick a home thing. I’m going to try to do one load of laundry.

On the tape, this will look like me putting laundry into a basket, bringing it downstairs, washing it, drying it, folding it, and putting it away. It will NOT look like repeatedly opening Candy Crush: Soda Saga on my phone to see if my five lives have refreshed yet, or puttering around in the bathroom, throwing out lipsticks and calling it housework.

See? Now your turn. :)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.