[A Mastermind Alliance is] coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.
No individual may [achieve his goals] without availing himself of [this alliance]1. – Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
I was barely even a young man when I first read this. But it has stuck with me — almost haunted me — ever since. There are a few times I vaguely tried to implement it — but never earnestly.
I was afraid: afraid to admit my personal goals to another — and to be in some way responsible to another to achieve them. If no one knows my goals, then my failure always remains my own, and I can rationalize the personal shame of failure away by pretending like the goal was never real.
This last February, I finally saw the opportunity to begin again2. My employment situation had been frustrating and unfulfilling. I had had one job last autumn that was enjoyable but came to an end when my position changed locations and I didn’t want to. My next job turned out to not be what I expected and offered little opportunity for growth or advancement. I was trying to stay positive — and working on being mindful and not letting the frustration and boredom grind me down3.
So I was on the phone with a friend, Clarinda4, and we started talking about the goals that we had and personal projects we were working on — and then on to faults: where we were falling short, how we let work define ourselves too much. Throughout the conversation, Napoleon Hill’s “Mastermind Alliance” idea was bouncing around in my head. Finally, after saying how I had trouble sticking with goals that I gave myself and needed some outsider to be accountable to, we suggested5 that we become accountability buddies. Each week, we would set goals for ourselves and let the other know what they were. The next week, we would evaluate how we did on them, and what we would do the following week to be better. We would also check in with a weekly or bi-weekly phone call to discuss our progress and have a sounding board for new ideas.
So far, we’ve been so-so at keeping up. But I’ve found that knowing I have her to be accountable to means that, when I have fallen off of my goal tracking, I will pick myself back up. Lessons I’ve already learned or started learning from this process (these will be the topics of future posts):
- Why I fail at failing6
- How to become better at failing
- What goals work for me and why
- How do I want to balance my life and how do I do it?
- How do I form habits and make them stick?
- Effective personal experimentation 7
- Breaking down mental walls that are keeping me from growing8
- And lastly, but perhaps should be first, doing one little thing is the essential first step towards doing anything at all9
And now I am doing one little thing10 — starting this blog! I’ve realized one of the greatest values of the mastermind alliance is being held accountable to another person. So this blog is a way for me to be accountable for my personal progress without demanding one person be there every single step. Here I will track the things that I am learning about myself (and what may be gleaned of human nature generally). Posting it in a public forum (however public or private my little corner of the gigantic internet may be) will force me to craft my thoughts to some standard of fullness and coherency. I will allow myself to leave open questions, but they will have to be well defined questions. No more foggy half-truths and uncertainties in the realms where I am afraid to face what they say about who I am, who I believe I am, and who I want to become.
“And so, onwards… along a path of wisdom, with a hearty tread, a hearty confidence.. however you may be, be your own source of experience. Throw off your discontent about your nature. Forgive yourself your own self. You have it in your power to merge everything you have lived through- false starts, errors, delusions, passions, your loves and your hopes- into your goal, with nothing left over.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human