Mastermind Group Operating Manual

This is the draft operating Manual for “Junto 2.0”, a MasterMind group based in the New York tri-state area. To learn what a Mastermind group is and how it works, continue reading…

Junto 2.0
DRAFT MasterMind Group Operating Manual
by David Teten and Kaushal B. Majmudar

Outline of Manual

I. Introduction
II. Objectives
III. Benefits
IV. How Does It Work?
V. Requirements for Entry
VI. Process for Joining
VII. Meeting Rules
VIII. Suggested Meeting Structure (Subject to Modification)
IX. Sample Meeting Topics
X. How to Exit
XI. Appendix 1: Ben Franklin’s Junto Society
XII. Appendix 2: Thoughts on cooperation from George Lucas
XIII. About the Authors

I. Introduction

This is the draft operating Manual for “Junto 2.0”, a MasterMind group based in the New York tri-state area. David Teten and Kaushal B. Majmudar have been working together to create this new group.

Jo Condrill’s definition of a Mastermind group: “A master-mind group consists of [a small team of] people who work together in absolute harmony to achieve diverse goals. While these people work in harmony, they may be very different from each other. The common element is that each draws something from the others, and each contributes freely to the group. It is the focusing of each mind on a common issue that triggers thoughts not readily available to one mind. Those in the group draw upon their unique experiences and specialized knowledge to help each other. When many minds concentrate on a single point, the activity generates a power over and above the sum total of each of the individual minds. It is as though an invisible force joins the group and provides additional insight. Personally, I have used the master-mind concept with amazing results — first to advance my career and later to lead a group of volunteers to achieve remarkable results, ranking number one in a worldwide organization, Toastmasters International.” (source) Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, is widely credited with popularizing the concept. For more background, see also this summary from the “NYC Junto”: .

Our motivations in creating this group: primarily, to accelerate our success and personal efficacy in achieving our goals. Anthony Robbins once remarked that only about 5% of his audiences actually acts to implement and benefit from any of his teachings on how to achieve personal and professional success. Many books on success emphasize the value of creating a mastermind group (perhaps using some variant of the term). We decided to actually implement the idea that so many experts recommend. We were also motivated by some bloggers who also are active in Mastermind groups, including the prolific Steve Rubel.

We are posting this manual on the Web in an attempt to gather constructive feedback and share the results of our brainstorming and collaboration with other likeminded individuals elsewhere in the world. Everything herein is a work in process, and is thereby subject to discussion and modification as we receive feedback and as other members of the group provide input or suggestions.

II. Objectives

A. “Create access to advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of people who are willing to lend each other wholehearted aid in a spirit of perfect harmony” (source: Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill)
B. Share best practices and resources
C. Work on self-awareness and self-improvement
D. Create synergies and new possibilities: “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third invisible intangible force which may be likened to a third mind” (source)

III. Benefits

A. Accelerate your personal and professional progress
B. An instant and valuable support community of peers and friends
C. Give back to your peers and to society

IV. How Does It Work?

A. Monthly meeting to be held for 2 to 2.5 hours, typically over lunch or dinner
B. Absolute maximum of 10 members
C. Rotate facilitation — each month has a new leader/note-taker for accountability
D. Occasional special training and learning sessions (possibly with invited speakers)
E. Group will meet in a mutually convenient place (can alternate geographically if to makes sense to do so)
F. Diversity of group is important. Strongly prefer representatives from diversity of occupations: entrepreneur, investment banker/asset manager, policy, legal, media, operating executive at large company, physician, politician, academic. We also strongly prefer diversity across race, religion, etc.
G. Use confidential Yahoo! Group for online communication
H. Democratic Process: everything about the group is subject to scrutiny, discussion and modification by vote of majority of members in the group.

V. Requirements for Entry

A. Nominated by existing member.
B. Within driving or commuting distance of group meeting locations (in our case in the New York Tri-state area).
C. Has a compatible current level of career and professional achievements and aspirations. Some evidence of being a significant achiever in chosen field. Potential to be at the top of their chosen profession or business.
D. Thoughtful and analytical.
E. Has the desire and inspiration to make this year, decade, and life extraordinary. Has an “internal locus of control”: knows he/she is ultimately responsible for his/her own success. Ready to let their desire to be passionate about their life and work overcome their fear of change.
F. Is an active listener. Responds well to, and acts on, feedback. Open-minded.
G. Wants to win based on values; has a greater purpose. Cares about and wants to give back to their community and society
H. Realizes that cooperation is far more powerful than competition, i.e., people who are committed to helping others succeed. Has an abundance mentality. Understands and cares about what drives his/her partners’ businesses.
I. Ideally, not working in the same industry as any current member, and with a significantly different personal background than every other current member.
J. Enthusiastic about participating with intent to actively participate in the group and attend meetings in person (commits to provide advanced notice to other members in case absence is unavoidable in a given instance)

VI. Process for Joining

A. Nominated by existing member of the group
B. Submit resume and statement of personal goals (1, 5, and 20 years)
C. Interview and approval by all existing group members

VII. Meeting Rules

A. Better to give than to receive (but the law of reciprocity works – give that which you would like to get)
B. Try to emphasize solutions, encouragement and pointing out possibilities vs. focusing on problems, criticism, and pointing out hurdles
C. Share time, ideas, and best practices, but don’t dominate
D. Listen actively and intently with a desire to understand. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Source: Steven Covey)
E. Maintain confidentiality. No one outside the group (not even life partners/spouses) should have access to any information about what is discussed by other members of the group, particularly the personal information of individual members. It is OK to share best practices and ideas that you have learned with others.
F. No putting down, arguing with, or directly contradicting other speakers. All discussions should be conducted “without fondness for dispute or desire of victory.” “All expressions of positiveness of opinion or direct contradiction are prohibited.”(Source: Ben Franklin).
G. Mutual respect and supportive environment to be maintained at all times

VIII. Suggested Meeting Structure (Subject to Modification)

A. Brief (one to three minutes) check-in by each member. Start with the best/most positive thing to happen since last meeting.
B. Book report by one member – distribute 1-2 page summary of book and lead discussion (15 to 20 minutes)
C. Person I admire report by one member – distribute 1-2 page summary of person’s life and what can be learned from him/her (15 to 20 minutes)
D. Update and ask. Each person must state a goal they will have accomplished by the next month’s meeting and review how they did on last month’s goal. Members can also share issues/problems they are currently grappling with and ask for help/suggestions from the group to unlock strategies, resources, etc. that might be helpful in overcoming these obstacles. (5 minutes each)
E. Free discussion time – discuss one question or topic of the day (e.g. see questions below) (30 to 40 minutes)
F. Distribute notes/highlights from the meeting to those (rare members) not in attendance, but who are committed members of this group

IX. Sample Meeting Topics

A. What is the function by which we should measure our life’s actions? Proposed formula:

Maximize: (Power * Money * Health * Spiritual Growth * Community Impact * Family Strength * Friend Strength) / Age,

subject to constraints of: ethics, law, and resources

B. Accountability Sessions (potentially a recurring topic): Each person to ask and answer the following questions: What are my most cherished goals for this coming decade, year, and month? What concrete steps have I taken to realize these goals? What are the steps that I should take, but have not yet done so to advance in the direction of my goals? Why have I not taken these steps and when do I commit to start? – group participants to ask and HONESTLY answer these questions once in a while in front of the entire group to encourage each of them to realize and take corrective action, but in a more self empowering and positive way than if it were to come in the form of critique from others.
C. Play the Game, a success technology developed by Sarano Kelley.
D. Learning about Thinking Sessions/Thinking Partners (See book: Time to Think by Nancy Klein).

X. How to Exit

A. Member no longer wants to be a part of the group (voluntary exit).
B. Member fails to attend 2 meetings in a row without advance notice AND good cause.
C. Consistent failure to participate in or contribute to the group, as noted by one or more current members.
D. If there is a consensus among more than 66% of the members that you should not remain in the group for any reason.

XI. Appendix 1: Ben Franklin’s Junto Society

Source: Ben Franklin’s biography, by Walter Isaacson

“Ben Franklin was the consummate networker. He liked to mix his civic life with his social one, and he merrily leveraged both to further his business life. This approach was displayed when he formed a club of young workingmen in the fall of 1727, shortly after his return to Philadelphia that was commonly called the Leather Apron Club and officially dubbed The Junto. Franklin’s small club was composed of enterprising tradesmen and artisans, rather than the social elite who had their own fancier gentlemen’s clubs.

At first the members went to a local tavern for their Friday evening meetings, but soon they were able to rent a house of their own. There they discussed issues of the day, debated philosophical topics, devised schemes for self-improvement, and formed a network for the furtherance of their own careers. Franklin’s Junto initially had 12 young members. Besides being amiable club mates, the Junto members often proved helpful to one another personally and professionally.

The tone Franklin set for Junto meetings was earnest. Initiates were required to stand, lay their hand on their breast and answer properly four questions: 1.) Do you have disrespect for any current member? 2.) Do you love mankind in general regardless of religion or profession? (Editor: add race, for the modern context) 3.) Do you feel people should ever be punished because of their opinions? 4.) Do you love and pursue truth for its own sake?

The pursuit of topics through soft Socratic inquiry became the preferred style of Junto meetings. Discussions were to be conducted ‘without fondness for dispute or desire of victory.’ All expressions of positiveness of opinion or direct contradiction were prohibited under small pecuniary penalties. Though the youngest member, Franklin was by dint of his intellectual charisma and conversational charm not only its founder but driving force.

The topics discussed ranged from the scientific to the metaphysical. E.g. Did importing indentured servants make America more prosperous? What is wisdom? In addition to such topics of debate, In Franklin’s original Junto, the members used as a guide a series of 24 questions, such as:
1. Have you met with anything in the author you last read, remarkable or suitable to be communicated to the Junto, particularly in history, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?
2. What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?
3. Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?
4. Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?
5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?
6. Do you know of any fellow citizen who has lately done a worthy action deserving praise and imitation?
7. What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately heard; of imprudence, of passion, or of any other folly or vice? What happy effects of temperance, of prudence, of moderation, or of any other virtue?
8. Do you think of anything at present in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind?
9. Have you any weighty affairs in hand in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service? In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist of in any of your honorable designs?
10. What is the most interesting or unusual thing you have read, seen, or heard about in the last month? What is the most potentially dangerous or harmful? The most beneficial? The most significant for the people here today?
11. What can we learn from world events today? Has there been any notable failure or success, financial, political, or otherwise, from which we can gain insight and understanding?
12. Can a man or woman arrive at perfection in this life? What is the proper balance between idealism and pragmatism in our existence? (Franklin’s own question)
13. How can we judge the goodness of art, music, drama or literature?
14. Is science compatible with religion? What is the appropriate role of religion in our lives, if any?
15. What is the most important political issue facing this country in the next five years?
16. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws of your country of which it would be proper to move the legislature for an amendment?
17. Has anybody attacked your reputation lately and what can the Junto do toward securing it?
18. Is there any man whose friendship you want and which the Junto or any of them can procure for you?
19. Whom do you respect most? Why?
20. In what manner can the Junto or any of them assist you in any of your honorable designs?”
Franklin was in turn influenced by Daniel Dafoe’s essay “Friendly Societies” and John Locke’s “Rules of a Society which Met Once A Week for the Improvement of Useful Knowledge”

XII. Appendix 2: Thoughts on cooperation from George Lucas

Source: interview at Academy of Achievement at, in response to the following question: “You mentioned the words “communal” and “connecting.” Your generation of the top film makers all seem to be friends. How did you band together in a field that is so competitive?”

George Lucas: “I think that’s the advantage that my generation has. When we were in film school and we were starting in the film business, the door was absolutely locked. There was a very, very high wall, and nobody got in.

All of us beggars and scroungers down at the front gate decided that if we didn’t band together, we wouldn’t survive. If one could make it, that one would help all the others make it. And we would continue to help each other. So we banded together. That’s how the cavemen figured it out. Any society starts that way.

Any society begins by realizing that together, by helping each other, you can survive better than if you fight each other and compete with each other.

Farming cultures started this way, and the first hunting cultures started this way. Everything started in city-states. We have a tendency to lose it when we forget that, as a group, we are stronger than we are as individuals. We start to think we want everything for ourselves and we don’t want to help anybody else. We want to succeed, but we don’t want anybody else to succeed, because we want to be the winner. Once you get that mentality — which is unfortunately the way a lot of the society operates — you lose. You can’t possibly win that way. Part of the reason my friends and I became successful is that we were always helping each other.

If I got a job, I would help somebody else get a job. If somebody got more successful than me, it was partly my success. My success wasn’t based on how I could push down everyone around me. My success was based on how much I could push everybody up. And eventually their success was the same way. And in the process they pushed me up, and I pushed them up, and we kept doing that, and we still do that.

Even though we all have, in essence, competing companies, if my friends succeed, then everybody succeeds. So that’s the key to it, to have everybody succeed, not to gloat over somebody else’s failure.

We continue to do that, and we do it with younger filmmakers. There’s no way of getting through any kind of endeavor without help from friends. And trying to be the number one person, ultimately, is a losing proposition. You need peers, you need people who are at the same level you are. You never know in life when you’re going to need help, and you never know who you’re going to need it from.

One of the basic motifs in fairy tales is that you find the poor and unfortunate along the side of the road, and when they beg for help, if you give it to them, you end up succeeding. If you don’t give it to them, you end up being turned into a frog or something. It’s a concept that’s been around for thousands of years. It is even more necessary today, when people are more into their own aggrandizement than they are in helping other people. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s become successful who doesn’t understand how important it is to be part of a larger community, to help other people in larger communities, to give back to the community.”

XIII. About the Authors

David Teten is CEO of Nitron Advisors, an independent research firm that provides institutional investors with access to frontline industry experts. He is coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, the first mass market book on online networks and social software. He runs resource site, co-writes a column for, and writes a personal blog, Brain Food. David holds a Harvard MBA and a Yale BA.

Kaushal Majmudar
, JD, CFA – Kaushal is President and Portfolio Manager of The Ridgewood Group, a value oriented money management firm based in Short Hills, NJ, that runs managed accounts and hedge fund investments for individuals and institutions. Kaushal was previously an investment banker at Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers. He is co-author of “Create the Business Breakthrough You Want: Secrets and Strategies from the World’s Greatest Mentors” and is working on his second book. Kaushal holds a JD with honors from Harvard Law School and a BS from Columbia University.