Many times, during my 3+ year stint in Boulder, I curled into the fetal position on my condo floor, and cried.
For several months, I started every day with a glass half-full of a vodka/energy drink mix. You could have called me a “glass-half-full morning kind of alcoholic.”
In the midst of this isolation and warped sense of self, I scrambled to build various online businesses. All my partners and vendors were out-of-state, except for a DVD duplicator. So I was not working alongside allies in a bustling office. Instead, I languished in a dead-quiet apartment – save for blaring television and computer screens.
A couple years later, I filed for bankruptcy.
I feel fine about that. Shit happens. And, if you’re lucky, so does rock-bottom.
What I don’t feel fine about… is how long it took me to get back on my feet.
For almost three years, I earned $10-12 per hour waving around a sign while standing on a street corner. I wore a goofy costume shaped and colored like a $100 bill. Car exhaust and dirt caked the fabric until it looked like I wore a tattered dress. Hundreds of people flipped me off, screamed at me, waved at me, and cheered me on. A crackhead grabbed me. I called 911 once. Someone made a goat noise at me. It was a blast.
Until that company went belly-up and I got a job unloading trucks. That was pure torture.
Finally, in 2014, I packed up all my stuff and drove to Baltimore for a life-transforming career. After I established myself, I moved back to Denver.
This time, I was determined not to make the same stupid mistakes twice.
And I’m not talking about the bankruptcy or the risks or starting new businesses.
Less than 24 hours after getting my new apartment keys – before my bed even arrived from Amazon – I had dinner with a friend who lived in Fort Collins. I asked him who else he knew in the Denver-area, in the same industry we were in.
He thought of a few peeps.
So I asked for introductions.
Every time my friend introduced me to someone via email, I asked that new contact if we could grab coffee.
Roughly 90% of the time, we ended up meeting. Getting to know each other was easy. We could talk about how we knew our mutual friend. What our businesses were. Our goals. Who we learned from. How we could help each other.
80% of the time, we clicked.
“You know,” I said to a few new friends, “There’s so many of us direct response marketers in Denver, but we don’t really know each other, and we never meet. It’d be cool to have a casual MasterMind where we get together and share ideas.”
They all agreed. But nobody was doing it.
So I did it.
I emailed everyone I met with some tentative dates, a few weeks in advance. When enough people confirmed they could attend, I reserved a small meeting room downtown. Actually, a new friend lent a meeting room he had access too – so it was free.
We gathered around a table, and I thanked everyone for coming. Then I asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell a little about their business. We went around the table.
Then we did “hotseats.”
One person at the table would described a project he was working on, and get feedback from everyone else.
I have no idea why it’s called a hotseat.
Maybe because the person gets nervous about being on the spot, and sweats on the seat?
Everyone loved the meeting. So I made sure to host more. About every six weeks.
The meetings grew in size and scope. People had ideas on how to improve them. But I knew better. My top priority was keeping them consistent, on track, and making sure everyone who attended was a great person.
Someone I met for coffee suggested I film videos promoting the event, and post photos of it on Facebook.
Someone came up with a plan where new members would pay $20, and the referring member gets a piece of that.
Someone else suggested I start a Facebook group.
There were some private rules I came up with, to make sure the meetings didn’t mutate into lame, shitty events people tolerate once or twice and then abandon.
My goal was to build something sustainable.
As months went by, my friends introduced me to more contacts. Some were a fit for the MasterMind. Some weren’t. The meetings evolved. One thing didn’t change: I held them roughly every six weeks – to keep the momentum going.
That was almost two years ago.
The group has survived and thrived. We’ve watched our careers and businesses shift, and helped them grow. We make deals. And introductions to trusted people. We’ve helped each other through scary leaps of faith. During dinner after one meeting, I shared how I was weeks away from paying off $96,326.31 in IRS debt (and later, I texted my friends a photo of the Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien, when I did).
My stupid mistake that kept me so miserable in Boulder, and kept me trapped in financial starvation after my bankruptcy, was remaining alone. Working in isolation. Not fostering a dynamic group.
When I moved back to Denver over two years ago, I vowed not to make that mistake again. And I succeeded.
You can do the same.
If you feel stuck in your career, or growing your business, you can build a network like this. It’s a long-term play. Your chief aim is to create a group of dynamic people who can help each other. You keep them on-track (I joke that my job is to “herd cats” during these things).
You must guard your group against wolves. And well-meaning people who will bring the energy down.
You have to put in the extra work to keep everything running smoothly.
And you pay. Everyone else enjoys the meetings for free. A-players won’t jump at something they must pay for, until you’re very established. Even then, you still might not want to do it. It’s like investing in a stock and receiving dividends. Do you take the cash or reinvest? It’s hard to go wrong reinvesting.
The day I wrote the bulk of this, I scheduled the next MasterMind meeting – on the day before my birthday. I’ll probably open the meeting by saying something similar to: “There’s only one thing I can think of that I’d rather be doing right now.”
That’s how valuable these meetings are. They’re a completely different animal than regular networking. And you don’t have to slog through a bunch of strangers to get started. You just need one friend. And then another. And another. The other players in the group might shift around, but if you become the sun the draws everything in, you’ll grow a powerhouse asset.