• Ben Gallagher

Two Heads Are Better Than One - Accelerate Your Audio Career with a Mastermind Group

If you had an unlimited budget, would you consider hiring a qualified coach to help you improve your skills, advance your career, and turn the dial on your excitement and motivation for game audio up to 11?


Of course, you would!

Now, what if I told you that you don’t need even one dollar to make this happen?

If the term “Mastermind Group” doesn’t mean anything to you yet, get ready for an introduction to one of the best things you can do for your career in professional audio.


This post originally appeared as a guest article on the A Sound Effect blog.

Read it there!


Teamwork makes the dream work!


 

What is a Mastermind Group?


A mastermind group is a small group of like-minded individuals who are committed to pursuing and achieving a common goal.

These individuals meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas, give each other feedback, learn from each other’s experiences, and offer a supportive environment that helps every member grow.


In other words, it’s like having your own personal coaching group where you can give and receive help from people who understand your problems because they have them, too.


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Let's get together and level up our game audio businesses!



The idea of a mastermind group was pioneered by Napoleon Hill in his book “Think & Grow Rich”. He described its benefits in the following way:



“Two or more people actively engaged in the pursuit of a definite purpose with a positive mental attitude, constitute an unbeatable force.”


Napoleon Hill



In other words, two heads are better than one!


A mastermind group essentially applies the power of teamwork in a very specific way to help you achieve your goals faster.


Now that we’ve defined what a mastermind group is, let’s take a look at the benefits it can bring to your professional and personal life.



Don't Work Hard, Work Smart


One of the main superpowers of a mastermind group is the ability of each member to learn from the shared experience of the group.


As you meet to discuss what you’re working on, you will have valuable exchanges with your peers who have either:


  • A | Tried new or different strategies to achieve your shared goal or…

  • B | Tried the same strategies in different ways or with different results.


From the conversations around these topics, you will learn in minutes or hours what would have taken you days or weeks to learn on your own.


In essence, it’s like putting your skill acquisition on steroids.


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This is basically what happens in a mastermind group.



Powerful & Relevant Feedback


A mastermind group is a fantastic place to get feedback on your work as well as your current career plans and strategies.


The best part about this feedback is that it not only comes from qualified peers who understand your situation but also from people who, through the regular meetings and exchanges, know your work and can appreciate the subtleties of your progress.


They will also be better suited to point it out if you are headed in the wrong direction or are maybe missing something due to a personal blind spot you never could have diagnosed yourself.


Accountability Overload


As human beings, we have a strong natural urge to fit into “the group”.


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When we don't fit in, we aren't happy!



By forcing yourself into a situation like a mastermind, you immediately enter not only a positive new environment focused on mutual support and growth but also a kind of social contract that has a much stronger influence on your behavior than simply going it solo could ever have.


By openly expressing not only your goals but how you plan to achieve them to your mastermind group, you create a new social obligation that adds a surprisingly powerful motivator for you to actually follow through with your plans.



 

Keys to a Successful Mastermind Group


If you’ve never heard of mastermind groups before, you may well be interested in starting one yourself.


While the basic concept is not at all complicated and getting together regularly with even one person in your industry is already a fabulous start, there are some points to consider for a mastermind group to most positively affect everyone involved.

1 | Size Matters

A handful of like-minded individuals can achieve a lot together.


When too many people are involved, however, meetings take longer, some needs go unmet, and personal sharing is minimized.


Since this is not optimal, a general recommendation is that mastermind groups shouldn’t consist of more than 6-8 people.


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You don't wanna be saying this in your mastermind group.



Too many is not good, but too few is also not ideal.


If there are only 2 or 3 of you, you risk hitting a wall pretty quickly in terms of what each person can offer the others and things can get stale.


Also, people are busy.


This means even when everyone commits to meet weekly/bi-weekly at an agreed time, there will undoubtedly be times where someone can’t make it.


Having only two people (or just one!) at the meetings slows down progress and makes things less enjoyable for everyone.


For that reason, I’d highly recommend trying to get a group together that fits the sweet spot of around 4-8 people.

2 | Choose Your Members Wisely

Besides being people with whom you feel you could get along over an extended period of time, there are a few guidelines to the types of people who should join a mastermind group together.


Firstly, all members should be more or less at the same spot in their career.


If one person in the group is a beginner while someone else is a seasoned pro, there will be an imbalance in the give/take aspect of the group.


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Those earlier in their careers will be more in need of the information and feedback experienced members can provide while being able to give back little in comparison.


This is not a bad thing in and of itself and many who are enjoying some level of success also love lending others a helping hand, but the situation I’ve just described is a mentorship, not a mastermind.


Secondly, all members should be in a related field.


While many aspects of freelancing and doing business in the world of professional audio overlap, we all know that there are many genre/job-specific nuances that simply don’t translate.


A sound designer for games will have little to provide in terms of helpful feedback and advice to a live sound technician and vice versa. A mix engineer who works exclusively with death metal may have very different job experiences than someone who mixes J-Pop.


Focusing as narrowly as you can on your niche is the way to go for your mastermind group.

Only in a group of people doing very similar work can experiences, skills, and knowledge translate most effectively to the benefit of everyone involved.


3 | Your Calendar is King

Pick a time and place to meet that works for everyone and hold each member accountable for their consistent attendance.


A group that never manages to decide when and where to meet or has flaky members who don’t show up can never lead to the growth of those involved.


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Nope. That don't work.



Your best bet is to choose a recurring appointment and stick to it.


I’ll insert one of my all-time favorite quotes here:



“If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t exist.”


Tim Ferriss



It should also be made clear at the beginning that, although there is certainly an element of friendship and comradery in the group, this is a serious meeting and members who don’t respect the time and energy of the group by not showing up regularly will be asked to leave.


Hot tip: How no-shows and other offenses are to be dealt with can and should be enshrined in some simple contract created by and agreed upon to the mastermind members.

What Does This Look Like?

If you’re wondering what this might look like, here are a few data points from my own mastermind group:

  • We are 6 people in total

  • All of us are video game composers and/or sound designers

  • All members are full-time freelancers with the majority of their income generated not only from audio work but from game audio work

  • All members are located in northern Europe and most are in the same time zone

  • We meet bi-weekly for 60-minutes.

  • Anyone who wants to continue talking after those 60 minutes are up is free to do so. However, we have all agreed that a well-run, focused session should take no longer than one hour and everyone is free to leave after that time is up.

  • We have a Discord group and discuss there what topic we would like to cover at each session before it begins. (we also share links, resources, and a healthy amount of memes)

  • If any member is in particular need of dedicated attention for a problem they’re facing, a session can also be used in this way.

  • If any member misses three sessions without excusing themselves, the group reserves the right to expel them.


Our mastermind group has been running for about a year and I have not only learned a great deal from its members (shoutout to Indra, Felix, Mathilde, Paul, and Cai), I am also amazed at how consistently I continue to learn new and helpful things for my business.


As each member grows, the group grows with them.


As the group grows, the members grow with it.

This is powerful stuff, y’all!


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Yes, I said “y’all”. I’m from Virginia. Gimme a break.



 

Takeaway


With the rise of the gig economy, more and more of us are striking out on our own and working purely online from the comfort of our homes.


This brings many wonderful advantages, but what is missing?


For many, it’s the group of peers we would otherwise have working in a company or studio who would provide us with daily opportunities to discuss our craft and get valuable feedback and advice.


Freelancers often don’t have that kind of tight-knit community built into our work life, but we can create it!


A mastermind group is a fantastic and free way to give and receive the kind of support that can skyrocket your career while helping you build a powerful network in your industry.


P.S. You also don’t have to be a freelancer to start a mastermind group nor does it necessarily have to be work-related. Anyone looking to improve their skills and succeed in any endeavor would benefit from mastermind meetings with their peers.


If this sounds interesting to you, take the first step and reach out to some folks you think might be interested in creating a mastermind group with you!



 

I created The Game Audio Pro with the goal of helping others understand the fundamental business skills that are often the difference between success and failure for freelancers.

If you're ready to take your game audio career to the next level, download my guide to The Most Important Mindset for Game Audio Success.