My Journey to a Mastermind

Here is my personal journey/chapter from the book Tales of a Mastermind, which was authored by 10 guys all part of Iron Sharpens Iron, Scale the Cliff Brotherhood.  Enjoy the journey…

May 1987.

Summer was waiting for me just around the corner and I could hardly wait for it. As a young teenager, summer for me was like getting to drink the pickle juice straight from the jar. Lifting up that green zesty liquid to your lips causing conflicting feelings of challenge and reservation. But once you sipped it and allowed it to roll across your taste buds … it made you feel invigorated, bright, alert, and accomplished.

Every summer was like that, it represented opportunity and challenge. If you’ve ever watched the Disney movie UP, then you can relate to Dug, Mr. Muntz’s Golden Retriever, doing one thing, and then being easily distracted and yelling out SQUIRREL. Summer in my hometown wasn’t a distraction, but there were ‘squirrel opportunities’ everywhere and I wanted to grab on to the tails of every one of them and embrace each bouncing, swirling adventure.

My parents were the faithful, consistent blue collar type who served their time at the same job for 40+ years. The majority of folks in our lake town of Watkins Glen, NY were that way. But my sleepy village of 1,500 swelled to 5000+ on summer weekends due to the racetrack, wineries, and the scenic gorge.

The smell of the cool, brisk lake air breezes, cluttered, semi-controlled traffic chaos in narrow valley streets fashion, bustling small shop owners on Franklin street cleaning, painting, preparing, hoping for a ‘good summer’ … opportunity was in the air!

I was just 13, grass needed cutting, hotel rooms needed cleaning, papers needed delivering. Everyone was busy around town … the tension was so thick you could almost slice it. It was summer and it was the time everyone made their money.

Maybe it was the challenge of the job hunt or the accomplishment of getting the job. Maybe it was the satisfaction of getting handed that green numbered paper at the end of a job well done. Whatever it was, I liked it. It was my calling. I was ambitious.

I remember clear as the self-reflection of a perfectly calm day on that lake … riding my bicycle to every motel in town asking if I could mow their grass, help clean rooms, or do odd jobs around the place. On my paper route, I’d take the opportunity to ask folks if they needed extra help clearing out brush or mowing the yard.

God had designed and built me differently than most faces in our small town. The challenge of opportunity and hope of accomplishment was born so far deep inside of me, yet I was being led (or not) by parents, teachers, mentors that followed the predictable storied path of high school … college … get a ‘good job’, one that paid a good wage, one where you could give your time in exchange for 40 years of punching a clock and ‘working for the man’.

I tried it.

But in each and every J O B I found myself creating new positions and opportunities for myself. Wanting more than just a pat on the back and a steady paycheck. I wanted my efforts to impact the big picture, not just my small part I had rutted myself into. It was in 1998 that enough of those ‘you stupid’ moments in my brain that I decided my path was entrepreneurship … I needed to start my own business, a real one, whatever that meant.

By 2000, I was contracting myself to local businesses developing web software. Things were going well, but by 2004, my primary client and I were butting heads, he finally called me into his office and said … ‘we are in too much conflict, you have this ‘rv web business’ going, you need to go do that’. No one likes having that conversation, but for me, it was the pivot point for me and the push out the door I needed.

In 2005, I started focusing my efforts on the ‘rv web business’ called InteractRV, working 70+ hours each week and began building a real business serving RV dealerships with their website and digital marketing needs.

The business started, literally in the back of my garage. We had been in start-up mode, focusing on getting work done, hiring people, building teams. I am a sucker for learning from others blazing the trail before me. People like Jason Fried from Basecamp and the Ramsey Solutions folks from Entreleadership. Books like The E-Myth helped shaped the foundation of how I operated the company and helped form the culture.

Life was good. Business was good. I had worked hard at building the business, both the business and my family were completely debt free, including the house, college fund was growing, retirement funds were in progress.

Then early in 2016, I noticed myself looking for ‘other things to do’ while walking the 30 steps to my home office. Even at work, I was focusing on side-projects that were fun and interesting, but not aligned with anything specific.

The longer 2016 dragged on the more alone and frustrated I was becoming. A stressed minority-partner relationship. Lack of purpose, little vision. I had built a team to replace me … now what?

In addition to that, my ‘little girls’ were well into the ‘adulting’ process. One was a Junior in high school, another heading to college, and another getting married. My wife and I were learning a ‘new normal’.

When you are working ‘in your business’ it’s fairly straightforward. Your work is there in front of you each and every day. If you have any kind of systems or processes in place … it just keeps coming, more and more to do. BUT when you are working ‘on your business’ it’s not sitting there in front of you. You have to go looking, venture outside of your comfort zone of what you know. You have to explore and discover new things, try them, test them, then figure out how to apply them.

I heard it said somewhere that ‘what got you here, might not be what will get you there’ and I knew in my innermost being that our super niched digital marketing agency couldn’t get to the next level without additional insight, encouragement, and leadership other than myself and my business partner.

My journey to the Iron Sharpens Iron mastermind was a sequence of events all stemming from my desire to learn and improve. I attended Entreleadership, learned about Michael Hyatt who introduced me to Ray Edward’s Copywriting Academy.

At Ray’s Copywriting Academy in August of 2016, I met David standing in line at Chick-fil-a ordering lunch. He happened to be the photographer who first photographed the infamous mastermind group called “The Eagles” w/ Dave Ramsey, Aaron Walker, Dan Miller, and others. David encouraged me to connect with Aaron Walker.

Frankly, I am embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t bring myself to introduce myself to Aaron at the event. He even sat down four tables away during one of our breaks where we were doing some work, and I still didn’t do it.

Once at home I looked up Aaron and soon joined The Community. After a couple of months of making sure The Community was legit and beneficial I applied for ISI. From there Tom and Aaron reached out to me, interviewed me, and I joined ISI in October 2016.

From that very first video call I knew this was something different than I had experienced before with other groups and attempts at mastermind commitments.

I had discovered men who were like me, but unique and bringing their own personal strengths to the team. In our group of men we have those who bend toward compassion, we have those who lean toward encouragement, and we have those who aren’t afraid to say what needs to be said and ask the tough questions … the ones we all need to have answers for.

Our 2017 Spring Retreat in Tennessee was challenging and rewarding beyond measure. Everyone was there to learn, to share, and to give. While meeting virtually every week is important, having an opportunity to connect face to face enhances the trust and cements the bond of friendships.

I’ve had the opportunity to provide some accountability one on one to another guy in my group. Encouraging him sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. Hearing the determination in his voice and through his commitment to his goals.

Most recently, I flew out for a couple of days to meet one of the guys in my group. He graciously gave of his time to be a sounding board, to ask questions, to provide counsel. It was awesome to spend time together and get an opportunity to watch him in his environment and affirm that he is genuine.

It’s exciting to give back to others, learning about myself, leading w/ understanding and purpose, counting on The Community, the ISI Mastermind group, and my Monday morning Scale the Cliff brotherhood to walk beside me in the journey, encouraging me to sprint and kicking me in the pants when I need it most.

Check your pulse. Seriously, do it right now … put your two fingers on the underside of your wrist until you feel the pulse. That’s your heart beating and you need others that are uniquely different but also have the same heartbeat toward life, speaking into your life.

You need to serve them and allow them to stretch you to a life of significance in your faith, your family, and your work.

Mastermind Takeaways…

  • Trying to do it alone, by yourself is a hard uphill battle. As Aaron Walker often says … isolation is the enemy of excellence.
  • Don’t join a mastermind not only for what you can get out of it but most importantly the impact, the difference you can make in someone else’s life … reciprocity will come naturally in wonderful ways you won’t always expect.
  • Being committed to the right mastermind connects you to more thought leadership and insights than you can imagine was possible. Don’t hesitate to connect, ask questions, and learn.

Whether you look into the Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind or there is another group of folks that you can connect and share life with in a meaningful way, do it.  As Aaron Walker often says … Isolation is the Enemy of Excellence!

Special thank you to Chris Schrader, Scale the Cliff brother, for the book idea and your constant encouragement for us to each write our own chapter:)