Achievement Groups: Juntos, Masterminds, and Fusions
Another key life habit is to have an achievement group (our “A group”) that we meet with regularly to help us become and stay our best selves. Think of achievement groups as much like support groups, but rather than spending most of the time to help a person recover from a problem or addiction back to baseline performance, most of the effort is on helping people who are already at baseline to move well beyond it, into a place of higher achievement and mastery. Support and accountability are definitely part of an A group, but achievement is the highest goal.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in some excellent A groups for a couple of decades now, and I’d like to share some tips on starting or joining your own here. To challenge ourselves to our best, we all need to meet regularly with peers who are committed to improving each other’s personal and organizational foresight. In our busy modern, urban lives, it is easy to fall out of regularly attending such groups, or fail to ever find one. Yet being in a group of respected peers who are all working hard to better themselves, and sharing their advice, may turn out to be the single most important social activity of our lives.
At the age of 21, Benjamin Franklin started a personal achievement and accountability group, a “mutual improvement club” of twelve members that met for dinner and discussion every Friday night, which he called the Junto. Over thirty years of meetings, Franklin attributed virtually all of his greatest business and professional successes to this fascinating group. You can find a brief account of the Junto in his words here. Franklin was a true Renaissance person (a “star-shaped” individual, in our personality parlance). He overcame early personal hardships to become a great entrepreneur, inventor, author, humorist, epicurean, scientist, philosopher, adventurer, public servant and statesman. He had flaws, like everyone, but in many ways he was an icon we can learn much from. His Junto is described mainly in his Autobiography (1793), reportedly the second most widely read book in America in the 19th century after the Bible.
In his personal development and self-improvement classic, Think and Grow Rich (1937/2005), Napoleon Hill described, as Step 9 of his 13 steps to success, a version of a Junto that he called the “Master Mind alliance,” a “friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.” These have come to be called mastermind groups. As mastermind facilitator Karyn Greenstreet explains, in such groups, friendliness and accountability are both prerequisites. Everyone individually is asked to report their challenges, plans, and results, and the group gives friendly and constructively critical feedback and advice. Trust and confidentiality are of course key. See also this brief set of rules of a good mastermind by Lisa Nirell, The Secret Weapon to Outpace Your Competitors, Fast Company, 10 Sep 2010.
Goals like socializing, networking, or business development are not the primary goals of A groups like Juntos or masterminds. Though they inevitably occur, they are treated as secondary purposes. The primary focus in an achievement group is achievement, personal development, performance, foresight, and accountability. Nevertheless, there are many groups and books today that use the phrase “mastermind” for networking or money making groups, more in the “Grow Rich” tradition of Hill than in the “mutual improvement” tradition of Franklin. See for example Jayson Gaignard’s Mastermind Dinners (2015), on networking dinners, and Tobe Brockner’s Mastermind Group Blueprint (2013). These can be helpful supplements, but if you must choose one group as your top commitment, I would not pick one of these as your primary group.
The kind of achievement group that we recommend you build first around you is much more in line with Franklin’s than Hill’s vision. It is a group that tries to help us get better in all the ways that we can control and that matter most in our lives, most of which have to do with relationships, goals, achievements, impact, and legacy, not money or fame. Jenny Capella’s Your Dream Team (2014) is a mastermind group book that gets closer to this goal, but is still not yet a perfect fit.
From my perspective, a great achievement group is concerned with your total development as person, your emotion as well as your cognition, your character as well as your goals, your results as well as your actions, and with all of the Eight Skills and their application to your personal and professional life.
In 2001, I started an achievement group based on Franklin’s Junto, called Fusion, which my wife and I have had the privilege to run until 2013, when I took a brief pause to write this book. Fusion has both small-group (4-5 member) monthly meetings and large-group (24 member) annual meetings. At the large group meetings we break into small-groups several times over a weekend, always in some beautiful location for hiking and talking. You can see some of our large-group meetings here.
Fusions are a key feature of Foresight U, our strategic foresight and entrepreneurship learning and achievement community. I hope you’ll consider joining a Fusion yourself. Alternatively, you can use our free online startup guides for Small-Group and Large-Group Fusions and build your own achievement group, if what we have to offer isn’t the best fit for your needs. One way or another, we recommend you give the achievement group serious consideration as a foundational life habit. Life’s too short not to spend it with friendly, committed, high-integrity people, aiming to do great things.
Fusion is named after thermonuclear fusion, the chemistry of the sun, which humanity is attempting to harness here on Earth. Commercial fusion energy will be one of the greatest engineering feats of our species if we achieve it, an outcome we may see by mid-century. In fusion experiments, getting the right confinement system is the key. Figure out the right containment device, and you invariably get vastly more energy out of a fusion reaction than you put in. Achievement groups work the same way. Build the right containment device (the right group members, rules, and goals) and we each get vastly more out than we put in.
In our experience so far, the best Fusion groups consist of members who are all friendly, high-integrity and growth (foresight) oriented. Those who can’t be all of these three things should instead join support groups until they can achieve those three personal traits. In every achievement group, mechanisms need to exist to temporarily suspend membership of any individual that more than one other member finds abusive, unhelpful or uncommitted, either during the group event or via semi-confidential surveys after the event, and after appropriate warning and opportunity for behavior change is given.
Members should be personally committed to advancing their personal foresight, including self-knowledge, prioritization, strategic thinking, goalsetting, and feedback, and perhaps also the other domains of foresight as well (organizational, global, universal), per the group’s interest. Using the full Eight Skills framework is one way to ensure a comprehensive approach to the personal growth and foresight commitment.
Fusion group members ideally share key core values, but have have different and complementary thinking styles and skills, maximizing cognitive and skills diversity. Fusion groups can be general interest (eg, “futurists”, “entrepreneurs”) or specialty focused (entrepreneurs in a particular field, high-earning 30+ women in particular industry or profession, etc.). Both types of Fusions work well, and some find value in joining both general-purpose and specialty achievement groups.
Annually mixing up the composition of the large and small groups, using both bottom-up member preferences and top-down facilitator-chosen mixing rules is a great way to help you be your best self. Confidential personal profiles and brief personal reports are in your historical record with your A group, so your past achievements, goals, common issues and blocks become more easily known to new group members over time, and you get better quality advice every year.
Achievement groups can meet daily, weekly, monthly, semiannually, or annually. They can be virtual or physical. In our groupnet future in the 2020s we can look forward to many highly intimate and powerful achievement groups emerging. In the meantime, check us out and see it for yourself!