Thursday, May 12, 2022

Where Is My (Master)Mind?

If you've been around here a little while, you've probably heard me use the word "mastermind" once or twice in reference to creative groups I've been a part of in the past, but what is it really?  Napoleon Hill introduced us to the notion with his 1925 book, The Law of Success, and to me, is best described on Wikipedia (I know, I know...) as "a peer-to-peer mentoring group used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members."  We could sit here and inject prettier words, and try to spice it up a bit, but that description really gets to the meat of it without wasting any time.  Although, I do find Hill's detail a bit too romantic not to include:  

No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind. 

Sounds dreamy, and wonderful, no?  Imagine my frustration when every group I join ends up devolving into a middle-aged gripe-fest about how everyone hates their spouses / partners, jobs (or lack-there-of), and resents their kids / parents (or basically anyone they have to give care to).  I think I was deep in this very particular brand of discontent when I wrote this last Summer.  I was, for sure, in a place where I could not handle one more syllable from a single person who was committed to mucking up creative spaces because of their staunch refusal to enroll in therapy sessions.  It's not that I expect people to not talk about their personal lives in these places, I mean, the arts are intimate, couple that with freelancing, gig-work, and entrepreneurs, and it's just sort of the natural order of things, really.  What I don't expect, is to be used as a constant audience or receptacle for someone else's unbridled trauma dump.  What is trauma dumping, you ask?  According to Psychology Today:

Trauma dumping is a term used to describe intense oversharing, which can leave everyone involved feeling more distressed and helpless.

The problem is that it's becoming weirdly normalized, especially on social media, so there is a whole generation coming up that has been conditioned to see this as perfectly normal, and because the dump-er typically feels better afterwards (even if only marginally), they don't really see what the big deal is.  I always think of it like a tornado ripping through a municipality, and afterwards all the townsfolk emerge from the rubble like, what in the living HELL just happened ... Meanwhile the little funnel cloud just skips off to decimate the nearest trailer park, without a care in the world for the destruction left behind.  

I don't know about you, but I find it incredibly difficult to be creative, or engage in active problem-solving, or even just to keep my own head screwed on straight when I've just had the wind knocked out of me.  Now make it an every day occurrence, and multiple times a day at that.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about how we sometimes feel the need to shake the cobwebs of the day off before we can get down to brainstorming; these aren't the I got a flat tire on the way to work, and was late in front of the boss that already hates me kind of conversations.  We're talking about knowing more about a person's terrible spouse than I do about all of my exes combined.  And frankly, I'm a Scorpio, and we want to know everything about everyone, and if I'm saying it's too much, it's too damn much.  Plus, if I wanted to spend every day of my life hating a husband, I'd have racked up a few of my own by now! 

After a while you just feel like a complete idiot...

I did, at least, and I don't even believe in negative self-talk!  But there are times in life when things, or your participation in them, become unavoidably stupid, and it's okay (and even crucial) to recognize it.  Why am I here?  Why am I doing this?  WHY. DO. I. KEEP. COMING. BACK.  ???  What am I getting out of this?  Where do I belong?  Where is the group that feels right, and good, and expansive, and abundant, and productive, to me?

Therein lies my seemingly forever-problem.  In all of the online courses, and workshops I've ever been in the number one advice is always about surrounding yourself with the "right" people.  They caution about letting the "wrong" people drag you down, and drain your energy, motivation, and determination.  Yet, in all of these conversations, not once has anyone offered any guidance, or said where to find these groups.  I understand that each of us must be willing to put in the legwork to get where we want to go, and I'll grant you, I am not naturally what one would call "a joiner," so I'm willing to take on quite a chunk of responsibility for my not knowing where to go, but if your whole shtick is selling access to all of these kinds of business, and development secrets, how is this not one of them?  The common thread I'm seeing from terrible, to excellent workshops is that the leaders themselves have found the mastermind groups that work for their needs, and they encourage you to do the same, but they absolutely do not want you in theirs ... If you're like me, you're too new, or too small-time, or not a high enough earner to be considered compatible for their groups.  Trust me, to some degree I get it, I really do.  Top earners, and high achievers in their respective fields don't necessarily want to be surrounded by a bunch of rookies that can't help them in return, but that's a hell of a Catch-22, isn't it?  How can any of us upgrade* the company we keep, when no one wants to let you in, because you haven't "proven" yourself yet, but you can't necessarily grow to your next level without access to those more serious spaces?

*By upgrade I strictly mean making sure you're surrounded by like-minded individuals committed to a common goal, I'm not talking about classicist junk, here, or that some people are better than others, or it's okay to treat people as disposable.  I just mean: 

Not every one can be every thing for us.

What's annoying to me, is that in a lot of circles big money = serious, and that everyone else is just dabbling, or have nothing of value to offer the group as a whole.  I think that is extraordinarily untrue.  You can have big ideas, and bring an interesting perspective without having, or even wanting to lead a huge business of your own.  I think it's gross that a copious amount of money is tied to entry in almost every aspect of our lives, and used as a rubric to weed out those who are not sincere and deliberate from those who are.  Does everyone HAVE to be pulling 8 figures every year to matter, now?  I hope not.  Let me be clear, I'm not saying I belong, or even want to be a member of a group that is woefully over my head, but there's a vast expanse between every iteration of Single Parents Alone Together masquerading as creative spaces that I've been a part of, and the Shark Tank / Dragon Den set, and trying to navigate it is exhausting!  I'm also not saying that people like the sad sacks in SPAT shouldn't have support, or a place to go either, I just think part of being a mature adult, is figuring out where the correct places to engage in those activities actually are, and because a great many of them have, in fact, not figured that out it's made it harder for the rest of us when groups have had to become much more restrictive, and exclusionary in order to protect the integrity of their spaces.  I really don't want to make this an "us" versus "them" sort of thing, even though that's exactly what it sounds like, it's just ... Well, I think it can be accurately summed up with the Irma Kurtz quote, "Givers need to set limits, because takers rarely do." 

Maybe I can speak it into existence, instead of constantly searching!  All I want is to be where people are ready to actively and excitedly share ideas, and information, and their expertise along with their trials, and accomplishments in a positive, uplifting, and educational manner.  I'm tellin' ya, if you've found a spot like that for yourself, CHERISH IT, and go tell all of your people how lucky you are to have each other, because it's a very rare thing!