Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

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AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Thanks for the bump WRC, an update is long overdue! Let me recap from the beginning.

We settled with 7 members. We had an initial meet n greet call, and then did a “deep dive” with one person as the focus every two weeks. So the first session lasted 8*2 weeks. Since most members either had travel plans or life transitions to attend to, we felt like taking a “summer break” of a couple months. We maintained the every-two-weeks schedule, but it was “show up if you like, no specific agenda for the meeting” informal chatting and discussion. It was also good to take a break from the schedule and reflect a bit on the Mastermind group as a whole, and have more time to just “chat” and get to know each other better during the informal sessions.

We’re going to start up the “second session” at the end of September.

Structure
My idea at the beginning was that each member would identify ~2 “goals” or focuses to work on. I made a slide deck template for people to use, took notes, we tracked biweekly sub-goals, etc. All very corporate / agile / scrum / whatever. Some examples of goals/focuses people had:
.Start up a side hustle
.Draw a bunch of WL7/WoGs diagrams
.Declutter
.Improve cooking skill / reduce restaurant meals
.Start a garden
.Start an exercise program
.Learn about / implement an investment strategy
.Etc

A couple people never really created well-defined formal “goals”, not for lack of trying, but I think for lack of appropriateness to their circumstance. And a few people (myself included) who started with well-defined goals either heavily modified or completely changed their original goals, or wound up *mostly* abandoning the activity of “pursuing goals” altogether.

How the deep dives went ranged. At the more formal goal-setting end of the spectrum, for example, I presented my “plans” and current status for my two projects, which were “side hustle” and “make a bunch of WL7 diagrams”. I got a lot of feedback, ideas, and questions, which helped sort out some logistical issues, asked some questions I had overlooked, and also pressed me to define my “why” better.

At the less formal end of the spectrum, one member used their deep dive as a collaborative session on how to even approach goal-setting, how to think about structuring one’s life to accomplish desired outcomes, discussed procrastination and motivation, and other issues related to constructing and executing a pretty mature semiERE lifestyle.

And then another member used their deep dive as something that approached collaborative intellectual poetry.

——

So, by the end of the first session, I think we all had a sense that trying to stuff everyone in a “have two goals, do biweekly status reports” structure was simply inappropriate. My understanding of Mastermind Groups comes from business world, which are obviously very specific-outcome driven. ERE is necessarily different. We’ve discussed some broad ideas about how we can approach the Second Session:

Everyone gets a “deep dive” still, aka next Tuesday is going to be “my” call, and the session after that is going to be the next person’s, etc. But I’m going to have a broad range of options for how I want that call to go. I could…
.Present about and ask for feedback on an ongoing goal/project, as per the nominal idea behind Session 1.
.Give a presentation/lead a discussion on a specific topic. This could be something like a knowledge share (e.g. during the informal sessions I did a call on “psychological issues with Doing Something about climate change”, and I’m about to do another on “Fundamentals and Principles for thinking strategically about building design, with an emphasis on natural buildings and tiny homes”).
.I could even ask another member to kick off/lead a discussion about something I know *they* know about and want to know more about. e.g. maybe a member is an expert on investing, or permaculture, or dirtbagging, or fixing motorcycles.

So one way or another, we’re moving to a much more broad approach where we can use the time and space more or less however we like. Put another way, instead of trying to herd all the cats in one direction, we’re just letting the cats go wherever they like and enjoying the ride.



The Signal chats continue to be a source of great value and camaraderie. Some participate more than others. Sometimes we just post a pic of a garden harvest or a DIY, or a WL diagram (ha!), or a place we’re traveling. The bulk of the conversations in the channel start with a seed and go deep down a rabbit hole - investing, climate change, buildings, gardening, relationships, etc. Sometimes five days will go by with no new chats, and some days there will be 100 posts because a conversation really got going. (Probably most of us have that channel muted, so it doesn’t blow up our phones while we’re trying to do something else.)

We’ve had no issues, on the calls or in Signal, with drama. Even when we’re disagreeing, everyone does it respectfully. Every once in a while we have a love-fest and tell everyone how much we think everyone else is awesome.

Happy to answer any questions about the group if anyone has any.

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seanconn256
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Location: Laniakea Supercluster

Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by seanconn256 »

I'm quite interested, if there's space available, in either the signal chat or meetings.

I'm not sure how much content I would be able to contribute, other than bike maintenance or linux admin info, but I think getting to actually talk with people who do ere would be quite valuable.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Hey seanconn! I should have mentioned this - the mastermind group is "full", as we've decided to cap it at 8. That said, I'd be very happy to help support the spin up of a second mastermind group, if there are enough folks interested.

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seanconn256
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Location: Laniakea Supercluster

Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by seanconn256 »

no prob - if enough people respond starting a second group would be great. good luck in the meantime.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

We’ve just finished our second ‘formal session’, and are doing some introspection as a group as to how it’s going.

Overall, it continues to be a positive and valuable experience. I *really* enjoy the group, our discussions, hearing what the other members are up to, and look forward to our calls.

The main point of discussion at this point of introspection is the balance between the group being a fun, chill ERE-friendly hang-out zone vs. a pressure cooker of intense ERE execution. It tends to the former at the moment.

During our calls we definitely focus on that person’s deep dive topic, brainstorm creatively, and are comfortable challenging the person to consider alternative perspectives or approaches. We don’t just hop on zoom and aimlessly ‘chat’ for an hour. But we don’t (at the moment) maintain an atmosphere of real structured, type-A “forward momentum on your well-defined Mastermind Project at all times at any cost”.

In other words, we let each other get away with slacking, losing definition of projects, changing our minds frequently, etc. We’re quite nice to each other, perhaps to a fault. How much of a fault that is is what’s up for discussion at the moment.

For one thing, ERE isn’t terribly straightforward. In a business-focused Mastermind, the goals are much more concrete and linear, with hard metrics impossible to fudge: increase profitability by x%, create a proposal for new hiring practice, develop a business plan for pushing into adjacent industry and present to the board, etc.

To a certain extent ERE goals can be broken down like this, but often we’ve discovered what we *think* is the right next project is actually not the most appropriate next project, or we’ve defined it with N-1 thinking and need to redefine it with N+1 thinking, or the idea that project X needed doing was false from the beginning and the real solution was just to let that urge to “do” anything go gently into the ether… So often what we think is “the work” is just the preamble to deliver us to “the work”, which is a much subtler thing that would have been incredibly difficult to write down under “desired outcome” on our project slide deck.

Speaking of subtle work, it’s a known dynamic that perhaps *the* primary obstacle for making progress in one’s ERE journey is social pressure to conform to status quo society. Few of us are surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues that “get” ERE. Some of us can’t even really talk to our SO’s about it. It’s like a weird porn habit, a double life in the closet. That’s a HUGE barrier to making permanent internalized mindset shifts. The forum is great as the one place on the internet where we all “get it”… but we’re also all strangers, most of us anonymous. On the forum we aren’t as real to each other as our friends asking us out to the brewpub after work.

The Mastermind group is the next level up from the forum in terms of normalizing ERE behavior. I know the faces, voices, and real names of all the group members. I know what the inside of most of their living rooms look like, what their sense of humor is like, what tone of voice they use when they’re being sarcastic vs. genuine, etc. And all these people get ERE, and help make “thinking and behaving in ERE” more real. They’re a buffer against the tsunami of status quo society. If “you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most”, the group is a significant vote vast for “ERE”.

So even though we might have been slacking a bit compared to a professional-focused Mastermind group, we’ve all been making solid progress in our ERE journeys — even in areas we never formally brought up as “our mastermind project”. And I attribute a lot of this progress to the social permission we give each other.

With all that in mind, we’re discussing various ways to turn the knob up a bit on pressure to stay focused on projects, hold each other more accountable, etc, without making it not fun or overly uncomfortable, recognizing that that easy sociability is part of the magic of making us more effective in our ERE journeys.



Someone commented that joining the MMG felt like the difference between being a lurker and starting a journal, in terms of leveling up ERE momentum. I’d like to make that even more powerful with some of the tuning we’re doing right now.

I’m planning on developing some easier to follow “How to spin up an ERE MMG” posts, and also would be very happy to help anyone start a MMG. I think you could have an effective group with as few as two people, although at least three might be much more dynamic. Eight people (our current group size) is manageable but quite big - I definitely recommend against any more than 8.

If anyone is interested, a way to get “the right group” together is probably to post in your journal that you’re interested in starting a mmg. The people who follow your journal most assiduously are likely to be the best candidates for good group chemistry.

AxelHeyst
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Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

We’re in between formal sessions, and just had a call to discuss the structure of the formal sessions and any improvements we could make to it.

A main topic was the balance between the space to be flexible with our projects and having enough accountability to actually make good progress. The value proposition of MMGs, after all, is it’s a big accountability boost that motivates us to do well on our projects. ERE, though, is unique in that often what we *think* is the right thing to be working on actually isn’t, and so we all have had the experience of pivoting, reframing projects, abandoning them, and just wallowing in baffled confusion about how to even approach things.

Out of this topic came a tweak to how we run the formal session.

..First, we’ll start with 2-3 calls where people give ~20min presentations/discussions on their intended project(s). This gets everyone “started”.
..Then, we do normal deep dive calls for ~8 calls. Each call is a deep dive on one person’s topic.
..At the end, we have another 2-3 calls where people give ~20min presentations on how their projects went. It’s likely that many of us will talk about how we started with Project X, then changed our minds and went to Project Y. The idea, as Quadalupe put it, is there’s an expectation of *explainability*. It’s fine to pivot - but you have to be able to explain *why* you pivoted, what you learned from the attempt, and why you chose to do Y instead.

When we want to have a guest or do a special presentation, which we’ve done from time to time, we just insert it into the schedule. No need to wait until after the whole formal session is done (which is now at about 12-14 calls, 24-28 weeks in length).

We’ve also identified that even within the group, it’s hard to remember what everyone is doing and so it’s easy to forget to ask about how a specific initiative is going. We’re going to have a go at buddying up so there are 1:1 accountability partners.

Finally, all the extra accountability-related stuff is opt-out. It’s possible some members might feel that the primary value they get from the group is in the ERE-permissive social interaction, and wouldn’t respond well to any higher accountability pressure. That’s fine. These people still show up regularly, give really insightful feedback, and care about the group. That relationship to accountability and structure is welcome.

Western Red Cedar
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Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by Western Red Cedar »

I want to provide a debrief after my first formal MM group session. I've not mentioned much about the MM group in my journal - primarily because I snuck in the group for the last remaining spot during the second session and wanted to observe a full session and get comfortable with the norms before posting on the forums.

I initially avoided joining the group due to concerns about anonymity, because I'm pretty busy with work and my personal life, and because I felt relatively happy with my ERE path and FI journey. This was incredibly stupid in hindsight and I'm glad I ultimately decided to join the group. It's been quite valuable just to have an alternative social circle to bounce ERE related ideas off and to share success stories.
AxelHeyst wrote:
Sat Jan 15, 2022 12:39 pm
Someone commented that joining the MMG felt like the difference between being a lurker and starting a journal, in terms of leveling up ERE momentum. I’d like to make that even more powerful with some of the tuning we’re doing right now.
This was my quote from one of our Signal chats. I saw a strong parallel between my ERE journey when creating an account and when joining the MM group. Before each step, I felt pretty comfortable with my ERE/FI path. After creating my journal, I started doing a lot of fun and interesting new things, like baking bread, pickling new vegetables, breaking distance records on my bicycle, and changing my perspectives on travel.

For those lurking out there who have thought about creating an account, I'd strongly encourage you to do so. Create a journal and help others while you help yourself. I'd also encourage forum members to join a MM group. It is an great opportunity to keep building skills and expand your social network with like-minded people.

I established two projects that would mesh well with my future plans to travel. They fell under the general goals of health and minimalism. I hit my minimalism targets pretty quickly - perhaps within the first 6-8 weeks. This included getting rid of a 50+ books, lots of old research papers and other superfluous documents, along with clothes, kitchen items, and other random things. I'm at the point now where I feel a pretty strong connection to everything I have, but I know I could get rid of more stuff. I still find a couple items per week that I pass on or put in a little free library. The biggest fail with this project was selling stuff online. DW and I sorted a few bags of clothes that are pretty high-end and we could probably sell for at least $500. It's a skill I haven't developed, and it is hard for me to justify spending some of my limited free time on the weekends, though I know this is a bit of a WL fail and a salaryman mindset trap.

Based on the feedback I received during my deep dive, I also started thinking about minimalism more broadly. I've been more conscious about time commitments on the weekends, the relationships I'm investing in, and my approach to work. Simplification in all of these areas has been great for my productivity and happiness.
AxelHeyst wrote:
Sat Jan 15, 2022 12:39 pm
During our calls we definitely focus on that person’s deep dive topic, brainstorm creatively, and are comfortable challenging the person to consider alternative perspectives or approaches. We don’t just hop on zoom and aimlessly ‘chat’ for an hour. But we don’t (at the moment) maintain an atmosphere of real structured, type-A “forward momentum on your well-defined Mastermind Project at all times at any cost”.

For one thing, ERE isn’t terribly straightforward. In a business-focused Mastermind, the goals are much more concrete and linear, with hard metrics impossible to fudge: increase profitability by x%, create a proposal for new hiring practice, develop a business plan for pushing into adjacent industry and present to the board, etc.

To a certain extent ERE goals can be broken down like this, but often we’ve discovered what we *think* is the right next project is actually not the most appropriate next project, or we’ve defined it with N-1 thinking and need to redefine it with N+1 thinking, or the idea that project X needed doing was false from the beginning and the real solution was just to let that urge to “do” anything go gently into the ether… So often what we think is “the work” is just the preamble to deliver us to “the work”, which is a much subtler thing that would have been incredibly difficult to write down under “desired outcome” on our project slide deck.
My experience on the health goals serve as a good example for this quote. I wanted to create something with clear metrics, and I had a goal to get down to 10-15% body fat, with some specific weight loss targets. I received some great feedback during my deep dive, though some of it took a while for me to process. One member asked me what my plans were if I got injured, which was ultimately really helpful as I developed some tendonitis from weight lifting in late November. I was prepared to adapt when that occurred. I also realized, as a result of the MM feedback, that weight might not be the best metric if I was regularly lifting weights and trying to bulk.

I was always pretty consistent with workouts, but as a result of the bi-weekly check-ins I started tracking calories and macronutrients (for a while) and I started taking measurements monthly so I had better data than just the scale and the mirror. In December, I shifted my focus to mental health which ultimately led to staying consistent with a morning routine of meditation, gratitude journal, and stoic reflection. This is something that I wanted to establish for the last couple years but had never solidified the habit. I've also started tracking my intermittent fasting periods.

The last couple weeks I finally followed @AxelHeyst's recommendation to look into Katy Bowman. I picked up three of her books and am now in the middle of a deep dive into biomechanics. I've dealt with foot pain off and on ever since running a marathon a little over ten years ago. It's really annoying and limiting in some of my physical adventures and future plans. She's helped me put together a number of the puzzle pieces I've identified through previous research and work with physical therapists. Last weekend I was looking through old photos to assess my posture and gait. Sure enough, I regularly kick my right foot out when posing in these photos. I knew that the outside heels of my shoes seem to wear out, but I now have a clearer picture of what's going on. I'm basically moving incorrectly, and I believe it is the result of over-supination. This week I've started focusing on strengthening muscles in my feet and certain toe exercises to reinvigorate joints and muscles atrophied from shod feet.

So....I went from "I want to lose 5-10 pound with visible abs" to deep dives into biomechanics, autophagy, meditation, and stoicism.

--------

I also think that I've probably finally made the shift from WL 5/5.5 to WL 6 - at least in terms of my thinking. In January I decided to stop focusing exclusively on these two goals/projects and started tracking a number of goals and habits. It is another way to hold myself accountable, and after 6 weeks I've started to have some insights on homeotelic goals and actions that were staring me in the face for years.

AxelHeyst
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Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Wow, I've been slacking in updating the forum about the MMG.

The structure continues to evolve every cycle. We're just now starting up our... Fifth? cycle. This is the basic way we're set up now:

The cycle starts with short intros. Anyone who wants to gets 15min to give a presentation on their project for the cycle, where they are at, what they want to focus on, etc. This takes 2-3 calls, depending on how many people want to do an intro.

Then, were going to do a "group topic dive" call. This is brand new. The idea is we agree on a topic to read up on, and we have a signal channel dedicated to discussion of it in advance of the call where we chat about it. We selected Boyle's books except for Molotov Cocktails, as it's just a bit too ideological. We're going to start the call with a round robin where everyone answers the question "what were your practical takeaways, how has your system changed due to reading Boyle?" From there we'll let the discussion take it's course.

The signal chat has been lively. We already had the cap vs. anticapitalist chat, as well as the civ vs anticiv chat, with people on all sides of the spectrum on those issues, and the conversations were always respectful and intellectually honest (aka no bad faith arguments). Which as far as I'm concerned, in 2022, is magic. I continue to be enormously grateful to this group. Awesome people.

(That's another new thing: when doing our project checkins, we start with a quick gratitude shout-out.)

After the Boyle call, we'll be on to the regular schedule of deep dives. Everyone has to "do" a deep dive, but what the topic is is up to them. They can ask for discussion/feedback on their project or general ERE situation, which is the default, or they could give a topical presentation on something practical they know about.

Some people have really explicitly defined projects with milestones and dates and everything. Some have really loosely defined projects or no defined projects at all. For example I'm actually on a hiatus from making future oriented Plans as a way of avoiding any kind of extrinsic motivation traps, and so what I do is try to tell an accurate story of how things have been going, and assess how that's gone, and use that assessment to influence intuitive guidance of actions going forward. Fuzzy, I know. Point is we're as strict or unconventional about our MMG projects as we want to be.

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