Are you a lone wolf?
Do you consider yourself “fiercely independent?”
Do you tackle your creative projects alone?
If so, you probably subscribe to the heroic theory of creativity — the theory that great works of art are produced by one-of-a-kind, genius artists who hole up in their studios for years only to emerge later with a perfect masterpiece.
But this “theory” should really be called the Heroic Creative Myth.
Throughout history, great works of art have always been the product of the artist and his or her network of colleagues, who provide feedback, encouragement, and even the impetus for a great ideas.
Unfortunately, it took me a long time to learn this lesson. I’ve spent the last two years building a blog and business alone, with only a bit of generous help from my girlfriend. I made myself learn the basics of every skill I was lacking (eg. design, audio production, tax law etc.) and didn’t share my products with anyone until launch day.
It turns out this was a horrible way to make friends, build an audience, and grow my brand. Could you blame me, though? I just wanted to be the next Leonardo Di’ Vinci. I thought the only legitimate way to be a Renaissance man was work alone.
But even the Renaissance men had help.
In the last few months, I’ve been lucky enough to make friends who forced me to open up and share my work, who guilted me into joining a creative community.
Recently, I started a mastermind group with four other fledgling entrepreneurs in my area. We meet each month to share our progress and learn from one another.
These meetings have been the equivalent of putting my business on steroids. While none of these people directly work for me, I get the benefit of learning from their experience. I get to augment my own knowledge with the best-of Cliff Notes of every blog they read, every podcast they listen to, and every tactic they try.
And all of this doesn’t count the fact that my output has increased dramatically, as has the quality of my work.
If you’re about to take on a creative project, start a business, or make any kind of big change in your life, here’s why you have to create a mastermind group today.
You Can’t Be World-Class At Everything
If you’ll allow me a moment of humble bragging, I’d say I’m a pretty good writer. But I’m pretty bad at most other skills required to create digital products in 2016, like design, coding, making videos etc. Even if I enjoy learning about and doing those things, I often spend too much time on simple tasks, and I can’t spend as much time (and thus quality is lowered) on the few things I am good at.
When you work with other people, you get to do more of what you’re good at and they get to repay you by doing more of what they’re good at.
When I write copy for their projects and they do design work on mine, everyone benefits. It’s a win-win.
You Get Instant Accountability
Although I set timelines for my own projects, since they’re made up, I can always delay if something else gets in the way (like a good Netflix series).
When you create a mastermind group and work with others, you get instant accountability buddies.
Every month, we make commitments about how much we’ll get done before the next meeting. When I tell other people about my deadlines, it’s much harder to move them than when they’re just written down on Post-Its.
Plus, when I hear other people make big promises about their workload, I am encouraged to do the same.
You Get Two Brains
In the past, I felt dumb if someone had a good idea for one of my projects that I had never even considered. So I pushed people away and worked in secret. I thought, with enough time and privacy, I could come up with all the genius I needed.
But people want to help you with your creative projects. They get so bogged down with their own work that your problems are a breath of fresh air — and since they’re on the outside looking in, they can often provide a key insight or perspective shift that you never would have seen.
You have to get over the idea that you can solve all your own problems. You can’t. It’s too hard to see everything when you’re down your own rabbit hole. That’s why writers have editors. That’s why CEOs have VPs.
All that matters is that the problem gets solved, not who solves it. No one using your product or reading your book will ever know or care who’s idea it was.
It’s not about your ego. It’s about your end-user.
You Get Real Feedback
When I wanted feedback in the past, I’d show a nearly finished product to a close friend, hoping all they’d say was “wow, this is really great.” And occasionally, they humored me.
But that didn’t actually help anyone. All it did was protect my ego.
Since starting a mastermind group, I’ve been more open about sharing my work earlier in the process, when it’s still messy, when honest feedback can make a huge impact on the final product.
Sure, it stings when someone says “this needs some work,” but I know the feedback is coming from a good place. My friends want me to make the best product possible, and they want to push me to do just that. Not to mention, giving them the same real feedback can often be just as fun and rewarding as working on a project of my own.
Working with other people, especially when you’re early in the creative process, can be a frightening prospect. It’s hard to believe others could be equally passionate about your projects, and it’s scary to share your work when it isn’t tidy and polished, when you aren’t putting the best version of your skills forward.
But that’s exactly what makes a skilled artist skilled. They have the combination of humility and confidence to share their work even on its worst day, knowing full well they can take any feedback, incorporate it, and improve their offering.
Letting others into the process is the easiest and best way to improve your work.
When you’re down in the weeds, it’s impossible to look at your project indifferently or from the user’s perspective. Not to mention, you probably haven’t mastered every skill needed to bring your project to completion.
So give it a shot. Create your own mastermind group. Let other people become a part of your creative process. Because if you’re going it alone, you’re not really going anywhere at all.