The feedback on last week’s post about how I slowly grew my blog my own way was overwhelming. I’m grateful for all the kind words, and also glad it seemed to come at the perfect time for some of you. Since hitting publish and watching some of the comments come in, however, I realized there were a few “rules” I forgot to add (you can find them in the comments). I also knew I wanted to write a quick follow-up post to drive one point home, and that is the importance of community over competition.
Before diving in, let me first say that I have not always been great at this. I think my perfectionist tendencies are partially to blame for that. Growing up, I wasn’t good at much. I shared stories and details about what that meant for me in this post, but what I failed to mention is that not feeling like I was good at much also meant occasionally feeling jealous of people who were better than me. Team sports are about competition, after all. I wasn’t good at them and, therefore, I felt competitive with people who were better than me.
Looking back on that, this doesn’t even make sense. We are all good at different things, and bring unique skills into every situation—and we can’t all be good at everything! We just can’t and that’s ok. But feeling like I wasn’t good at much put a sort of chip on my shoulder. It was me against the world. And for many years, anytime someone even made so much as a suggestion for how I could do something better, I rolled my eyes, was rude or ignored them. (Just ask my parents. I didn’t take advice from anyone!)
It’s interesting for me to think back to that and then look at where I am now. Working with one partner on a podcast and with another partner on Rockstar Finance. Meeting with a mastermind group every two weeks, and with two other blogger and freelancer friends separately every two weeks, too. Chatting with even more blogger and freelancer friends on Skype, Google Hangouts, the phone, etc. whenever we can squeeze it in. Helping people, asking for help and letting people help me. We are a community—not competition—and I am better for it.
I can’t say exactly when things shifted for me and I finally started asking for/accepting help, but I do know I have the personal finance community to thank for this progression. It started the minute I launched this blog (the second time) and waved my white flag to say I was giving up on my old ways and ready to make a change. In the early years, I wasn’t always receptive to the financial advice people gave me (remember that whole chip on the shoulder thing). But as time went on, I realized people just wanted to help.
This is in our nature: wanting to help and be helpful. All we want is to share what we’ve learned in the hopes that we can help someone else succeed. And this applies to some of my blogging rules: specifically, support other bloggers, put people over profit, and always be gracious and grateful. It’s also something I’ve come to believe about all topics, but especially personal finance: that the more we share, the better off we’ll all be. So eventually, I let people help. I pushed the chip off my shoulder and listened to all the advice people gave me.
It came in all different forms. Sometimes, I would put questions at the bottom of my posts and ask for help. Other times, I would sit across from friends in the personal finance space and ask a hundred questions about blogging, banking, investing, etc. The investing conversation was a big one for me. I was so worried that every question coming out of my mouth made me sound like an idiot. But my friend never made me feel that way and, instead, seemed genuinely happy to share what he knew. Probably because he knew:
This rule has helped me learn more and share what I know about personal finance, which is great. But it has also helped me with blogging and freelancing—and that’s where it still seems like more work needs to be done. It’s easy to see other bloggers and freelancers as your competitors, but I promise you that’s not true. There are enough readers and enough clients, and there is enough money, to go around. On that last point, it’s also true that the more we share, the more we can all earn. Want proof?
Here are a few of the ways my community has helped me earn more/succeed:
- Courtney asked me to be part of A Simple Year for the third year in a row, which is a group-led course where we combine our unique skills (and all 14 of us earn some money for partnering up).
- My first mastermind group reviewed the original Mindful Budgeting, gave me feedback and even told me how much I should charge for it.
- Erin took time out of her schedule to share what she learned from her book launch for Broke Millennial and give me tips for what to do for mine.
- Both Jess and Paul shared their podcast sponsorship rates + download stats, so Carrie and I could figure out what to charge for ours.
- And countless freelance writers have shared their strategies and rates, too.
You’ll notice these points also reflect some of my rules in last week’s post, specifically the one about putting people over profit and doing things my own way. These are more examples of how I opted to ignore all the expert advice and make money my own way. Freelance work, the podcast, online courses and the book. And none of these people had to help me earn it. They did it because they know it’s as easy as reaching your hand out and helping someone on a steep or difficult hike. They did it because they know the truth:
Forever-inspired by my friends, here are some of the ways I try to help my community succeed too:
- I’ve been a member of three mastermind groups (and I’ll explain more about how to start one below).
- I’ve made introductions between freelance writers + clients, as well as podcasters + potential sponsors, because I know there is enough money to go around.
- I’ll share the rates I charge for things when people ask, because I think we can all earn more if we’re transparent about this stuff. (And hello, making money online is like working in the Wild West. It’s hard to navigate, if you’re riding solo!)
- I encourage people to increase their rates, when I know they are worth more. (This includes my designer who I will continue to encourage until she doubles her rate. You are worth it, friend.)
- And I try to support other bloggers, either by leaving comments, replying to emails, having conversations, or sharing their content here or on Rockstar.
We are a community—not competition. And the more we share, the better off we’ll all be. I think I’ve said enough to drive that point home now, but I wanted to make sure the words sunk in. Like I said, I haven’t always understood this myself. But I know I am better for it because, like anything else in life, we aren’t born with all of this knowledge or these skills. We have unique backgrounds and abilities and information—and we can go a lot further when we compile it all and work together, rather than treat each other like competitors.
How to Start a Mastermind Group
In the past four years, I have been a member of three different mastermind groups. The first two were started by blogging friends, and then I formed the one I’m currently in. A handful of people have asked me to write a post about how to start a mastermind group, but it seemed more fitting to add that information to the bottom of this post, because mastermind groups are the essence of community over competition.
- Start by deciding why you want to be part of a mastermind group. Traditionally, they are meant for business owners to connect and help each other grow. But honestly, you could start a mastermind group for any purpose. You could start one to connect with people who want to learn more about personal finance (get out of debt, share info about banking, learn more about investing, etc.). You could start one for people who have full-time jobs but who want to start side hustles. You could start one for authors who want to talk about book writing, launches, etc. It’s up to you. Just start with why.
- Find 3-4 other people who are working towards similar things. It’s important to have different backgrounds and experiences, so you can bring unique ideas to the table and learn from each other. But it’s helpful if you’re all working towards at least somewhat similar things, otherwise it usually ends up that one or two members are learning a lot and the other members are doing all the teaching. While that’s great for the community aspect, the point of a mastermind group is to tap into each other’s knowledge and learn from each other. Find people you can work with and learn from.
- Together, decide how you want to format your meetings. First, how often do you want to meet? Some groups meet weekly, others meet bi-weekly or even monthly. I would say that it all depends on how formal/informal you want it to be. If you want more accountability, meet more often. If you simply want to connect and brainstorm together, meet less often. After you make that decision, decide how you will meet (online, in-person) and what the agenda of each meeting will look like. Mine have all been an hour long and typically looked like this:
- First 20 minutes: Everyone gives a brief update + shares wins with the group.
- Next 30-40 minutes: We talk about one topic. Either someone takes the “hot seat” and asks for help from the group, or we bring one topic to the table that we all need a little help with.
- If there’s time: Everyone gives a brief rundown of what they will be working on.
- Together, decide how you want to communicate outside of meetings. Some mastermind groups have private Facebook groups or Slack channels. Others connect via email when they need to. And others don’t talk much outside of meetings. It’s also ok to try one thing and see how the group likes it, and then try something else if it’s not working. My first mastermind group had a private Facebook group and the one I’m in now sends out group emails whenever we need to (which is maybe twice/month). Both of those options work(ed) for that particular group and everyone was happy about it.
- Put it in the calendar and show up! This might be the last point but it’s probably the most important. You have to be willing to put these regular meetings into your calendar and actually show up for them. Treat it like an extension of your life and make it a priority. Your group will plan their lives around these meetings. If you have to miss a meeting for some reason, that’s ok, but give your group notice so you’re not letting anyone down. The group only works if everyone is an active member of it. So just keep that in mind, before you commit to joining one. :)
In my experience, every mastermind group you join will serve a purpose—and you can either leave or dissolve the group, when that purpose has been served. So this isn’t something you need to commit to forever, but it is something that can absolutely help the small group of people who commit to it for a period of time. Find your people, help each other, learn from each other and make some great things happen!