Would you like to earn more money, work in the field you want, and make steady progress until you’re at the height of your chosen career field?
Most gay men (and, indeed, most people) that I know would say “yes” to all of those. However, only some will achieve that. In general, gay men deal with so much crap growing up (bullying, being told that we are sick/bad/wrong, experiencing discrimination, etc.) that it can harm our self-esteem and make us less overall self-confident. I’ve noticed in my psychotherapy and coaching practice that gay men tend to fall in two categories: the guys who are not-so-confident and struggle with self-doubt, and the ones who shook off the naysayers and achieved sometimes extraordinary success, in a variety of fields.
The formula for success is multifaceted, and even elusive. But I have noticed certain similarities among the uber-successful guys I’ve worked with: they follow their dreams, chunk them down into smaller measurable goals, have accountability to themselves and others (such as their clients, customers, or to the arts/skills of their chosen field), and see their careers as a steady progression (which includes the occasional setback).
My new group forming at my office is called the Gay Men’s Mastermind Professional Support Group. Here, a small group of adult gay men gather to both get and give support for following their dreams, brainstorm solutions to challenges, share successes, network, and set short-term goals for accountability to make that steady progress over time. We are planning the group now, and starting to collect information on interested potential members. If you’re interested, contact me (info below) if you’re local in LA and can get to my office on weekday evening, To Be Determined (probably around 6:00-7:30 p.m. at my office in the Beverly Hills/West Hollywood area (near Beverly Center). The fee is between $40-80 per group session, based on a sliding scale, according to your current annual income (we can discuss when we talk in your phone interview). I deliberately made it a gay male theme for what group therapy expert Irvin Yalom, Ph.D. calls “group cohesion”.
What is a “Mastermind” group, you ask? The idea is explained in former therapist and self-help author Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are, to Where You Want to Be, which is one of my favorite books. In that, he explained how tycoons like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone (the tire guy, not Fierstein, the gravelly-voiced writer/actor), Andrew Carnegie, and others were members of their own Mastermind group back in the day. Napoleon Hill, author of the classic 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, discussed Mastermind groups and how many of the tycoons of the early 20th Century attribute their Mastermind group as key to their success in becoming millionaires.
Canfield (2005) describes the Mastermind group format, which ideally has 5 to 6 people, but could be up to 12:
1) Invocation and Focus – A request for the group to be surrounded by powerful spiritual energy, light, and open hearts for sharing candidly
2) Share What’s New and Good – Each member shares a small success story from the previous week
3) Negotiate for Floor Time – Members announce what they need help with, such as “I have a networking meeting tomorrow with a VIP and I don’t know what to ask her.”
4) Individuals Speak While Group Listens and Brainstorms Solutions – Members express their needs to the group: “I need referrals…”, “I’m looking for an expert in ______ to help me with a project,” “I need advice on how to handle a difficult colleague.”
5) Make a Commitment to Stretch – Once members have had time to present, discuss, brainstorm, and gain feedback, they commit to doing one small step in the upcoming week that represents a new behavior in service to a goal: “I’m going to make three calls to my former co-workers for networking”.
6) End with a Moment of Gratitude – Each member says one thing he appreciates about another person in the group.
7) Be Accountable – Each member shares something related to the goal he set at the previous meeting, and if they took action on it. If people have a stated deadline, it makes it more likely they will follow through on their reasonable, measurable, short-term goal for the week. This way, they become more productive and accomplish more over time.
The Mastermind group at my office follows a similar pattern, and I infuse it with some concepts from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Positive Psychology. If you have a health insurance plan that is a PPO, you might be reimbursed for the cost of the group sessions. But even if you’re not reimbursed by a health plan, the investment in the group to help take your career to the next level can be well worth it.
Gay men can be competitive, even catty. We all have probably experienced that. But through the Mastermind group, we can learn to be less guarded, more mutually-supportive, and have a healthy element of, well, getting your ass kicked (with love!) for some accountability. Your dreams and goals are too important to be left to languish for, oh, decades.
Since we can only comfortably handle 7 guys in my office, we will get full quickly. So, if you don’t live in LA or we get full, how about starting your own Mastermind group with your friends or colleagues? It might not be professionally-facilitated, so you might lose some of the benefits of a psychotherapy group facilitated by a licensed therapist, but there is no reason why you can’t follow Canfield’s model, above, on your own, and see what happens.
Just like the old AA saying, “it works if you work it,” see if a Mastermind group might work for you – getting you out of any ruts, fears, or procrastination, and on your way to achieving the career of your dreams. If you ask a Ford, Firestone, Edison, or Carnegie, they would say you’ll probably be glad that you did!
Ken Howard, LCSW, is a gay men’s specialist therapist (27 years). He helps many gay men build their success in both their personal and professional lives.
For help with this, or other challenges, consider sessions with Ken for counseling, coaching, or therapy sessions, at the office in LA (near Beverly Center), or via phone, or via Skype, anywhere in the world. Call/text 310-339-5778 or email Ken@GayTherapyLA.com for more information.
Ken is also available for expert witness work on gay issues, HIV issues, and issues concerning psychiatric illness or disability, as well as consulting for non-profit organizations, corporations, college campuses, and speaking at conferences.
To get your copy of his 2013 self-help book, Self-Empowerment: Have the Life You Want!, click here. It’s your “portable therapist” for the challenges you face today in your mental health, health, career, finances, family, spirituality, and community.