After a year in a paid mastermind group, I decided not to renew. That was a tough decision, but I feel it was the right one, and it helped me clarify something that I’d really like to experience in a bigger way.

It costs $30K per year to be a member of this group. It’s been ranked as one of the top business mastermind groups in the country, and I think that’s well deserved. It was a stretch for me to decide to apply and then join, but I gained a lot of value from it. It’s fair to say that I got my money’s worth and then some.

This was also the largest mastermind I’d been in before. With about 50 members, there are always stimulating ideas and discussions. In addition to meeting 3x a year in person for a few days each time, we’d also connect online.

A Transformational Year

In the past year, I probably picked up enough business improvement ideas to last at least 5 years. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in opportunities, which admittedly is a good problem to have. I feel ridiculously optimistic about the future, and I think that’s in large part due to hanging out with people who stretch themselves and don’t make excuses.

This group really helped me up-level my approach to business. Today I feel this deep wellspring of tenacity and drive, and this group helped a lot with that.

For me the biggest gains were the mindset shifts and the persistent presence of this ambitious energy. It’s been so refreshing to hang out with people who push themselves to think bigger and take a lot of action. This year reminded me of just how much I can thrive with this type of social support. I’ve never been part of a peer group that felt this strong before, and this year woke me up to how much I need something like this in my life.

When you have a strong peer group supporting you, it helps you feel more courageous because you have many intelligent people you can turn to for help in any moment. This increases the level of risk you can handle, and it makes being an entrepreneur so much more fun.

I need to take risks in my business because risks help me grow, both as an entrepreneur and as a human being. This year I shifted my business model in the direction of something I really wanted to explore creatively and socially – to invite people into major co-creative personal growth deep dives with me. This is going beautifully so far. We did a 30-day abundance deep dive in August, and now we’re partway through a Subjective Reality deep dive. The success of these deep dives is transforming my business going forward, and it’s also transforming hundreds of people’s lives. Every day I receive more feedback from people telling me how much they appreciate these unique experiences.

My best results have come from the combination of applying my own ideas and values with the ambitious energy and entrepreneurial courage I gained from participating in this group. I’m doing some of the best work of my life these days, including one of my most significant creative projects ever – co-creative in fact.

Based on the impact on my business and the positive ripples beyond that, it would be a no-brainer to renew my membership in this mastermind. On a head-based level, it’s an easy yes to renew with the expectation of investing in this group for many more years.

I actively contributed to this group and helped create some positive ripples within it. Some members have shared how they applied ideas they picked up from me and the positive results they’ve been getting.

The momentum of the past few months has been wild. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with it, but I’m really loving the flow and the energy. I especially love how these deep dives have made me feel a lot closer to my community. We’re synergizing well as we co-create these experiences together. This whole approach has been great all around – lots of positive transformation and gratitude in all directions.

This month (December 2018) is already a six-figure month for my business, and there are still 10 days left. I have many more ideas in the works for 2019 and beyond. I’m enjoying an amazing creative flow these days, and I want to keep going with it. This has been a challenging year, but also very rewarding. The challenges are healthy ones that I’m consciously inviting, and they’re helping me grow as an entrepreneur and a human being.

Upgrading Limiting Frames

In particular this group helped me crack open some limitations regarding generating more income from my work. I’ve grown to understand how important it is for people to invest in their personal growth financially. I feel more invested in something when I pay for it versus when I obtain it for free, and I really love working with people who feel committed. While money isn’t a perfect measure of commitment, it’s one of the simplest, and it’s a lot better than nothing.

The first deep dive we did saw about 2/3 of the initial group of participants finishing all 30 days of lessons in the first 30 days. When I saw that, it just seemed incredible to me. If this was a free experience, there’s no way we’d be close to that. We’d probably be below a 5% completion rate. When people don’t buy in and risk their own money, it’s just too easy for them to quit. I’ve seen that happen when I invited people to participate in challenges together. Most don’t make it past the first week. But when people invest, they’ll usually follow through if the investment is high enough for them.

So this was a big mindset shift for me. I realized that charging enough (not too much, not too little) for certain experiences actually helps more people succeed. I also realized how much more rewarding it is to work with people who are willing to invest money in their personal growth versus those who prefer to remain financially non-committal. Working with the former has been a much better use of my time and energy because I’m able to help more people get stronger results this way. And that creates more positive ripples too. This was a hard one to wrap my head around, but I finally get it.

I especially love that as I continue to pursue this direction, I can reinvest in team building, which will create a positive spiral of more growth experiences. We’ll continue to up-level the quality, depth, scope, and variety of these deep dives year by year. This is a huge creative challenge, and I love thinking about having a creative dream team to help me execute them. There’s a lot of heart energy on this path.

The Importance of Alignment

So with such delightful results, why would I feel like it’s wise to leave this group now and not renew? I’ve asked myself that same question, and it took me a while to find the answers that satisfied my mind, my feelings, and my intuition.

The short answer is alignment. Despite the benefits and the promise of more results, I’ve felt ambivalent about renewing for much of the year. Sometimes I’ve felt certain that I’d renew while other times I felt certain that I wouldn’t. I kept waffling back and forth internally. Partly I dreaded reaching this time of year when I’d have to make a choice. I was hoping that by this time, something would shift and that the decision would be an easy one. But when I finally reached the point of being invited to renew, making the decision was harder than ever.

Over the years I’ve cultivated a strong connection to my intuition, feelings, and the flow of inspiration. These signals are so pronounced for me these days that I can’t ignore them or tune them out. Being in this group actually helped to amplify those signals even more, and I trust myself and my own judgment more than ever. I also trust in the co-creative flow of life.

My intuition told me strongly that if I renewed for another year, it would become a trap for me. This wasn’t due to limiting beliefs or fear of success or anything like that. I’m familiar with how those feel, and this was something deeper.

I also sensed that there was a stronger signal behind this decision that wanted to push through and be felt and understood. I sensed that the decision to renew wasn’t the real challenge. It was only the surface issue – a big surface issue nonetheless but likely a pointer to something more.

Ambivalence and Partial Matches

What I’d really wanted to do throughout the past several months was to share my feelings of ambivalence openly with the group. But I didn’t feel like I had the psychological safety to do that. Many members of this group had been connecting for years, and I was one of the newest members. I knew it would take some time to build connections and trust, and from day one (and even before), I invested in that. But I still felt like it wasn’t acceptable to openly share these feelings. I knew deep down that there was some kind of misalignment, but I didn’t fully understand it yet.

I was able to discuss this ambivalence in private one-on-one conversations with a few members I trusted, and they all seemed to understand and acknowledge this alignment issue, although no workable solution emerged. They did at least agree that it would not be a good idea to discuss this openly with the group.

I won’t share details of private conversations, so I’m being deliberately vague, but I can share my own experience and how things played out for me. I think there’s value in sharing these kinds of lessons and challenges for the benefit of others who may find themselves in similar situations.

When I felt most aligned with this group’s energy, it was a beautiful experience – warm, flowing, and inspiring – and often playful too. I especially love the intellectual horsepower of this group, including their ability to see problems from multiple angles and to suggest solutions based on real-world experience.

When I felt misaligned though, there was this queasy feeling in my gut. Certain ideas didn’t sit well with me and ran afoul of my intuition and/or my sense of ethics. These included ideas that I didn’t feel people could share openly with their customers or clients because if the customers knew and understood how they were being framed, they’d likely find it dehumanizing.

My inner compass began to signal that I didn’t belong there. My ambition told me I should stay and suck it up. My courage told me I should try to raise these issues and see if there was a genuine desire to address them. In various ways I explored all options to see which doors were open and which weren’t.

I’m extra sensitive to these kinds of misalignments because I’m really close with the people I serve in my community, and holding out for win-win solutions is a huge deal for me, both personally and professionally. We laugh and cry together and share a lot of intimacy as we help each other grow. I fell in love with and married a customer, and to me that’s a powerful representation of how I feel towards our community. It’s more than just symbolic. I feel really dedicated to doing this type of work with those who are aligned with it.

And this leads to situations that really rip at my core. Sometimes people in my community participate in the launches of friends from my mastermind group, and they notice certain misalignments. They notice the marketing tactics being used on them that seem inauthentic. They notice some dehumanizing elements. Many are seeking to become entrepreneurs themselves, and they’re looking for models and guidance that will be effective and that also align with their values. And they look to me for advice because they trust that I’ll be honest with them. They ask me about these issues because they know that I know some of the people who made those decisions. And no matter how I answer, I feel like I’m letting someone down. Honor is a huge value of mine, and I feel torn between honoring the truth and honoring my friendships.

So behind the scenes, I’ve been feeling very torn, and I don’t think that’s a secret to those who know me well. I want to connect with my community on the basis of honesty, authenticity, honor, caring, mutual support, and other values that are so dear to me. I’ve been learning and growing through participating in a mastermind that has some alignment with those values but not as much as I’d really like to see. As far as I’m aware, this group has no specific code of ethics other than one that’s similar to the “what happens here stays here” mantra that Vegas has. And that creates a real disconnect within me that I need to resolve.

I so wish this group could be what I want it to be – a beacon of values-aligned entrepreneurship that sets a high standard that people like me can aspire to. It does play that role for many strong values like thinking bigger and having more impact, but the missing pieces matter a lot to me, and I can’t keep going down this path without having them solidly in place. This is just too big of a deal to me.

I don’t feel I have the leverage to make this group what I want it to be. For that I’d need the leader’s and the members’ full support, and I don’t have that. There’s some, but the critical piece that would make it doable without feeling like I’d eventually be asked to leave is missing. I don’t think it would be honorable to renew on the basis of wanting and needing this group to become something other than it is while having genuine consent from all stakeholders to play that role. If I were to stick around, I couldn’t be all-in with the decision, and for a commitment like this, I need to be all-in.

I love the people in this group. I wish I could invest more in it. I’ve felt some sadness in deciding not to renew because part of me really wants a group like this that I can invest in long-term. It felt like grieving a major loss, even more visceral than when I learned of an old friend passing away a few weeks ago. Part of me wishes that I could suppress my feelings and enjoy the ride for many more years. I just can’t do that though.

Clarity of Values

Until I clarified my own values enough to make this decision, I couldn’t see past it. All I could see was the difficulty of the choice. It’s been an emotional week because of that. But I did reach the point of clarity, and I was able to bring myself to decide. I took the time to decide this carefully and consciously, including talking it over with some people I trust. These kinds of conscious choices can be very difficult, but I’ve had enough experience that I was able to make the choice without doubting myself afterwards.

This felt like a test that reality sent my way – one of those powerful character sculpting challenges that makes us look deep inside. The character sculpting comes from deciding exactly how we’re going to make a choice. What values will we align with? And why?

To me the most important value here was honoring my path with a heart. Renewing didn’t feel aligned enough with this path. It was a partial match – and a hugely tempting one – but I knew that if I took it, I’d be straying from the man I really desire and intend to be. I didn’t see a better alternative, but I trust reality deeply, and I know from experience that whenever I pass the test of declining partial matches, something more powerful and aligned emerges. But I usually have to decline the partial match first before I can even see that something better. It’s like reality has to free up the processor and RAM it’s using to simulate the partial match first, and then it can re-allocate those resources to rendering something more aligned.

When I finally accepted the decision and let people know, I felt some immediate relief… still sadness, but I actually appreciated the sadness. I felt like I needed to be fully present to that sadness to acknowledge how much I trust reality to provide the alignment I so desire. When that alignment does eventually show up, I know that I’ll appreciate and cherish it 10X more because of my recent experiences and the price I’m willing to pay for it.

After this energy began to settle down, I turned my attention back to my own path with a heart in a more intentional way. I’d grown a lot this year, so I opened myself up again to asking, What next?


I still want to have a strong and ambitious mastermind group in my life. But I recognize that this alone isn’t quite enough. What I really want to experience next could be labeled as a masterheart.

This would be a group of people who’ve made a conscious commitment to align themselves with a core set of values. These values could include honesty, caring, compassion, courage, growth, empowerment, creativity, and more.

The people in this group would encourage the heck out of each other to think bigger, dream bigger, and especially to feel their way into a bigger and more expansive heartspace.

Among the most important values I think such a group should have would be co-creativity and connection with the people they serve. Instead of discussing business tactics in private all the time, I’d want us to sometimes bring real customers and clients into the masterminding and masterhearting space with us to foster more listening and mutual understanding. Let’s be brave enough to invite them in and see what they think about how we intend to serve them. Would anyone in such a group talk about these real human beings in the room as targets going through funnels?

Some abstraction of ideas is normal in business, and I don’t have a problem with that in general. But I think we can take it too far sometimes. I’d like to be part of a group that took meaningful steps to prevent an elitist attitude from infecting the group culture and to keep us aligned with compassion, connection, and service.

I think a lot of good could come from a group like this. What customers and clients don’t often see is just how much business owners really do care about providing value to them and serving them well. Many entrepreneurs really work hard at this behind the scenes. But as people add layers to their business, there can be a distancing effect from the people they serve. I don’t want to fall into that trap, and I’d love the support of a strong masterheart group to help me with scaling and growth challenges while also helping me stay aligned with my path with a heart – and stay in alignment with the hearts of the people I serve.

That said, I’d still want to retain the core benefits of a strong, grounded, and intelligent mastermind group. I’ve experienced the benefits of being in a group where the members are paying $30K/year to belong. A few years ago, that kind of investment would have seemed unfathomable to me, and if you’ve never experienced anything like that yourself, I get it. It probably sounds ridiculous price-wise. But to certain entrepreneurs with the right amount of leverage, one good idea can earn that much with relative ease. The price isn’t really intended to stress anyone out or to be a big risk, nor is it meant to only appeal to the rich. It’s more like a filter to attract people who are a good match for getting results from such a group. It’s not so much about the price of admission. It’s knowing that you’re going to be spending time connecting with a bunch of other people who are seriously committed to getting results.

So now I have one of those interesting problems of abundance to deal with – a willingness to invest another $30K or so to participate in a masterheart group like I just described, but I’m not aware of any such group that would match this description right now.

And that’s the part that scares me. I sense the invitation from reality to create such a group – or at least to make the attempt – and that just seems like a really big idea (perhaps too big) to fully say yes to right now, especially with all the other projects I have in the works.

And I think that’s what really bugs me about this whole situation. I lament what my previous mastermind couldn’t be for me, and now I wonder if I must face the challenge of creating it. I think that maybe I was dwelling on the difficulty of the decision to stay or go till the deadline to decide came up, so I could avoid facing the bigger challenge behind it.

Trusting Reality

I could also see this as yet another of those trust challenges, the kind we’ve been exploring in Submersion recently. What would I do if I trusted reality more? Well, I’d probably see if I could find such a group, and if I couldn’t find one, I’d see if I could form one. It would be too much to do on my own, so I’d have to do it co-creatively, leaning on people for a lot of help and support.

I can already sense how bits and pieces could come together. Arranging for meeting space would be easy enough, especially in Las Vegas where I live. But I also think it would be better if such a group could meet in different locations and go on wild adventures together and really bond as friends for life. Doing the wild adventure part doesn’t play to my strengths, but there are people who’d be great at figuring that part out.

And then of course what happens? Reality bonks me on the head with a synchronicity. I flow into spontaneously chatting with an old friend online. We haven’t talked in years but picked up right where we left off. He’s been traveling all around the world, and I share the idea with him. And oddly he’s been coming to a similar place in his life as well – with a huge alignment around the value of honor. The idea of helping with the wild adventure side plays to his strengths. And we both feel and acknowledge the energy of this.

Sometimes I really hate it when reality does this to me. I mean, yeah, the path with a heart can be a wonderful thing, but it often shows up in the form of an invitation that’s really hard to say yes to because it requires that we take yet another step in upgrading our ability to trust reality. No matter how much we’ve cultivated that trust, there’s always another trust challenge inviting us to level up even more.

For now I thought it would be a good idea to share what’s been happening and how I dealt with this challenging decision as consciously as I could. I don’t know where it will lead, but it feels aligned to post this and see if it happens to invite more co-creative energy and inspiration. There’s definitely some inspirational energy circulating here.

I shared some of this on a group call in Conscious Growth Club yesterday, and it felt really powerful to hear myself talking about this aloud with other people. When I mentioned the masterheart idea, I felt a major surge in emotional energy, and it made me misty-eyed. I had to pause and catch my breath. Other people on the call felt it too. Another powerful affirmation of this idea was that several people noted that the possible formation of such a group made them want to “up their game” to someday join it.

If such a group were to exist, I think it could serve as a powerful example to others, especially regarding how to build heart-aligned businesses and income streams. This has been a huge part of my personal growth journey, and I’d love it if this kind of group could mastermind and masterheart with the intention of openly sharing their best ideas to transform the world of business in whatever way we can.

I’d love to live in a world where more businesses that I patronize treated me like a real person instead of as a prospect, a target, or funnel fodder. I think we can greatly reduce the stress levels of entrepreneurs too by helping them create super strong and trust-based relationships with the people they serve.

So much good can come of this. I really think we have to find a way to make this real.

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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