In nearly every hero’s journey – think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or almost any old Western – a group of disparate individuals with unique talents come together for some singular goal. Throughout their journey, they learn and support each other, find common ground, and almost always, are better for the adventure. As I write this I am returning from several days in Washington D.C. at a business retreat with my mentor. Our group is part mastermind, part mentoring, and a big dose of accountability and inspiration. It consists of 24 diverse but like-minded individuals who have all written and published one book with our mentor, Angela Lauria. Our task is to make a difference in the world as entrepreneurs while learning from and supporting each other.  

This was my first time attending one of the tri-annual retreats and in reflecting what it meant to me, I came up with this thought. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are individuals who pride themselves in, well, being an individual. Because of creative talent, intellectual capacity, or business acumen, somehow we have pioneered a business or a product and shepherded it into the world. It is lonely sometimes but most often it is what we want and how we choose to operate. While we don’t mind bringing our company with us on the journey, in the end, it is being on top of the mountain, looking ahead to the next vista. That is what we do best.

But sometimes, the single mindedness of this adventure, divides us from family, friends, and peers who may be supportive but don’t always understand or have the experience to provide good counsel or advice. Having a group of colleagues or individuals to share the journey at an honest and compassionate level is a necessary component if we are going to grow, develop and exceed beyond our expectations.

I learned much from being in our group. Many of my peers have radically different clients or businesses than mine but their struggles and triumphs motivate me to be at my best. I also learn from our mentor in how she coaches each of us and teaches us how to be accountable to ourselves and others. We share our stories, call each other out on our false thoughts and check-in on tasks we said we would do. So it’s not surprising my experience has been confirmed by this article which states the three things that members receive from successful peer group interaction are:

  • trusted advice
  • new business ideas
  • accountability

All of these are necessary elements of business and personal leadership which are difficult to obtain in any other way.

For me, I would add a couple of other items.  Being challenged in how I see myself, my business and the world helps me to grow quicker and more effectively than if I was not in the group. My peers see and respond to me as I am now as well as where I want to grow myself to. In our normal social circles that is something incredibly difficult to obtain. Often, our family and friends sometimes have fear around us changing and those thoughts and worries can hold us back.

Some entrepreneurs and business owners I know do not believe in peer groups. Fearful of sharing their “secret sauce”, being vulnerable or fiercely independent, they continue along a singular path. However, there are numerous examples of highly competitive and successful people who participate in some form of this model and it can be done to improve any area of our life. Have you ever notice that many world-class athletes such as Olympic track stars, professional golfers and football players setup themselves to train with other athletes who they compete with on a regular basis. Inherently, we become better when we are surrounded with others looking to better themselves. If you want to be the best, you must work and interact with the best.

If you are not an entrepreneur or business owner, the opportunity to become your best self through the support of a peer group is readily available. Diverse interests such as groups for new moms, fitness, fellowship, trauma and recovery exist almost everywhere. And, with technology, virtual groups now offer even a greater opportunity to bring people together in new and different ways. In my group, we have members currently residing in three other countries outside the US.

Bottom line – professional or personal peer groups provide many of the same opportunities for personal or professional growth – peer interaction, support and accountability. However, it is important to remember one thing. We each have to do our own work.

In the Lord of the Rings saga, Frodo and Samwise went into Mordor to rid themselves of the ring. Sam did everything in his power to support Frodo on his journey, but in the end, it was Frodo’s responsibility to destroy the ring on Mt Doom.

So, when I return to my office, I will be renewed, motivated and energized to start my week from the time I spent with the friends in my group. But my real task is making sure I do my best to take what I’ve learned and put it into practice – for my clients and my business.

But if I falter, I know someone will have my back – encouraging and reminding me to keep going.