Overview of Key Ideas from Return of the Masterminds

Posted On: March 14

Each year the Entrepreneurs Organization brings together some of the top entrepreneurs in the world to attend the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program at MIT, where I have served as an instructor. The attendees are grouped into “year-classes,” and each class attends for one week a year for three years. Most of the year-classes have annual retreats after they graduate from the program. Below are my notes from one of those retreats, called Return of the Masterminds, which included entrepreneurs from South Africa, France, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, and the US. This tight-knit group focused on personal development as much as they did on business success.


I hope you find these ideas useful.

  • Bigger is not better – better is better.
  • Don’t try to stand out from the crowd. Avoid crowds altogether.
  • Net worth (total assets) is not nearly as important as net wealth (the total of all the critical areas of your life– family, health, spirituality, adventure, total financial assets, friendships).
  • Time does not equal money – time is much more valuable.
  • Money is an expression of value, not values.
  • Where is your money going?
  • You must pay very close attention to your money, both in your personal life and in your business.
  • A business never outpaces the leader.
  • Learn to say no – focus on the essentials.
  • Make your people better people, and you will make your business better.
  • What do you believe? Your beliefs drive your life. What are your limiting beliefs and your empowering beliefs?
  • Share your intent and your vision with your people.
  • Don’t make your people guess how excellence looks.
  • Accountability = ownership.
  • How many of your best employees get mad if you hold them accountable? None.
  • How many of your bad employees get mad if you hold them accountable? All.
  • Entrepreneurship requires all-out effort and commitment.
  • Tenure is not loyalty – tenure is time.
  • Tenure is not necessarily talent – many mediocre people stay with companies for a long time.
  • If you believe that people are your most important asset, you must make talent a major focus of your company.
  • Don’t tell me it’s hard to get good people if you’re not out actively looking for them.
  • Coaching is a genuine desire to make people better.
  • Coaching is activity-based.
  • Demand a great attitude from yourself and your people.
  • Talent + bad attitude = failure.
  • Happiness = achievement ÷ by expectations.
  • Strong reasons = strong action.
  • Purpose drives motivation.
  • Culture reflects leadership.
  • Lead people to success. Don’t try to drive them to success.
  • Train your people so that they can leave – treat them so well they want to stay.
  • If your employees grow – your business will grow.
  • Personal growth first – then professional.
  • Create very clear intentions for yourself and your people.
  • Pay attention to your business.
  • Remove distractions – focus on the work – how do you spend your time?
  • When you start a project, ask this question: what does it look like when it’s done?
  • You have so much to give to the world – you better start now.
  • Treat people as you believe they can be – not as they are.
  • Challenge creates character.
  • Change = dissatisfaction + vision + how we will do this.
  • When dissatisfaction + vision is greater than the resistance – people will change.
  • What am I dissatisfied about now?
  • We drink from wells we did not dig – we are warmed by fires we did not build.
  • As an entrepreneur, you must be willing to sacrifice for your people.
  • Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
  • You have lived more than half of your life – are you where you want to be?
  • Create space to think.
  • You must create alignment of interests across the entire company.
  • Vision creates alignment.
  • The senior leaders must lead change personally.
  • There must be a plan for change.
  • Give responsibility to resistors, and they will change or leave.
  • Talk to everyone about their personal goals and how you can help them be successful.
  • Connect with your employees emotionally.
  • Get to know your employees personally and get to know their families.
  • It takes a high level of discipline to be a leader.
  • If you are undisciplined, you cannot require it from others.
  • As soon as you realize someone is not doing well and is likely not going to get better – remove them from the organization.
  • Celebrate when new employees join the company – be 100% ready to get them going strong from the beginning.
  • As a leader, you must live the values of the organization.
  • Most employees do not want to be accountable.
  • It all starts with self-leadership first – self-awareness – self-discovery.
  • Leadership is about taking the hard way – anyone can take the easy way.
  • Stop saying “I, me, my” – start saying “we, us, our.”
  • Elements of a successful life: prepare emotionally – focus mentally/intellectually – execute physically (health/exercise) – eat rationally – schedule logically.
  • You control your time, mind, and energy.
  • What I say is what I believe – what I believe is how I act.
  • You can’t help other people if you don’t help yourself.
  • Take time to be clear. What do you want? Where do you want to go?
  • Great entrepreneurs have: clarity of vision, the certainty of intent (a defined direction), a plan of action, and the power of values.
  • You should know what the cash in your business is every day.
  • If you want people to get engaged in increasing profits, show them all the financials.
  • Clear and up-to-date financials are required – if you don’t understand your business financially, there is no way to grow it.
  • Without financial management, there is no success for the business.
  • Base your decisions on 80% data and 20% instinct to make the right call.
  • Clarity of vision + certainty of intent.
  • Words mean nothing – actions are everything.
  • Be grateful, be intentional, be present, be kind, be loving, be generous, be of service, be fearless – every day, every day, every day.

If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.

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