The Mastermind Retreat (A Few Days Like Thoreau)

I have some incredible friends… Truly incredible, inspiring, change the world type friends. Last Thursday three of these friends and I traveled up to the remote woods of Napa to get away from the fast paced life of the valley and SF for a few days.  However, it was less about pressing the “reset button” and more about charging up the console for 2012. We called our four day retreat a “Mastermind Retreat”.  The purpose: to create a platform for shared wisdom, knowledge and to have us all come out in planned action mode, working to accomplish our goals and mission for the year.  Sounds valuable and virtuous right?  Well…with a group of guys in their mid-twenties and no sight of anyone else for a few days you get some behavior that is far from valuable and virtuous.  No need to elaborate.  Still, the actions and results are worth elaborating on…

Thursday Night

A large cardboard box that has been converted into a bookshelf dumps out about 20 books that are cornerstones of business, self-development, spirituality and more.  As a group that has been firmly dedicated to self growth for a long time, we dive right in to accessing the titles, reading the intros and smelling the pages (don’t act like you never did that before your Kindle).

We relax around the cabin coffee table and openly discuss what we’re looking to get out of the weekend.  One thing is consistent, we all stated in some form that we are looking to create unprecedented results in our lives and a solid framework that will lead us to those results. Kyle passes out a work book that was created by Seth Godin and Zig Ziglar  that’s called “Pick Four“.  This will be our tool book for creating results in our work over the next three months. Soon after it’s off to bed…


In the Napa woods…it’s hard not to wake up early.  I get up, walk around the property to take in the views and take deep breaths of pine soaked air. After a little reading and solo time we get together at the dining room table at the cabin to start brainstorming our goals for this year.  Recently I have been a bit resistant to setting hard goals for a few reasons.  First off, much of the time they’re too linear, they don’t allow room to discover new possibilities or to iterate.  Second, if you work top down off a big dream, it’s often too hard to create small incremental progress.  If you can’t break a large dream into little goals, you set your self up for failure and to be disempowered.  However, this time I was dedicated to discussing what I felt works and doesn’t…and even more open to adopting a new system for track results. With that all aired out…we listed out all our high level goals…dreams.  I surprised myself as I found I wasn’t dreaming big enough…point taken.  From there our job was to filter those goals based on the feasibility of getting it done in 3 months and the importance to you and your overall mission.  And the there were 11.  Next step, write down “why” you chose that goal.  The impact achieving the goal can have on you and others (a super super important part of the exercise).  Lastly…break the list down to the top 4 and make each goal super specific and results oriented.  Before fully commiting to those 4 we all decided to sleep on it…but it was only 2pm at that point so we went down “into town” at that point. While in town: the most freakishly astounding display of synchronized flying by over a thousand black birds–no joke (D-Man…get the video up!). We went back up the hill and had an awesome dinner with the guys, my dad and step mom.  We switched out the wine for coffee and decided to pull and all night “hack sesh”.  Kyle was writing a new book he’s working on, Derek got strategic with ConvoSpark, Cam when off to bed early and I started working on some Be Social Change work that I have been wanting to work on for the past few weeks. An “all nighter” ended up being a strong session until 2am (I swear Napa is in a different timezone).


Never felt so fresh after 5.5 hours of sleep. After pacing around the property for a while I decided to post up at the bottom of the hill to meditate.  Since I had set a goal to meditate consistently, there was no better place or time to dive deeper into myself.  For a moment my mind was still, I felt the profound power of silence and when I finished the session I felt more alive than I have in some time…like woah. On the theme of “wholeness”, you know…mind, body spirit, it was time to give the body a little love.  Well…maybe love isn’t the right word.  Trainer Derek put Kyle and I through an intense MMA inspired work out.  We were not fully functional after. After regrouping a bit, it was time to fully commit to our detailed goals.  We gathered around the table…took out our notes books, and on the signature page, put the pen to the paper (Kyle wanted to do the good old fashion way, mark it in blood).  Here’s what I committed to:

  1. 275 drop-ins on JoynIn by April 1st
  2. Release the Be Social Change MVP
  3. 100 sales (more details on that later :))
  4. Meditate 60 out of the 90 days.

After the signing, we ended up reading some more, having breakout discussions, then went into town.  It was time to enter back into the world of beer, YouTube and unproductive chatter (you know…the norm).  We ended up going to an awesome South American restaurant, drank a few beers and watch Drew Brees be a bad bad man to the Lions secondary.

Back up at the cabin we took a detour from our work and watched 10 too many Chael Sonnen (best of Chael) and Fula videos (best of Flula).  We then moved to a semi productive mode by playing a game of Apples to Apples with a “pitch your card” twist…people got buzzed, it got heated, we all became better sales people. …ya I know what you’re thinking…”this is not how Thoreau lived at Walden Pond”…ya we know.


Last day…woke up (a bit later)…meditated…connected with the guys. Sunday was all about being pragmatic and action oriented.  We went one by one discussing an individuals needs, roadblocks and ideas when it came to there four goals.  We pulled from out wide range of skilled and experiences to help fortify each other’s plans.  We know from experience than when a simple yet actionable plan is not laid out…it’s easy to stray away from that goal due to inertia alone.  We spent a good four hours diving deep into each goal, highlighting weaknesses, discussing strategies and ultimately making each goal a living entity. It was then time to say goodbye to our very own Walden Pond.  We all took time to reflect on our short yet transformative time in the Napa Woods by walking, reading and finding other ways to go deeper into the present moment.

What I Took Home With Me

You know that post vacation feeling?  You come back home bronzed and relaxed to a world polar opposite of the one you came from.  This trip was not like that…it was not a vacation…it was a retreat.  It helped us dive back into our world of chaos more powerfully than before.   To take the chaos…look at it as art, yet approach it scientifically. I came back to my new apartment that I share with my girlfriend excited for new possibilities.  I came back with map that will help guide me towards my destination…everyday I take out my machete and start blazing the trail that is beginning to look clearer and clearer. It’s important to regroup, refresh and reestablish yourself.  I would suggest everyone finds there own way to create their own retreat.  A time and place where you can work off an clean canvas and organize your palette.

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