The Mastermind of Five

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is an extract from Power Of The Mastermind: The Driving Force For Faster Success In Life And Business by Ademola Morebise.

I think the most powerful force on earth is the mastermind of five (5) distinct individuals. They have the power to reshape the world, they could wipe out mankind if they wished.

If we could have five (5) people – a quintet that choose to lay aside their personal ambitions and fully, completely concentrate their energies upon a single vision they feel is worth pursuing, THERE IS NOTHING IN THE UNIVERSE THAT CAN STOP THEM.

In this section, our discourse is about a group of five (5) individuals that are working on the same project, business, or some vision, as opposed to five (5) individuals coming together to mastermind over their five (5) separate individual ambitions.

Masterminds of two (2) are effective, but their impact rarely extends beyond achievement of personal ambitions and maybe some contribution to the society. A mastermind alliance of five (5) individuals can set the world on fire. If you want to change the world, find a way to induce five (5) people to unite in one heart and mind.

This sort of mastermind works because while five (5) people is definitively a crowd, the group is still small enough for stronger bonds between individuals. It is easier for participants to really know each other and completely trust the motives and intents of everyone involved.

When we try to induce a large team of people to work together, we spend more time on team maintenance than on the actual work we had in mind to do. It is a well-known fact that larger teams are notorious for been ineffective. Indeed, large teams seems to work only because there is some mastermind quorum buried somewhere inside it.

The challenge is that a lot of energy is required for coordinating and ensuring a larger assemble of individuals is motivated, and this effectively DRAINS OUT THE BENEFITS of the collaborative effort.

Two (2) things happen when we deal with a larger group. It becomes more difficult to coordinate and communicate. It is not about the number of people involved per se, it is that the larger the group, the larger the number of links between them which makes coordination and communication difficult.

For a mastermind of two (2) individuals, that is a single link.

For a mastermind of five (5) individuals, that works out to ten (10) links between everyone.

There is actually a formula for calculating the number of links between members of a group: n(n-1)/2.

As the group size increases, the number of links begins to get out of proportion: fifteen (15) people works out to a hundred and five (105) links, and fifty (50) people share one thousand, two hundred and twenty-five (1, 225) links in between them.

A mastermind of five (5) individuals have just ten (10) links in between them, it is a number we can easily manage without getting bogged down in team maintenance. The small number also means that we have enough diverse interactions and intercourse of ideas to generate forward momentum as compared to a smaller team of two or three individuals. Five (5) individuals just feels right.

The Numbers Trap

When I claim that a small mastermind group of five (5) individuals cooperating in the spirit of harmony can impact the world, and build out a global organisation, I am sure such a radical idea will meet its own share of resistance.

Many visionary leaders always fall into the trap of thinking that they need more people. That having more people will always help them move towards their goal faster, the facts show the opposite.

What adding up numbers actually does is that, it boosts your confidence significantly. But it is a mental trap. It traps you into thinking that you can get more things done, an optimism that is largely misplaced.

The reader might be familiar with some models such as Pareto’s 80/20 Principle or Price’s Square Root Law.

Derek J. de Solla Price, who was a British Physicist discovered something about his peers in academia. He noticed that there were always a handful of people who were dominating all scientific publications within an area of science.

He ended up proposing that “the square root of the number of people in a domain of work do 50% of the work”. That is the statement of the law known as Price’s Square Root Law.

This implies that if we have a team of twenty-five (25) people, we would have five (5) key individuals responsible for half of all the results, while the others would produce the other half. For a team of ten (10), you would observe three (3) outstanding players on the team.

If you have ever been a part of a large team, I hope you can certainly relate to these observations of mine.

Numbers never guarantee anything, if you say it is impossible to build out a global organisation with just five (5) individuals working in a spirit of harmony, I can as easily inform you that there is no proof either that you can achieve that with any number at all. Whether a hundred or a thousand, there is no proof that you need any certain number of people to win every war you head into.

This begs the question: how exactly do we win in wars or business? I think the answers are: insights and strategy. It is the superiority of the deployed strategy that wins wars and not necessarily the amount of bodies you throw at a war.

The business team operating with the better strategy will win, not those operating with the largest teams or deepest pockets or even the better product. The business team with the best strategy wins.

How then do we develop the best strategies? This is the right question to ponder upon. And even if we cannot agree on an answer, I hope we can agree that it has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ON THE TEAM.

I would rather have a small team and go to work boosting their psyche, than have a large team that traps us into thinking we cannot lose, because of the numbers.

Five (5) Heads Are Better Than Two (2)

You need at least two (2) individuals cooperating in the spirit of harmony to form a mastermind. On paper, it would seem that adding more people to the group would increase the power available and a stronger presence of The Mastermind.

However, in real life, as with most things, it is not such black-and-white. The magic in a mastermind group really begins to shine when you have at least five (5) individuals present.

All things been equal, they can coordinate more effort, access more knowledge, resources and talents than any group of smaller individuals can, and at the same time retain pretty much most of the intimacy and unity you would find in smaller groups of two (2) or three (3).

Five people trying to coordinate their knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, for the attainment of a definite purpose will generate a stronger presence of The Mastermind and reach resolutions faster. Five heads are better than two.

Two people induced to work in a spirit of harmony become two halves of the same mind. Five people induced in likewise manner creates a hive-mind. This does not necessarily mean that there will be no conflict and that they agree on every matter, but over time, there will be this collective clarity and precision in harnessing their individual knowledge and talents for the progress of their collective objective.

It is interesting that we cannot conclude that ten heads are better than five, because at that point, coordinating, communicating and maintaining a spirit of harmony at all times becomes more challenging. If by some chance, the ten individuals achieve that atmosphere of harmony, it still would not carry the kind of potency I am suggesting a smaller group of five can have.

A suitable analogy to use is a large party vs a small party. At a large party, everyone has a good time but there is no time for depth and engaging any single person for a long period of time – so many people to meet. At a smaller party, everyone still has a good time, but there is time to go in-depth with a handful of people.

To the man or woman that wants to change the world, while acknowledging that you cannot do it alone, you need to also be persuaded that you do not need a thousand heads on the committee. Five individuals working together in the spirit of harmony will generate the atmosphere that will make progress faster.

Indeed, any visionary out there that can understand the principle of the mastermind and then set out to diligently and discriminately assemble a mastermind group, is already half-way successful.

Is Five (5) Really The Magic Number?

Five (5) is the optimised number for the kind of effect promised, I stand by that. It is common knowledge within mastermind circles that having five members is the ideal size for an intimate mastermind group. Seasoned coaches and counsellors that engage in group coaching or group counselling usually favour having four clients at a time, which gives five individuals in total.

Identifying a mastermind group of five working on a single vision can be a bit tricky. Unlike a duo in which both individuals could more easily share the spotlight, a mastermind group of five rarely shines the spotlight on everybody, you usually have a single individual or two people taking the credit.

We have already proven early on in this book, how hard it could be for a single person to achieve massive success on their own. You will always need to induce cooperation from other individuals who might remain in the shadows. They might not be as well-known as the main character, but they have significant roles to play towards accomplishment of the set goal.

In the music industry, you have five member groups that are well-known, but within other domains, it could be hard to pin point the members of a tag team that is making some massive breakthrough possible and so, a single person takes the credit.

When it comes to personal achievement, few can match the stature of a man like Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein is considered by many quarters to be the archetype genius. The man that changed the perception and understanding of our universe forever.

There is a side to the Einstein story that is not as well-known as the main discourse around his revolutionary physical theories. Albert Einstein had a mastermind group that met regularly for several years in his home; the Olympia Academy. It has been wildly reported that this group had an effect on Einstein’s intellectual development.

The Olympia Academy was founded in 1902 by a twenty-three year old Einstein and a few friends. Initially, the intention was to make some extra money by offering private physics classes in his home, but after Einstein placed an advert in the papers and Maurice Solovine, a philosophy student responded to the advert, neither payments nor classes materialised. They rather started discussions around physics and philosophy.

Over time, the group expanded into three core members with about two to three others stopping by from time-to-time.

The mastermind meetings only lasted a few years but it had a long lasting effect on all members of the group, particularly on Albert Einstein. It provided a very good sounding board for his weird ideas.

A more recent example of such a quintet that could be easily verified would be the group that founded the social network; Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg is rightly portrayed as the face of the company and we all see him as the genius that started this company from his dorm room and took it global. The reality is that Facebook officially recognises up to five men with the title: cofounder.

At inception, Facebook was started by a group of five individuals working together. The lion share of the company was held by Mark Zuckerberg, but he founded it along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes.

Five individuals working together towards a common goal, they were able to create Facebook, one of the most powerful companies on earth right now.

Around the year 1300 BCE, Moses, the man said to be mighty in words and deeds seemed to have single-handedly freed the Jews from Egyptian slavery and led them to the Holy Land that God had promised them.

One does not need to probe too deeply before you realise that Moses worked with people. I identified other individuals such as Aaron, Miriam, Hur and the much younger Joshua Nun as core members of Team Moses. Moses seemed to have this core group of five core individuals – a quintet with whom he worked.

Moses deservingly gets all the credit, but he was able to induce these other individuals to cooperate with him in the spirit of harmony in order to lead approximately three million people out of slavery and through the wilderness towards their “Promise Land”.

Let us take another trip to the year 46AD. Five men in Antioch, a populous city of ancient Syria (now South-Central Turkey) started meeting regularly to fellowship (aka mastermind) together. Their names were given as: Barnabas, Simeon “the black man”, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Paul. These men where united with a common vision; they needed to take the message they had global.

In the place of fellowship, Barnabas and Paul got selected to go on what we now consider as the first missionary journey of Apostle Paul. While very little is known of the other three members of the mastermind group, Paul and Barnabas were the ones projected into the limelight while the others must have continued to support from behind the scenes.

A small group of five individuals cooperating with a spirit of harmony were able to take their message around the world. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished with a team of five people working together.

Five is the sweet number to aim for if you want to change the world that is how you make a global impact. I would concede that you might be able to achieve the same effect from four individuals and upwards to around eight individuals in the room, but no more.

The smallest organised unit of soldiers in the Roman Army was called a Contubernium, and they were never allowed to grow larger than eight members. On the other hand, the U.S. Navy Seals have decided on four men as the optimal size for a combat team.

Bottom-line: you want to probably stick to a single digit and consider splitting up teams into subgroups as you approach the ten (10) members mark.

I hope that balances out the views expressed in this section of the book a bit. Five heads are better than two.

Your Mastermind Quintet

My purpose and real intention with this section of our discourse is to inspire people to come together in teams of five and tackle huge problems. I think it is time to leverage this idea—a mastermind of five for massive results.

In a lot of ways, wealth creation is tied to problem solving. Making money is merely a reward for solving problems, this grants us a great window of opportunity here.

Imagine you had a group of five individuals who met consistently every week, maybe Saturdays to mastermind over some of the biggest problems in the society. Can you imagine all the good they could do and all the solutions and wealth they could create?

One does not need to go too far before one begins to see problems that are worthy of such an approach. Problems that should ideally force us to lay down our personal ambitions and embrace something bigger.

There are millions of children out there that cannot read, write or do basic math. Of these, roughly half are In Africa. The vast majority are girls. This number is now increasing further because of conflict and disease outbreak in various parts of the world. This is a terrible situation, which must be addressed.

The question seems to be “how do we build enough schools, hire enough teachers, provide enough books, and other materials, to educate so many children?” Where will we get the money? And how long will it take before we have done all that; it might be decades, and meanwhile a whole generation’s future will have been lost!

If you are reading this right now, it might never occur to you that you are privileged, there are millions of people out there that are not considered to be literate. This is a problem we can solve. This is a problem we must solve in our lifetimes.

If five (5) individuals get into a room, mastermind together, think hard enough, solutions and strategies will appear. They are unstoppable. THE MASTERMIND ALLIANCE DOES NOT ERR, you get the best possible path to forge ahead.

There is no problem that can withstand a bombardment of thoughts. If we could concentrate, meeting consistently to think and discuss about it, we can truly make a difference in the long run.

With a forecast that the world’s population will hit 9.8 billion around year 2050. I think it is time to start masterminding around food production and agriculture. With long term business thinking, you do not need to be a genius to figure out that food production and the complete elimination of food wastage have the potentials for massive returns.

Africa currently imports around $35bn worth of food each year and that figure is projected to rise to $110billion by 2025. The interesting thing is that Africa is importing food not really because they don’t produce enough food, but because the post-harvest loss is a problem that is yet to be meaningfully solved at scale.

Let us consider a very simple case study; Nigeria is the largest producer of tomatoes in Africa and also the net importer of tomatoes in the world. Confused? Don’t be. The tomatoes produced are not quickly processed and hence get spoiled.

Groups of five individuals need to start meeting consistently, to see how they could tackle the problem. I fail to see how solving these problems could be impossible. The solutions WILL APPEAR to the team of five that dedicates time, energy and attention towards finding sustainable fixes for them.

We do not need to go too far before we see problems that are global in nature and that could really benefit from a mastermind approach. You do not need any special calling or appointment. Go on now, appoint yourself to tackle a problem you can feel connected to and look for like-minded people you could mastermind with. Commit to meeting weekly over the next two to three years. This could be how you lay the foundations for your own billion-dollar company.


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