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Masterminding the Mentor

The Vision Circle Concept

Dr Jack Jacoby
DBA, MBA, BA, CMC, MAIMC, AFAIM
Director - ProManage Partnership Pty Ltd

To fulfil your own dream is quite an achievement. But to help others fulfil their dream is the greatest gift one person can give another. By fulfilling others, one fulfils oneself.

An undeniable truth faces us all: between this moment and the day we die, there is a finite amount of time that we each have. Certainly, some of us will be blessed with more time than others yet finite it is for each of us.

If one queries people about the aspirations they have for themselves in the time they have left, the overwhelming majority will say they wish happiness for themselves.

If one then ask those same people what they mean by happiness, their responses will vary enormously. Some will define happiness as security, wealth, travel, providing security for their family, doing voluntary work, philanthropy, writing a book, playing an instrument, helping others. The list is endless.

Because we each have our own definition and personal vision of happiness, there doesn't appear to be a single 'magic button' people in society can press that will guarantee everyone their own personal happiness. There is no guaranteed career that we can all enter that will deliver, unfailingly; everyone's vision of happiness. There is no amount of wealth that will guarantee happiness, not social-economic level, job, marital status, educational pursuit or other single, simple 'silver bullet'.

In other words, society expects us, more or less, to each travel our own journey toward our own happiness. Yet simultaneously, society expects us to live up its norms and expectations, more often than not, at the expense of our own happiness.

A Personal Reflection

When I think of my youth and my early adult years, I am able to identify a number of significant influences that moulded me as a person. They consumed my consciousness, my behaviour, my aspirations and my sense of well being – and dictated the bulk of my years.

Only in maturity have I been able to reflect on those years and determine whether my life has gone the way I wanted it to go and whether having lived those years, I am content with what I have experienced, aspired to achieve and actually accomplished.

The first of these influences was the need to feel that I was as good as my peers and that I could match it with them. That I was as smart, capable and appealing as they were - that I was fun to be with and someone whose company was sought over others. I wanted to be respected and admired. I wanted to be considered charming, intelligent, successful, and sociable and 'a good catch' by girls, and later by women. I wanted to be and have what I thought one needed to be and to have in order to enjoy all the good things that life has to offer. What my peers and others thought of me was fundamental to the way I thought about myself. It was my way of validating my own existence. I had little respect for my own judgment, and desires, and felt that if everyone thought I was worthwhile, then I must be a worthy person.

Not to have this acclaim was to have failed. Failed not only in the eyes of my peers, but also of society and myself. I therefore existed entirely within the perceptions that others had of me. My reference as to whom and what I was, was external to myself and relied on the vagaries and foibles of others.

The second influence was the need to live up to the expectation of my parents. Not that they had anything but the very best intentions for me in their hearts, but they were human, and being human, had their own expectations, aspirations and desires for me, their precious child. They were of a time when parents 'knew' what was best for their children. And the children, not having experienced life with all its perils and peculiarities, knew nothing – or at least not enough to know what was in their own best interest.

My parents had a view on good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate, on a suitable career and an unsuitable career, on good friends and bad friends, on a good marital match and a poor marital match, and so on. Not once did they ask me what I wanted, or wanted to do, or was excited about, or interested in, or who I loved and cared for. Not once was I able, without the fear of the loss of their approbation, able to pursue my own desires.

The third influencer was my school experience. I had the misfortune of attending an exceptional private school that had a firm view of what its graduates were to attain at the end of their schooling years. Unfortunately, the school was synchronized to my parent's view of career and success – rather than to my own skills and interests. I was dragged through 12 years of schooling never entirely interested or immersed in the subject matter that so consumed every day of my life.

Not only were my peers and my parents assessing me, but I was being formally measured at school against a benchmark that appeared irrelevant to me. This measure was also used by my peers and parents to categorize me as a non-achiever. Once again, my self-worth was being moulded by other than myself.

The last and probably most obvious influencer has been my various employment environments. When a range of organisations employed me, I was forced to think and act in a way that suited the understandable needs and expectations of the employer. My self-worth was significantly shaped by the progress I made through the firm, the attitudes of my managers and even of my subordinates.

Performance measures, even poorly formulated ones, were used as the criteria upon which to rank individuals. These ranks changed the way people regarded other people in the firm, and the way that management regarded them for promotion and career development. I had to earn a living to support my family so in order to earn a living; I had to work for someone who determined what I did, how I did it, and how I would ultimately be rewarded for it. Failure to attract a reward equated to failure to fulfil a boss's expectations. Failure to fulfil these expectations meant that people shared the view that I was 'less capable' than others who could fulfil. My self-image invariably, and understandably, mirrored the perceptions of those I worked with and whose opinions were critical to my 'happiness'.

Even when I was my own boss, customers, bank-managers, subcontractors, suppliers and others were influencing me and my behaviour and attitudes. Perhaps in the self-employment environments I experienced, these influences were a little more subtle than in the formal employee environment, but their effects were just as debilitating to my self-image.

It must be said however, that as debilitating (to the real pursuit of my happiness) as these influencers may have been, they also had their positive legacies. They enabled me to recognise the realities of other people: their hopes, objectives, attitudes and subjectivities and the reality and pragmatics of living with others in a community and a society. Through these experiences, I have been able to develop an ability to relate, communicate, endeavour and 'succeed'. Succeed along the guidelines established by others – rather than succeed according to my own definition of success and happiness.

The ethic in western societies also appears to be that we must work very hard all our working lives in order to accumulate sufficient resources to then enable us to enjoy the fruits of our labour – to allow us to enjoy our own vision of happiness.

If only it were that 'simple'. Let's look at some of the realities with which, if we are really honest with ourselves, we need to acknowledge.

1. We Die

Another undeniable fact: some of us will die before we accumulate sufficient resources to fulfil our vision of happiness. Yet others will have the resources, and for one reason or another, will die before they can enjoy their benefits.

How often have you heard the story of the person who died almost immediately after they retired?

If you have worked really hard for, say 40 years, and scrimped, saved and suffered along the way to accumulate the resources to fulfil a dream but weren't able to have the dream – what was the pain and sacrifice for?

2. We Fail

Another undeniable fact: some of us dream and fail to fulfil the dream. We may fail for a range of reasons some of which are within our control and some of which aren't:

  • Our vision of happiness is 'too' aggressive and is destined never to be fulfilled. For example, a citizen of a non-US country dreaming of becoming the President of the US is a dream unlikely to be fulfilled.

  • We don't have the skills needed to deliver our vision of happiness. If you are 80 years of age and your vision is to become a brain surgeon and you're not a doctor yet, then it is unlikely that your vision will be fulfilled.

  • We don't have the time to devote to our own vision. Let's say that you have determined that your personal vision of happiness required 1000 tasks to be fulfilled. If you undertook one task a month exclusively working toward that vision (rather than putting food on the table now or paying the mortgage), it would take you 83.3 years to complete. Even if you are only 20 years old now, there are not too many visions that you will be able to fully savour at age 103. If you are able to devote more time, and undertake one task per week, then it will still take you over 20 years before you realise your vision. One task per week is a big commitment.

  • We don't have the passion – we want it but we aren't prepared to work very hard to get it.

  • We don't have the knowledge, education, networks, connections or money needed to make our vision a reality.

  • We are scared of failing so we don't make an attempt because, we reason, that if we haven't tried, then we haven't failed.

  • We settle for second (or third or fourth) best. If we want something but don't feel we can achieve it, we compromise our own happiness and settle for a lesser alternative.

3. We Can't

At 25 we may dream of climbing Mt Everest when we retire. We retire comfortably and have plenty of time to undertake the odyssey. But since our vision originally formed, and despite having the resources and time, we have gotten older, weaker, and less able to take the physical risk involved.

We've worked hard for this vision and but can't fulfil it.

4. We Won't

Same dream but as much as we might be physically able, we have either grown to really dislike the cold and altitude or we would rather spend our time reading or following our other less demanding hobbies. We don't want to do it anymore.

5. It is not important now

Back when our whole life was before us, we may have dreamed of devoting our life to freeing the world from communism, for example. But now the world has freed itself, pretty much, from communism so our vision becomes less meaningful. So what are we going to do now?

We each have our relationships, friends and business associates who have, in their own way, helped us over the years.

With these friends and associates we have exchanged opportunities, helped each other and developed trust and confidence in those whom we have grown to know.

However, although these people generally help when asked, they haven't taken the next step: that of focusing together their attention, experiences, skills and efforts in helping to deliver an individual's personal vision and longer-term objectives.

We do after all, meld and develop our various relationships and networks so that we can advance our lives in the direction that we each hold for ourselves. On that level these relationships and networks have succeeded. Yet when measured on the potential they might fulfil if focussed and coordinated, they have failed.

This is largely due to the reality that people are much focused on "doing it themselves" for themselves. We don't expect others to ask us for our help if there isn't something in it for me, or conversely, we wouldn't ask others to help us – why should they if there's nothing in it for them?

The Challenge

In summary then, society sends us many messages. Because our personal vision of happiness is ours alone, we must:

  • Accumulate before we enjoy (even though most of us will fail or under-fulfil) because we shouldn't expect others to 'pay' for our happiness;
  • Do it alone since, after all, it is our happiness and why should anyone else go out of their way to help us

In such circumstances, how can we achieve our personal vision of happiness?

Masterminding the Mentor

A 'mastermind' is a person of 'great intelligence or executive talent, especially one who directs an undertaking'. A 'mentor' is 'a wise or trusted advisor or guide'.

In both cases, it is implied that the mentor and the mastermind is a single person.

What if a mentor was not a single person but a group of people?

What if we reinvented the concept of mentoring to one where a group of people acting together were the mentors?

What if we reinvented the concept of mastermind from one which revolves around the superior intellect of an individual, to one which recognises the superior intellect of a group of people acting together?

What if we had a way to harness the intellect of a group of people so that they would deliver a torrent of 'mastermind'-level capability and intellect for your benefit?

What if this group of people focussed on you and helped you deliver your 1000 tasks in less than two months instead of 83 years acting alone or 20 years acting alone if you were really active?

What if we invented a way that you the mentoree get the benefit of the group intellect and focus, but next time around, someone who was earlier on the mentor team becomes the mentoree and receives a similar benefit?

What if this philosophy of reciprocity is enough of a motivation to bind a relationship between, say, 20 people who were prepared to deliver mutual benefit?

What if we were able to harness a group of people, who together represented a greater intelligence and capability than any one alone, and who acted together as a person's mentor?

What if we did all of this and were able to give you the gift of happiness years, and sometimes decades earlier than if you had attempted to do it by yourself?

What if we could do all of this?

What if?

If only we could?

The VisionCircle

The VisionCircle is a concept and a movement. It was founded in 2000 in Melbourne Australia by a pioneering group of free thinkers who established the first group, known by everyone as VC1. There are now many VisionCircles in Melbourne with others being formed continuously around Australia and Internationally. Its members have very diverse backgrounds and include:

  • Young and older people - twenties to seventies
  • Both men and women
  • People with no tertiary background and PhDs
  • Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, Aboriginals and Jews (not that anyone asks)
  • Rich and unemployed
  • Professionals, trades people, retailers, business men and women and artists
  • Self employed and those who work for others and those who are retired
  • Many cultures
  • Doctors, lawyers, counsellors, psychologists, sociologists, teachers, students, computer experts, etc

A VisionCircle is a group of up to 20 people who work in turn toward the fulfilment of each other's personal vision.

The VisionCircle acts as both Mentor and Mastermind.

As Mentor because is helps, instructs, guides, consoles, nurtures and encourages the member for whom all members focus for seven weeks in order to deliver their personal vision of happiness.

As Mastermind because it harnesses the skills, competencies and experiences of its members; and organises and focuses them on a selected member for a period of seven weeks.

The VisionCircle ingeniously manages to resolve our core challenges: of needing to accumulate before we enjoy the gift of our labours, and doing it by ourselves for ourselves. It does this by:

  • Avoiding the need to 'do it alone' by having up to 19 others helping you.

  • Instead of waiting for 83 or 20 years (depending on your level of effort) the VisionCircle delivers about 1000 tasks within seven weeks. If your vision required 2000 tasks, then after seven weeks you would be half way there. In other words: it delivers your gift now rather than after you have accumulated sufficient resources, thereby giving you much more time to enjoy your happiness.

  • Providing you with the skills, competencies, experience and networks of a team of people avoiding the need to rely on 'only' yourself.

  • Using the skills and competencies of the team to build a strategy to deliver your vision and ensure that it can be delivered.

  • Providing a profound commitment of many people to your happiness. If you feared failing, then there a many around you who have a greater fear of failing you. Amazing achievements have been accomplished – mountains have been moved and lives have been both saved and fulfilled.

  • VisionCircle members don't really need to care what your vision is, as long as it will make you happy (and is legal, moral and ethical). They commit to you and your happiness and work extraordinarily hard to make it happen for you.

  • If you don't have enough of a passion, the team will rekindle the fires and give you the fuel, motivation and encouragement you need to think about yourself and your own happiness.

  • The VisionCircle provides the knowledge, education, networks, connections needed to make your vision a reality.

  • The VisionCircle will help you live your dream before you find you can't due to health or other problems. The longer you wait, the more likely you won't be able to live your dream.

  • As you grow and experience more, your vision will inevitable evolve a bit or a lot. Because of the way the VisionCircle works, it accommodates changes to your definition of happiness. Since a VisionCircle with 20 members takes about 4 years for every one to have had the opportunity to receive the gift of commitment and effort of the VisionCircle members, the next time one goes for selection, a person may enhance their earlier vision or change it completely, thus keeping up with the true calling of their head and heart.

VisionCircle members are driven by either personal growth or fulfilment (i.e. self-interest), or by the satisfaction of helping others.

Ultimately one is motivated by the ability to harness enormous power of goodwill to change the lives of others around the globe for the better.

The VisionCircle is about members of a specifically formed group being focused on helping a single member achieve their vision for a period of seven weeks.

This period of seven weeks is the period between the VisionCircle's 2-monthly meetings plus one week for rest and reflection.

For these seven weeks, each member of the VisionCircle commits to do one task per day, however minor, (seven days per week) for a selected individual who has been chosen by the group.

Only the helping member chooses how he/she will help the selectee - it is entirely their decision however the selectee and/or the coordinator may make suggestions as to where the greatest assistance is needed.

The reason that members will make the effort is because 'what goes around comes around'.

I will work to help a VisionCircle member to achieve his/her personal vision and happiness, because I know that when it is my turn, he/she will help me to achieve mine.

At each two-monthly meeting, members select by secret ballot, the next person who will be honoured to have everyone's thoughts and efforts focused on their happiness and fulfilment.

No person can be chosen twice until all members have been chosen once or until a member formally 'passes-in' his/her right to selection. At a person's second selection, they will be helped to "finish" the job started the first time, or if fulfilled the first time, helped to their next level of aspiration. And so it will go on. With 20 members in the Circle, 1,000 tasks will be completed over the seven-week period. The value of this assistance in monetary terms is invaluable.


What are VisionCircle Members expected to do?

The Selectee

  • Accept humbly the honour bestowed upon them by the VisionCircle;

  • Cooperate with all helping members to make their donation of time and effort as painless to the helping member and as effective as possible;

  • Respect the referrals provided to them for their benefit, and never do anything that will compromise or jeopardize the status of the referring member in the eyes of any other party;

  • When it is their turn to help, it is expected that they must reciprocate the efforts made on their behalf;

  • Members whose seven weeks have elapsed write a Chronicle of activities and achievements and present them as the first item on the agenda by the second bi-monthly VisionCircle meeting after their selection.

  • It is the expectation that Members who have been selected and whose focus period has concluded will become more active in helping other members fulfil their visions.

  • Graduated members are expected to commence a new VisionCircle within six months of their selection and for which they are the mentors.

Helping Members

  • Undertake one task every day to help the selected member;

  • Keep in touch with the selectee and Coordinator so that the selectee is aware of what's happening;

  • Helping tasks are chosen entirely at the discretion of the helper and may include: sending an E-mail, sending a letter, arranging a meeting, reviewing a document, conducting a meeting, having a discussion on the phone, participating in a meeting, making a relevant observation, cutting out a relevant newspaper article, referring a useful web page, etc.

  • The helping member should never put the selectee in an "impossible, embarrassing or invidious position". The selectee's self respect must be protected. The helping member must remember, "What goes around comes around". When it is his/her turn to be selected, why should the current selectee put in any more effort than the current helping member is putting in?

  • There is no objection to helping members devoting or blocking out a certain time for their assistance and undertaking more than one task at that time. As an example, a helping member may decide that every Tuesday at 3.00 pm, he/she will do 7 VisionCircle tasks for the week and no tasks at other times during the week (due to travel, work commitments, family, etc). This is quite acceptable but remember that the selectee has to serve you (in their own interest) and may struggle to keep up with 7 tasks times 20 members if they all decide on Tuesday at 3.00 p.m. to fulfil their obligations. Blocking out time and tasks is a way that helping members can deal with travel, workshops, and other distracting commitments.

Who will be chosen?

Members vote using exclusively the following criteria:

  • Which candidate's vision or milestones, if fulfilled, would contribute most to the candidate, the VisionCircle and other members? By using this criterion alone, the VisionCircle ensures that only the most noble of visions will be supported by the power of the VisionCircle, and that all effort exerted will help both the candidate and the VisionCircle. The more members that are helped, the stronger the VisionCircle becomes.

  • A candidate who states that his/her vision, for example, is to become a multi-millionaire will need to justify to other members why they should contribute such an effort for that member alone. A candidate whose vision is consistent with the well being of the VisionCircle and all other members should be selected over a candidate whose vision aids or benefits no one else apart from the selectee alone.

  • We are not trying to send the message that there is anything wrong with becoming a multi-millionaire, but that we will make a supreme effort for fellow members if that effort also has other benefits - back into the VisionCircle and for other members where possible and relevant. Therefore, members who help a candidate to fulfil are also helping themselves.

  • Normal member needs (emergencies, opportunities, etc) are unaffected by this structure and will be dealt with simultaneously with it.

People from all walks of life are finding the VisionCircle concept a profoundly innovative, non-threatening and life-enhancing experience. Those interested in the concept and learn more about the concept from extensive details found on the VisionCircle web site.

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