Three Essential Lessons from MastermindTalks

“Your network is your net worth.”

This adage is the concept behind Jayson Gaignard’s MastermindTalks. The theme of the event, “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise,” made for a remarkably diverse set of speeches and attendees. More interestingly, the speakers did the gig for a chance to win $25,000—a prize that’s just a fraction of some of their usual fees. 

The wealth and wisdom aspects make sense in business. However, many entrepreneurs forget that once good health is gone, many of us—busy as hell, or not—would do anything to get it back, a sentiment voiced by author and entrepreneur James Altucher.

I got the chance to chat with A.J. Jacobs, author and Esquire columnist, as we were in line for lunch. Golly, this is the same guy who wrote Drop Dead Healthy, the beloved bestseller about health. I ask him, “Since you’re around, I should really be careful about what I’m picking, eh?”

“No, no! It’s important to enjoy yourself sometimes,” he chuckles. He then jokingly offered $5 for my vote in the speaking competition. To be honest, I was surprised; rarely were speakers in such a good mood at these types of events.

Here are three of the most important lessons I learned from MastermindTalks’ Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise event:


Jacobs went on a 100-day journey trying to follow every single rule from the Bible. He posited that one of his most important lessons was on the power of self-delusion, and tricking yourself into behaving differently. He suggests that attitude change follows behavior (studies support this: have a look at the Facial Feedback Hypothesis).

Essentially: Pretend to be a better person. Eventually, you become a better person. It’s remarkable how much your behavior affects your thoughts. If you’re an entrepreneur feeling overwhelmed, acting confident or sitting upright could be two tactics to implement and test.


Ryan Holiday, best known as author of Trust Me I’m Lying and for his work as the Director of Marketing for American Apparel, advised entrepreneurs to seriously put more work into their product. He suggests focusing on three variables:

  • totally new;
  • provocative;
  • and know exactly who you’re doing it for and where they’re located.

More entrepreneurs need to simply go back to the laboratory and make something really special, make it provocative and unlike other products or services out there, and make it for a specific person that you can reach out and touch (rather than for this vague idea of success or mass appeal). Holiday suggests reading Paul Graham’s piece on making things people want.

As if this to reinforce this lesson, Canada Goose’s CEO Dani Reiss later spoke about how many of his customers were won over simply by trying on their friends’ jackets. The warmth and puffiness of the jackets, features built-in by default to the product, were crucial.

Dan Martell also previously shared valuable advice on growth hacking.


Entrepreneur and blogger Derek Halpern’s birthday is on December 25. This meant whenever the question came up, he could practically predict the next 10 minutes of conversation (e.g., “Does it suck to have your birthday on Christmas? Did you get shortchanged on presents?”) Inadvertently, his birthday would be the cause of his expertise in what he calls “social triggers.” He started using it to his advantage, building canned jokes and routines into that trigger.

Halpern studies patterns of behavior, and how these patterns can be applied to in business. To prove his observation’s validity, he cited the example of the Israelean judges and correlation to parole times; long story short, the more hungry the judges became, the less likely prisoners were to be granted parole.

In his Mastermind talk, Halpern shared his BAB model for social triggers in selling:

A. Before: When you’re talking to prospect or writing sales copy, describe the world before your product existed. Make people want to find an answer.

B. After: Don’t even mention your product. Talk about the utopia, like a miracle, the ideal scenario. According to George Loewenstein’s work, people naturally try to close this gap.

C. Bridge: Connect the two worlds with your product or idea.

The interesting thing about MastermindTalks was Gaignard’s intense focus on curating attendees. The gutsy move to turn down potential ticket sales, given this was his first event and hadn’t had a reputation yet, paid off well—it was a rare sight in conferences, where speakers happily chatted amongst attendees and everyone learned from each other. The norm of giving actually reinforced everyone’s tendency to share, which meant an extremely information-rich series of keynotes and peer breakout sessions.

On the afternoon of the first day, a fellow member of the press wistfully wished that it were easier to convey the experience into words. I couldn’t help but share in his sentiment.

If I had to put it into words: much like how C2-MTL was like stepping into a spaceship landed on Earth, MastermindTalks felt like an enlightening two-day long dinner party in good company.