My speaking colleague Thom Singer, host of Speakernomics podcast, often starts his interviews with this statement: “If you don’t know _________ (fill in the blank with the name of the expert he is interviewing), and I don’t know how you couldn’t….“. Then he goes on to talk about why his guest is so well known. That’s the case with Mark Schaefer. I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Mark last week. Below I have listed some facts about Mark. Guess which of these statements is true and which are false:

Guess which of these statements is true and which are false:

  • He’s a major influencer in the marketing space.
  • He launched a highly successful creator crypto coin called $RISE and was invited to do so because of his reputation as an influencer.
  • He mentors economically challenged youth, including a D-I athlete.
  • Mark and I met early in his career when we were both speaking for a Medical Group Managers Association conference.
  • Once when my 12 year-old son was trout fishing in the pond by our local Greenway, he hooked Mark’s shirt as he was walking on the trail.
  • He’s one of the most humble, caring and unassuming speakers in the marketing space.

Each of these statements is true.

If I could pick the members of my mastermind group (or Circle of Six as I call it), Mark would be in the inner circle (aren’t you fortunate, Shep Hyken!).

4 smiling men standing on porch


Perhaps you’re already in a Circle of Six and didn’t even know it. Maybe you, like my grandmother, are in a sewing group that meets weekly to make clothes for Church World Service. Or maybe you’re in a spinning group or ride weekly with a group of friends as I do. Or perhaps you’re in a bowling league like my travel agent Janice Vanormer. Maybe you’re in a Bible study group, a book club, a supper club, a hiking group, a surfing club, or another special interest Circle of “Six.” Having a circle/mastermind/study group makes whatever you are doing more enjoyable and helps you experience greater success.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in several different groups with some pretty amazing people. After speaking at a State Farm event in Jacksonville, FL many years ago the concept of a Circle of Six was born. I was inspired by Therese Quinn, one of the top 100 agents in State Farm Insurance for many years. She shared her 4 x 4 rule with me. I’ve added to it, changed it, and currently, it’s a signature part of every speech, workshop, or presentation I give.

Currently, I’m in a marketing/business growth mastermind group that started as a response to the pandemic loss of business. Ironically, I have not met everyone in this group as we meet by Zoom each week to hold each other accountable. Thank you to Mj CallawayRoger GrannisSteve HaffnerBen Lichtenwalner, and Scott Carley for the inspiration for this group.

Starting in 2000 at National Speakers Association convention, I hosted what I call a roving mastermind group. The players change each year by design and have included some of the best experts who speak professional Dr. Nido Qubein, President of High Point University, leadership expert New York Times and Wall Street Journal author Mark Sanborn, former radio host, speaker, and best-selling author of Create DistinctionScott McKain, futurist Dan Burrus, humorous and psychologist Dr. Terry Paulson, resiliency expert Eileen McDargh, comedic guitarist Mike Rayburn, entrepreneurs and speakers Jim and Naomi Rhode, inspirational singer Dr. Willie Jolley and the late great humorist Jeanne Robertson have all participated in this group.

My first true circle of six included inspirational speaker, singer, and guitar player Rosita Perez, leadership expert Phil Van Hooser, employee engagement expert Richard Hadden, and naturalist Dr. John Paling.

I’ve truly had a seat at the table with some of the world’s best-known and beloved speakers. I’ve been fortunate to have one-on-one conversations with experts, celebrities and best-selling authors like Suze OrmanDr. Norman Vincent PealeLes BrownZig Ziglar, Olympians Peter Vidmar, and Kristi YamaguchiLarry Winget – the pitbull of self-development, The Little _______ (name a color) Book series speaker Jeffrey Gitomer, former NBA player Mark Eaton, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, and many, many others.

I’ve met rising speaker superstars like performer and speaker Jason Hewlett, actor/speaker/speech coach Victoria LaBalme, 50-time sports author and speaker extraordinary Ross Bernstein, the Go-Giver author Bob Burg and are all friends. I know industry legends like train-the-trainer expert Bob Pike, and Brian Lee, who owns a hospital service consulting firm. Brian was my first speaking mentor.


Branding expert Bruce Turkel is a close confidant. Bruce is a fantastic speaker with hundreds of major media interviews under his belt. He’s also one of the best harmonica players I’ve ever known. I have presented with Bruce on a few occasions, stayed at his home with his lovely wife Gloria and their children, and had wonderful dinners at hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the cities we’ve visited. We have run together on multiple occasions, gone boating in Key Biscayne Bay, and had many long conversations about politics, music, comedy, and the speaking business of course. He’s been one of my closest confidants in the speaking business since we met 20 years ago and has had more influence on me than any other speaking friend.

Yes, I have been fortunate to have built a career from the passion my dear mother inspired in me when I was in 8th grade. Part of the reason that I have been able to spend time with these superstar celebrity speakers, authors, entertainers, and media personalities is that I have been in the right place at the right time and have not been afraid to ask the best in the speaking business for advice. Successful people like to help others succeed.

Tag your ideal Circle of Six in the comment section below, and don’t be afraid to ask if you can take them to lunch, coffee, or even a virtual drink to learn from them.

Today is Cinco de Mayo. Consider gathering with your favorite amigos and think about whom you might need or want to meet. Ask how they could help advance your career or what you could do to help them expand their network, expertise, or volunteer platform.

After all, as the saying goes, when the student is willing – and when that student takes proactive action – the teacher will appear.

los amigos mexican restaurant


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