Editor’s Note: Nick Jordan is the CEO and founder of Smashing Boxes, a custom software development and design firm for web, mobile, and connected devices and one of the fastest-growing private firms in the Triangle.  This article is part a series exploring entrepreneurship and the meaning of life, including profiles of local entrepreneurs, change-makers and technology trends. 

DURHAM — I owe much of my development as an entrepreneur and business professional to the power of a peer advisory group.

Entrepreneurship is a lonely profession.

Due to recent headlines, we’ve learned how that sense of isolation can lead to depression and anxiety, chipping away at one’s health and wellness. As a young entrepreneur, I felt that I was alone in facing the challenges in making a dream become a reality. I had nowhere to go to share my struggles, to exchange ideas, to learn from the mistakes of those who had gone before me.

Self-doubt crept in and started to eat away at my confidence, my vision, and eventually my health.

Antidote to alone

Being part of a peer advisory group changed all that. Instead of feeling like Atlas holding up the weight of the world all by myself, I found peers and mentors who helped me re-adjust to my heavy burden.

The concept of a peer advisory group (a.k.a. mastermind) emerged from Napoleon Hill’s book, “Think and Grow Rich,” published in 1937. According to Hill, “No mind is complete by itself. It needs contact and association with other minds to grow and expand.” On our own, we can only draw from a limited amount of experience, education, and training. Within a mastermind group, we can tap into the experience, training, skills, knowledge, and resources of like-minded peers and mentors.

I’ll never forget my first meeting. One of the participants shared a very personal story about how the strain of building his company affected his marriage, leading to serious conversations about getting a divorce. Another person shared how he engineered a successful exit strategy through acquisition. The reality is we bring our personal lives into business and vice-versa. The peer advisory group recognizes the holistic nature of our lives — that we don’t operate in personal/professional silos — and so personal issues affect professional decisions.Business decisions impact our personal lives.

9 ways a peer advisory group has changed my life

  • Connecting with others facing similar challenges is an antidote to isolation and loneliness and a path to WELL-BEING. Building deep trust with others strengthens my sense of community.
  • While businesses can vary wildly in terms of size, sector, product, etc., entrepreneurs and business leaders share the same issues and the same stressors– work-life balance, mental health, making payroll, hitting a milestone. It allows you to leverage insights from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
  • Learning about the wide range of deal structures- what we know as entrepreneurs and operators about finance and deal structuring is often what we read online or hear from a small group of our own investors.
  • Widening that net of knowledge has helped me creatively pursue deal structures in ways I was not previously equipped to do.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY keeps me focused and on track. By writing down an issue preventing my business from hitting its stride, sharing it with the group, and then following up on this each month helps me keep it a priority.
  • Constructive feedback serves as a forced acknowledgment of what is working/what isn’t.
  • Perspective from listening to others’ problems helps put my own problems and challenges into context.
  • The process of sharing is both cathartic and gratifying because it helps me while helping others.

Sharing experiences is cathartic and helps us to understand more about ourselves while also reminding us of what we’ve accomplished, learned, overcome, and achieved. Whether you’re moonlighting as an entrepreneur or pursuing your series C, a peer advisory group can help you reach your goals and improve your well-being. Your company, your community, and your family will benefit.

Nick Jordan: Why the pursuit of happiness disrupts well-being