Want to live longer? Try building a guild.

indiana jones

As the saying goes, “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.”

Wait. Not that saying. This one: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

We all know that having friends and solid relationships is brutally important to our mental wellbeing, but just how important is it? How about decreasing your odds of mortality by as much as 50%?!

As researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered, those with poor social connections had on average 50 percent higher odds of death in their study’s follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with more robust social ties.

So what the hell does that mean? As we are working hard to improve our lives with diet and exercise habits, it’s also damn important to focus on something that can so easily slip away from us thanks to the rise of the internet: social interactions!  Obviously the study isn’t saying that finding a friend will turn you immortal, but it is saying that there is a strong correlation between improving your social connections and improving your chances for a longer, healthier, happier life.

To do that, we’re going to explore a very specific strategy: building a guild. Because it can be tough making friends once we get out of high school and college (or even IN those locations), we’re going to intentionally build a social network.

So, where do we start? We need to create a Round Table like King Arthur.

Why build a guild?

round table

According to legend, King Arthur famously brought in some of the best and brightest warriors from all the land to serve in his court. Because the table is round, no one person has a bigger section of it than another person – in other words, everybody sits at the table with equal influence.

Well, I imagine Brave Sir Robin’s influence was slightly less than the others:

It was this round table that allowed Arthur to learn from the best and become a famous leader in ancient Britain. Or, if you’re more familiar with the awesomely terrible 1993 cartoon (that I freaking loved), Arthur was a football player who got sent back in time by Merlin to save Britain:

This is similar to the concept of a “guild.” Back in the middle ages, guilds were created to collectively help the group succeed financially and professionally. It could have been the mason’s guild, or the thatcher’s guild, the cobber’s guild, painter’s guild, or any other occupation.

In games like World of Warcraft and Everquest, guilds are composed of people who have similar playing styles or interests, giving them chance to hang out with one another and take on bigger bad guys than they could have challenged alone.

Now, just as Arthur understood that social connections and surrounding himself with the right people furthered his cause, ancient economies often revolved around guilds, many of the most successful people I know in the real world rely on their “guilds” too.

They just happen to call it something different: A mastermind group, as explained here in Lewis Howes‘s recently released School of Greatness:

A mastermind is a group of influential individuals who support you to take your business or life to the next level. With the collective mind of the group, you find support, information, and resources to serve you on your path. And you will get there much faster than trying to do it on your own.  The power of the mastermind lies with the people in it and the opportunities you can create from that network.

It’s essential to be a part of at least one mastermind (if not more), and I highly recommend being the creator and leader of one yourself at some point, too. Napoleon Hill, the legendary author of Think and Grow Rich, has a great way to think about masterminds: “the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” This isn’t actually his description of mastermind groups—it’s really one of his main principles for how to become successful.

The fact that those two concepts overlap so fully—masterminds and being successful—is not a coincidence in my mind. Just like strong social connections are correlated with improved odds of living a long life, masterminds are strongly correlated with improved odds for success.

Now you might say, “But Steve, I don’t have or need a mastermind group. I don’t run my own business and I have a regular job!”

I hear you (I have really good hearing), and that’s why I’m going to tell you why a guild is awesome, even in your situation, and why you should build your own “guild” (or join an existing one!). At its core, a guild can be:

  • Teams of influencers in your community connected for a purpose (fitness, business, family, hobbies, a love of comics, etc)
  • A group of people supporting each other to create the life/business they want
  • A catalyst for business and personal growth
  • A space for goals and holding each other accountable
  • A peer advisory board
  • An education, support, and brainstorming group

Think about it this way: you are reading Nerd Fitness because you are focused on improving your body. Why not take advantages of the opportunities around you to level up your life with a guild, aka a structured social group too? We have accountability partners in fitness; we should have accountability partners in life, too. I cannot speak highly enough of their help:

  • Somebody who asks us how we’re doing with our iPhone app project
  • Somebody to keep us on target with writing our new resume
  • A group of people who can use their networks to connect us with a new company/opportunity

Guilds help you focus on what’s important to you in leveling up your life by using the education, experience, and influence of other people who are mutually invested in your success. When run properly, they allow you to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time than you could ever accomplish alone.

There are two essential components to every successful guild: the right attitude and the right members. The guild’s attitude looks like this:

  • Friendly and cooperative
  • Noncompetitive
  • Willing to be creative and brainstorm ideas/solutions for others’ goals
  • Supportive of each other with total honesty, respect, and compassion
  • Not ever, at any point, indifferent

Now, you might already have some ideas of people who would make a great group of people to build a guild with: People who are successful in the way you want to be successful, fun to hang out with, encouraging, and inspiring you to want to be a better person.

But how do you find those people, and how do you bring them together? I knew you’d ask that (I am also clairvoyant).

Here’s how you can build your own guild, step-by-step (day by day…).

How to build a guild

mario and luigi legos

Think of it like a “Build-A-Bear” workshop, but for a peer group of people who help you be more awesome at existing.

There are a few key things you need to decide first. Is your guild an in-person guild or is it an online guild? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but both require the same thing: people who are interested in being a part of it!

The right candidate to form/join a guild with has:

  • A strong commitment to the group
  • Similar success and experience
  • An agreement about the guild attitude
  • An agreement on written guidelines created by and for the group
  • The ability to give and take equally when it comes to advice, support, and resources

To build your guild, start with 3 to 6 people and a simple guild agreement that includes:

  • The group name – Get super nerdy! The Musketeers? The Purple People Eaters?
  • How you’re going to connect (in person or via Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, phone?)
  • How long your meetings will be (1 to 2 hours minimum is recommended)
  • How often you will meet (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.)
  • When and where you will meet: Fridays for lunch? Saturdays at the Library?
  • The agenda for your meetings: It can be informal, but everybody should bring something they’re struggling with or working on to discuss whenever possible.

Just like anything else, the more concrete you can get with your decisions, the more likely you’ll be to actually do the damn thing! Now, this isn’t simply a strategy for entrepreneurs creating businesses, but for anyone looking to level up their hobbies, relationships, and more. It comes down to setting proper expectations for your guilds:

  • A literary guild: No, I don’t mean “read a few pages of 50 Shades of Grey and then drink wine and complain about our relationships.” I mean “this month, we will read this book on personal development, and then meet and truly discuss it.”
  • A running guild: Maybe you’re part of a group of runners at work that runs every day at 5pm and pushes each other to be better at the next 5k or 10k.
  • LARPing: What’s that? You love LARPing? Amazing. I bet there are some others in your city or town that love to LARP too. Can you get together to discuss tactics, plan trips to the next town, and investigate combining fores with other groups?
  • Learning a new skill: Are you learning a new skill, habit, or hobby? If you are learning code, for instance, you could create a guild to discuss your progress, help each other learn,  and work on projects together. Learning a musical instrument? Writing your first fiction book? Want to learn how to sew? Same thing!

Sure, it might take 20 seconds of courage to ask people you know to join you in your guild, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask right? If you don’t have people in real life to pull from, I bet there are a few folks in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion Message Boards that would love to be a part of something too. It starts by putting yourself out there and asking others who share your interests to make it a more formal affair.

Once you start to build your guild with the details above, it’s time to have that first meeting, set accountability measures (what happens if you don’t do your homework each week? I like making people pay money to a cause they hate!), and then evaluate regularly with how things are going.

My guilds


I’m personally part of two guilds: one for business, and one for personal development.

My business mastermind is a collection of individuals who also happen to run internet businesses similar Nerd Fitness. We get together a few times a year, in person, and spend the rest of the year exchanging emails on a listserv, connecting with members via Skype, and helping each other out.

My other round table took on a different type of support: we challenged each other to do fun/adventurous stuff!

For example, each month we task each other with a mission that has to be completed by the end of the month. Our group convened via email, shared Google Docs to stay on top of our mission, and kept in touch constantly. We even built in a serious level of accountability so that people actually followed through on their techniques (everybody has to contribute $50 if they don’t finish their mission by the end of the month… and we shame you. Like Cercei Lannister).

The mission changed monthly: One month we had to write and record a song (here’s mine, “Monaco“), the next month we had to create a signature cocktail with a fun name and backstory, and another month we had to build something  (my friend Cash constructed a new end table by hand to put in his apartment).

Are you in a guild?

stormtrooper friends

I’d love to hear your thoughts on creating or being part of a guild. If you’re already part of one, really think about how you are improving the environment of the people you’re hanging out with.

Here’s your step-by-step way to create your own small guild:

  1. Identify 2-3 other people who are interested in the same things you are, and want to level up in a similar way you do. Ask them via email or in person if they want to join your guild
  2. Create a fun guild name, and rules for engagement and membership
  3. Determine how you’ll meet (internet? coffee shop?) and how often.
  4. Schedule your meetings and add a level of accountability
  5. Consistently evaluate the health of the group and how you can improve or adapt it!
  6. Create things you want to accomplish and make sure members of the guild are working to improve themselves daily.

Let’s hear it: Have you ever been part of a guild/mastermind? How did it work out for you? How have you made sure you to surround yourself with more positive influences?

Lastly, would you be interested in being part of a more formal “guild” as explained above, here on Nerd Fitness? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can collectively level up our lives, together!


PS: A huge thanks to Lewis Howes for letting me pull from his book that launched the other day, School of Greatness. I got a chance to meet Lewis a few months ago and I was immediately struck by how freaking nice he was, and how much he just wanted to hear stories and connect people with others doing big things.


photo source: Kristina Alexanderson: Stormtroopers, Jonas K: Round Table, Brick 101: Mario and Luigi, Kenny Louie: Indiana Jones

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38 thoughts on “Want to live longer? Try building a guild.

  1. I really like the idea of a guild on Nerd Fitness. I’ve heard the
    concept before, and think it would be beneficial for me, the
    accountability, but I don’t have the courage to start my own.

  2. I’m in a guild of sorts: a wind quintet! A few people who play in our city’s Community Concert Band decided to form a small group so we could play together all year long. We practice for two hours once a week at someone’s house, and we had our first paying gig in September. We all feel that we’ve improved as musicians from being part of our quintet, and now we are all good friends! 🙂

  3. Guilds are awesome! I’m in a translator group that’s very similar to NF – only positive stuff, everyone supports and inspires everyone else, and together we’re achieving great things, both collectively and individually.

    I’ve also recently started a small group of people who are doing the University of Iowa online creative writing course (which is great but *lots* of work). And that’s really supportive too.

    I’d love to be involved in an NF guild, though – anyone else out there in southern Sweden?

  4. I started a personal development TED talk club at work before I went on maternity leave – no idea if it’s still going, but I’ll start it up again when I go back! I basically wanted other people to talk to about the amazing talks I was watching ?

    I would consider my mother’s group an accidental guild too. We swap tips, commiserate and celebrate the lows and highs of parenting, and encourage each other. It’s such a shame that it’ll probably fall apart as each of us returns to work; maybe I should try and shift it online with less frequent in person meetings.

  5. This is an awesome article, and it came just at the right time. I’ve been in a bit of a slump and I think this is what I need. Thank you! And, the idea of NF Guilds sounds interesting.

  6. Simple. Anyone who interested can reply to your comment, then send a message on an agreed email or alias etc and here you are 🙂

  7. How do manage to have a guild that is professional and also non-competitive? Unless your professional goals are very different, it seems like you might be in competition a lot. And if your goals are far apart enough that your goals don’t conflict, will this guild me helpful enough to guide you professionally?

  8. I meant more because I don’t know who wants to share their email or info here. Actually I’ll share my brand at facebook.com/healthstoriesforkids

  9. Tough topic for me. On one hand, I know that I should be more social and more accepting of social support. On the other hand, I have been hurt too much by people to really trust them and frankly too scared of them to really want that help. Also, I am way too competitive to be a good member of a guild.

  10. I would LOVE!!! to join a NF group like this! I’ve tried creating groups like this on my own, but it always fizzles 🙁

  11. I think starting a thread somewhere on the forums is probably the safest best. And then just leave the link to the thread on here

  12. can you go to that page and message me on that website? I’ll share with you my contact info and we can start the 2 of us and then try to get one more from the site

  13. I’m game for an NF guild! Have been trying to identify a group where I live but… I guess I’m just too nerdy!! ?

  14. As I was reading this I was like that sounds just like Napolean Hill’s books then I see him referenced and got all giddy. Very cool I find myself wanting in on this type of coalition but can’t seem to find them. Do you or anyone have advice on finding groups like this?

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  20. Same… People always think I’m weird when I ask them to join a group…

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