How to Create Your Own Private Cartel

You see it all the time. The same big names promoting each other; from the outside it looks like a conspiracy or coalition designed to support a mutual interest.

Maybe you thought it was arrogant or elitist. Or… maybe you secretly wanted a cartel of your own. A group of diehard comrades that have your back in all settings — whenever you release a project, they show up without hesitation to ensure its success.

If you need trusted feedback on a new idea, they’re there to listen and give you a candid response. When you’re down and questioning yourself, they’re by your side giving you words of encouragement.

Starting to sound not so bad, isn’t it?

Creating your own cartel is simple, but it takes careful planning and scrupulousness. These are a few guidelines I’ve found useful to follow:

  1. Find strategic partners (in crime). You want the people in your cartel to have a similar vision and values as you do. But you also don’t want to surround yourself with virtual clones. While five incredible marketers in your circle would make for an impressive powerhouse, it doesn’t make for much variety (and it’s not very strategic). Try to find people that excel in areas that you don’t. This way you bring a unique value to the table, and create an advisory board of people with skill sets that complement your own.
  2. Choose your cohorts wisely. In many ways, you are the sum of the closest five people around you. Do they represent the type of person you want to be like? Being deliberate about who you bring close to you sets you up for positive reinforcement.
  3. Be a resource, and a lighthouse. What unique talents and resources do you bring to those you want to partner with? What can you contribute that no one (or only a few) can? Show up offering your help — look for ways you can tactfully offer assistance and you’ll go far. Be someone encouraging; a lighthouse that illuminates the way and inspires others to shine more brightly. The more uplifting and inspired, the more others will naturally gravitate toward you and want to orbit around your field of awesomeness.
  4. Go big deep. We want our cartel to be tight knit and unwavering. It’s hard to accomplish that when you have a large force to mobilize. Keeping our circle small, we stay agile. And that way we’re able to give our best selves to the others in the group. It’s hard to be there for 20 people in a really meaningful way. Five, however, is a more manageable number. How many people do you want in your crew? How can you make the connections deep and keep camaraderie high?
  5. A cartel is different than a tribe. You may be sitting here thinking that you want more than five people in your tribe. As you should. Your tribe is a larger group of people that congregate around similar interests and values. It may be large or relatively small, and your level of connection will vary with the people in your tribe. Your cartel, however, is something you keep intentionally small for maximum effect.
  6. Share your evil plans. How can your cartel know how to best help you unless you share your plans with them? If we want to create a strong brother and sisterhood, we need to not expect help, but be willing to ask for it. This also means regularly checking in with your circle to ask what you can do to help. What’s most important or urgent for them right now? You may also consider creating a shared calendar for your group to see when your people are launching or holding events, so you can all be coordinated and ready to help.
  7. Pool your resources. “We’re stronger together than apart.” A wise adage I’ve found true on my path. Within your cartel you always want to be thinking about how you can augment each other’s strengths to create something better than you could apart. Whenever you’re formulating a plan or releasing a project into the world, think about how you can involve your council members to help you create something more powerful than you could on your own.

Do you know any rising stars you can invite to join your private cartel? Who can complement and enhance your unique genius?

The purpose of creating your own inner circle is to create a trusted group of allies that help each other succeed. But have as much fun with this as you’d like. Should each member have their own secret superpower? Are you the Fantastic Four, or the Three Stooges?

Also, remember that while your cartel should be going for depth, it shouldn’t be high-seated or overly exclusive. You can leverage your network to help others and build community. And while building a tight social network can build you up, it can also be pretty damn boring if you never connect beyond it.

photo courtesy of frankdouwes

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Jeff Goins April 27, 2011 at 10:42 am

Great post and interesting offer. I’m sending you an email.


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Nice to meet you Jeff, thanks for stopping by.

David William April 27, 2011 at 11:25 am

I appreciate that you have a call to arms and an open invite to connect. I will certainly keep this in mind. For now, I’m trying to build up my own vision and worth so when I do hope to connect, I have something valuable and desirable to offer. :)


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Sounds good David. Keep in mind, it’s never too early to start building your network and advisory board. Who knows, you may make some interesting friendships with people that will be bestselling authors in a few years.

Ev`Yan April 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm

This is such a power message; one of your best yet. I would be honored to be included inside of your private cartel.

You’re already in mine.


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Of course you have an automatic backstage pass. :)

Nora April 27, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Love it! I’ve been saying this since – forever, except I called it a mafia (Well, I am from NJ) and this is always the source of power as far as I can tell – in politics, in economics, in families, in business, and yet, finding that chemical mix is a battle, sometimes lifelong. Now, I know what to write on my personal ad…Seeking cartel…


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Mafia sounds even more badass. I wish I could pull that off. :)

Joel Zaslofsky April 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Great post and a great open invitation for your community to engage with you. I’ve always appreciated your willingness to interact with those who value the message you put out there.
I’ve been conscious of creating the bonds that will form the basis of an awesome cartel down the road. I would love people to pool resources with and it’s huge with me since I’m all about enlightened resource management.
Although I can’t think of something to engage you on at this point (that would be worth your time) I’d love to do this in the future.


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Sounds good Joel. Even if you’re not ready yet it’s something good to be thinking about.

Matthew Bailey April 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Great Post! It’s so true that a close group of people (a cartel) can achieve far great success than doing it alone. I’ll send an email as well.


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:22 pm

It’s amazing what we can accomplish together. It always surprises me in a delightful way.

Jennifer April 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Sigh. I’d love a cartel. It’s time to stop whining that I can’t have one just because I’m in a small town.


Brooke April 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I feel like I’m in a small town! I have two big project ideas that need refining, and my friends could help me with that (market research, etc). However… too many of them just tell me how “wonderful my ideas are” and don’t give me meaningful feedback, while they still work their 9-5’s. (I try to tell them… they can do it, too! There’s more to life!)
Time for me to find a virtual cartel, I guess. Any takers in the fitness/food realm? :)

Daniel Richman April 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Your help is an amazing offer, but I am fine. I’ve watched power-people such as you and our friend Mike Roberts go through some awesome life altering missions. It’s a help to me just to witness the amazement through your email campaigns, blog posts, and social media updates. The inspiration I receive is irreplaceable with currency alone. You guys are what I dream to be if I ever retire from self-employment. Someone who loves a challenge (and eats them for breakfast), and someone who cares with 10,000% of their being about the world around them. I continue to live vicariously through you, Mike, Raam Dev, Ev’yan, and all the other local super-humans. Thank you for YOU.


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:23 pm

This is one of the best compliments ever. Thank you Daniel.

kelly April 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I have read this entry three times today. This afternoon in a meeting with a trusted friend I said – “We need to start a cartel!” And we are! Such an awesome post :)


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Do it! It will change your life.

Brian Tomlinson April 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Great post Johnathan. Taking this from the level of a Tribe to more of a private mastermind is great and I love the concept of the cartel. We have very similar paths so would love to connect and see how we could better each other’s lives.
Thanks for this.


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:23 pm

You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by Brian.

TAllagash April 27, 2011 at 8:23 pm

“you are the sum of the closest five people around you.”

even more concise and accurate than “you are the company you keep”


Angela Artemis April 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Great idea Jonathan. What tactics would you suggest that the cartel follow? Tweeting/sharing on FB/supporting product launches/commenting? Are there other ways of supporting and helping each other grow?
Thank you!


Annie Andre April 28, 2011 at 6:23 am

Great question! I would love to know the answer.
I’m new to the idea of joining forces. But here’s what I just did.

I’m starting with everyone here who commented on this article and clicking through to their blogs and tweeting about the articles i like. I’m also sending out a request to those I think might align best with me and vice versa to connect.

It’s very scary to do that. My biggest fear is rejection.

Jonathan April 28, 2011 at 8:57 am

Here are a few ideas Angela:

– Joint webinars where you promote each others products to your respective lists

– Include a “teaser” copy of each others products when someone purchases either (like half the ebook/product for free)

– Weekly mastermind meetings with feedback and accountability

– A shared calendar to coordinate promotion on launches

– A google group to notify each other when you release your best free content (blog posts, manifestos, free guides, etc.)

Barak Rosenbloom April 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm


This is so timely for me! I had lunch yesterday with a woman developing fantastic programs and products for women turning 50, which is a great partnership for the work I’m doing around curiosity, play and, specifically, how we can live more naturally with time. We even came up with some great websites to act as an umbrella for our work and others.

My partners and I recently finished our free ebook (which is definitely not a dead one!) and are creating video and other material. I think our work will resonate very much with your readers, and I would love to explore being part of your cartel as well.

(The ebook is “The Curious Person’s Alternative to Time Management: Delete the Stress, Do What Matters, Enjoy Life” — it’s available for free at our website,

Thank you again for the illumination!


p.s., I clicked on the link for the trailblazers, and it took me to a signup page to download ebooks I already got from your mailing list. Is that the page you wanted to send people to?


Jonathan April 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

Hey Barak, nice to meet you. Sounds like you’re working on some interesting stuff.

And yep, that link was supposed to go to my newsletter. We have an amazing community of over 7,000 trailblazers there. :)

Tony April 28, 2011 at 1:33 am

Haha, what a great concept. I never really thought about it like that. But, now I Know what I’m focus on next in my blogging career. Thanks for sharing.


Jonathan April 28, 2011 at 9:03 am

Glad you found it useful and amusing. Business and blogging should be fun. :)

Annie Andre April 28, 2011 at 6:02 am

I’ve been doing a lot of lurking since i started my personal goal to escape the 9 to 5 conventional thinking. The more I lurk, the more afraid I’ve become to reach out to others because of the exact thing you say in this article.

“The same big names promoting each other; from the outside it looks like a conspiracy or coalition designed to support a mutual interest.”

It really is intimidating because everyone in my niche seems to have it all figured out. They all seem to know what the heck they are talking about. While, i’m here just kind of winging it. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to announce my arrival “so to speak”.
But your article made me realize that there is never going to be THE right time and it’s never to early.

I would love to join your cartel. And i’m going to reach out to others, especially others who comment on articles like this one.

Thanks for the motivational article.


Jonathan April 28, 2011 at 9:04 am

You’d be surprised how many of them are winging it too. Most of us are just stumbling along, making mistakes and figuring this stuff out as we go. Myself included.

I’m glad you took the courage to reach out! The more you push your comfort zone, the more you know you’re growing.

kelly April 29, 2011 at 8:43 am


I think most are “winging it” – trying to find a place in this life that doesn’t suck. I think the key is to “do it afraid”

I wish you great success!

Jen April 28, 2011 at 7:48 am

Holy hell…that was amazing! I have totally felt like the same people promote each other and not sure how to create that experience for myself and others. I love the cartel concept. I’ll have to reread this for sure.


Jonathan April 28, 2011 at 9:04 am

Thanks Jen! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Justin | Mazzastick April 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Cartel sounds like a good idea similar to a mastermind group. I have several people in mine and am always looking to add more people to my posse.

It’s easy for our brains to get fried so it’s a good idea to have others to rely on.


Jonathan April 29, 2011 at 7:24 am

It is similar to a mastermind group, but I think it’s taken a step further. The cartel kind of transcends and includes the mastermind.

mike April 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Too bad cartels are illegal


Jonathan April 29, 2011 at 7:24 am

I don’t think that’s the kind we’re talking about here Mike. :)

Craig April 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Love the idea of a private cartel. My wife and I right now are going through a total revamp and I’d like to send you an email with our plans….very cool stuff here


Derek April 29, 2011 at 6:45 am

Hey Jonathan,
I think Napoleon Hill in Think And Grow Rich placed a high value on creating a mastermind group. Robert Kiyosaki talks about creating a team all the time.
I have always been solo, maverick type of guy, but I’m more and more convinced that a few brains are possibly better than one.
I have experience in fitness, rental real estate and personal development.


Erlinda April 29, 2011 at 7:40 am

My “epic plan” is to build an online business through selling, affiliates and advertising. I am a mommy blogger, and in the process, I want to help other moms choose to stay home and work if they want to. On a grander scale, my three biggest pet peeves are: human trafficking, cancer and the education system. When I am successful, I want to focus on eliminating the problems of these three issues. Right now, I am beginning again, restarting from a failed business venture and not ashamed at all. However, I humbly come to this site to learn and ask for advice. Any helpful advice is appreciated.


amy April 29, 2011 at 11:59 am

I have read this post 5 times now. I’m both energized and frustrated. My “real life” cartel has been a disappointment; an encouragement in the wrong direction at best. My plan is to stay open to meeting people with a cooperative, supportive focus. You’ve given me a lot to think about and a definition to work with. Thanks!


Mike Radivis April 30, 2011 at 6:01 am

Excellent mind-food! How do you get those great ideas?

I feel having an own cartel is a high priority for me now that I’m on the way to create a new personal development blog. I’ve already started to reach out a bit, but your post motivates me to take the process to the next level! :)


Benny April 30, 2011 at 7:39 am

I definitely agree with surrounding yourself with great people in order to be successful. If you’re an eagle but surrounded by chickens, you’ll think you’re a chicken.

As a beginning blogger trying to get out of my 9-5 job don’t have any epic plans now but when I do, I hope to get some feedback from you.


Milo May 1, 2011 at 5:28 am

Thanks for this Jonathan. It was through being a part of Paid to Exist that I was able to do a similar thing by keeping in touch with some of the other members, and their support since doing the course has been a great way of keeping motivated.


collectivechng May 25, 2011 at 11:04 am

What happens if you can’t pay or compensate your cartel. After all, if it’s not their original idea they want to know that they’re getting paid, in one way or another. I run into this problem all the time, people come and go because they can’t stay around with simple promises?


GilesOj February 26, 2012 at 6:11 am

This is a very important topic. Without a cartel, a mastermind group, or a crew; it’ll be almost impossible to achieve anything great. Study every great organization, and you’ll notice that there is a “cartel” behind its success. Napoleon Hill also stressed how important having a mastermind group is, but the only challenging thing here is finding and admitting the right people into your mastermind group. They have to be committed, serious, and have similar values. People in a group don’t always have to expect monetary benefits for being together; they just have to provide consistent support for each other- motivation, projects, advice, ideas, and suggestions. 


YaelGrauer March 11, 2012 at 11:57 pm

The hard part I have with cartels is when it smacks of insincerity: people who will promote each other’s products even if they’re not very good. 


SystemsThinker July 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I just came across this and we are thinking along some very similar lines in a lot of ways.
I wrote this piece many years ago. It takes on a very related topic but goes into even more depth about it. I hope you don’t mind me posting a link.
<a href=””>My Scheme Team Dream: Partners Wanted for Shaping and Changing The World</a>
Finding those partners can be very difficult. But one has to continue to keep their eyes open.


SystemsThinker July 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I just came across this and we are thinking along some very similar lines in a lot of ways.
I wrote this piece many years ago. It takes on a very related topic but goes into even more depth about it. I hope you don’t mind me posting a link.
It’s called My Scheme Team Dream: Partners Wanted for Shaping and Changing The World
Finding those partners can be very difficult. But one has to continue to keep their eyes open.


Catherine Kerton-Johnson February 23, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Ah, yes. A cartel. I have a question – would the people in the cartel be expected to work with you on projects, or would they be more of a support team, in terms of personal advice and growth as you work. I already have a close team of creative partners, but they are also my management staff. Should I be looking for partners who are more personally objective?


Mark Ball October 13, 2017 at 1:35 pm


Is this like, a good guy Cartel?


Cedric October 16, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Yep :)

Jeff Goins April 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

Thanks, Jonathan. Looking forward to talking.


David William April 28, 2011 at 10:11 am

Yes! I like it. I am connecting more now. I sort of already do, but now I am inspired to push harder! Thanks Jonathan.


Jonathan April 27, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Awesome to see you guys reaching out to each other! Creating a cartel takes initiative. It’s great to see you stepping up.


Joseph Rice May 13, 2011 at 11:49 am

hey brooke – –

i have some experience in the fitness and food realm, plus some editorial experience. feel free to contact me if you need some feedback.



Angela Artemis May 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Thank you so much for sharing these brilliant ideas with us!


Barak Rosenbloom April 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Thanks — and I’ll check it out.



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