Welcome to Stuff I Learned Yesterday. My name is Darrell Darnell, I once beat 3 escape rooms in one day, and I believe that if you aren’t learning, you aren’t living.

I love escape rooms. It’s no surprise really. I love all sorts of puzzles. Solving various puzzle-types is one reason I love The Legend of Zelda franchise so much. Once I learned about escape rooms, I had to try one out. To me, they seemed like a real life example of a Zelda dungeon puzzle. I remember asking my family about doing an escape room and it went just about like I expected. My son, who also loves puzzles and Zelda was all about it. He was super excited about the idea. My wife and daughter, on the other hand, were not excited at all. They don’t really like puzzles, so their lack of enthusiasm was not unexpected.

Several years ago for my birthday, my wife surprised me with a trip to an escape room in our local town. I was super excited! Not only had none of us ever done an escape room, we really didn’t know what to expect either. I really only knew about the concept of an escape room, but I had no idea how to approach solving one or what kinds of puzzles you might find inside.

Once inside the room, the attendant gave us an explanation of the rules, told us how to access clues, and left us to find our way out. Our room was set up like a hospital room and we were trying to find our missing coworker. On one end of the room sat a medical bed with blue sheets and a white pillow. Around the room were various bookshelves, maps, medical charts, cabinets, and a doctor’s scale. 

Of course, with any escape room, there were several locks around the room. Most of the locks needed numbers to solve them, so we started scouring the room for clues and numbers. Within moments one of us found a clue on the bed. We all rushed over and started analyzing it. We searched everywhere on the bed in hopes it would reveal more clues. 

Each time someone would find a new clue, we’d all swoop in to try and figure out what to do with it. After we’d figure it out or give up, we’d scatter back around the room looking for something to help us make progress. I looked at the medical charts, the doctor’s scale, even a phone that was on the bookshelf. All the while, the big red clock on the wall was silently and relentlessly racing toward zero. The charts had to have a clue somewhere! Why else were they there? I stared at them for what seemed like ages but nothing revealed itself. And then, after what seemed like 15 minutes, the hour was up. We failed. It was still fun, but the sting of failure certainly diminished the experience.

The attendant came in and helped us see what we were missing. OOHHHH! Of course! How could we have missed all those clues?  I knew there was something on that chart!

Once back in the car we talked about the experience and what tripped us up. As I look back on that escape room experience now, I see a lot of rookie mistakes we made. First, our communication was terrible. We really only communicated when we were 100% sure we’d found a clue. I stared at those medical charts forever and I saw some things that I thought MIGHT be clues but I never told anyone. I never called anyone over to help sort it out. Everyone else pretty much did the same. Essentially, we were each working the escape room by ourselves, not as a team. Another mistake was that we all stopped working the room once someone found a clue. Instead of one or two people trying to figure out what to do with the clue and then ask for help from the others if needed, we all stopped working the room when a clue was found. This greatly reduced the actual amount of time the room was worked.

A few years later I was in Orlando for a podcast conference and there was a group of us that really love escape rooms. One of those people, Jonathan, had a lot of experience doing them. Naturally, we all decided to go out one day and find an escape room to conquer. Before we got started, Jonathan asked how experienced everyone in the group was. Some of them had never done an escape room before, while others like me, had done one or maybe two.

Jonathan gave us some great tips like how to organize items, the importance of discarding clues once they were used, who would be responsible for communicating the most important task at any given moment, having multiple people try a clue or lock before giving up on it, and even asking us what our strengths and interests were before hand, so he could help us each understand how we could best help the team.

We had a great time in the room and had no problem beating it. The next day those of us who were still in town decided to go play (and beat) three more escape rooms. The lesson Jonathan taught me were extremely valuable and I use them every time I do an escape room now. In fact, I don’t know the last time I was bested by a room. A couple of years ago we did a meet up for our Stranger Things podcast in Dallas and we found a Stranger Things themed escape room to enjoy. Not only did we beat the room, we smashed the record for beating it!

Here’s what I learned.

Working in a group and leveraging the strengths of different people is tremendously helpful, and I’m not just talking about escape rooms. For over a decade I have made it a priority to surround myself with other like-minded people via masterminds. The Mastermind concept was coined in 1925 by author Napoleon Hill in his book The Law of Success, and expounded upon in his 1937 book Think and Grow Rich. Since then, countless others have used this concept to gain exponential growth in their own lives and the lives of those with which they mastermind.

Masterminds can help you work through challenges in your personal relationships, finances, business, health, spiritual life, and every other area of your life. Last year I even joined a second mastermind! One of my mastermind groups includes another full-time podcaster, a serial entrepreneur who has made millions of dollars in his businesses, and an expert in copywriting. Those descriptions are very inadequate as each of them have more skills, experience, and knowledge than I could put into a single sentence. My second mastermind is specifically designed for men who are full time entrepreneurs and are also Christians. Two of the men are full time software developers and one of them is a full time website developer. 

In each of these masterminds, we rotate each week so that one person brings a challenge to the group. That challenge could be from any of the categories I mentioned before. In most cases, that person shares some background with the group a day or two before the meeting so that everyone has a chance to think about the challenge ahead of time. Then during the meeting, each person takes time to make sure they fully understand the challenge, and offer up their point of view on how it can best be solved. In most cases that I’ve experienced, one person’s ideas will end up creating a brainstorming type of domino effect that leads to an even better solution. All of our minds working together create a master mind that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Each mastermind meeting also includes time for each person to share some wins they’ve experienced during the week, and ends with them sharing what they need to accomplish before the next meeting. Then when the next meeting comes around, there’s an accountability check in. In this way, the group is lifting each other up and holding each other accountable.  Because of this, I walk away experiencing growth and encouragement from every single mastermind meeting in both of my groups.

Tapping into the strengths and insights of others is incredibly important. Too many times we find ourselves feeling trapped in life. We’ve tried all we know to do, and we can’t find the results or the solutions we desire. Trying to solve everything on your own doesn’t work in an escape room, so why should we ever think it would work on something infinitely more complex and important as life? Experiencing growth in our personal relationships, finances, businesses, health, and spiritual lives are not only beneficial to us, but growth in these areas also benefits those we care about most and the world around us. Every one of us has room to grow, and tapping into the power of a mastermind is your key to unlocking the puzzles of life.

I’m Darrell Darnell, and this has been Stuff I Learned Yesterday.

I want you to be a part of the next Monday Mailbag NEXT WEEK! The submission deadline is the end of the day, this Wednesday, April 24th. Monday Mailbag is your opportunity to Share what YOU’VE learned, so that other listeners and I can learn from YOU.  It can be a message as short as 30 seconds or several minutes long.  It really doesn’t matter just as long as it’s something that will benefit others.  You can send in questions or responses to my SILY episodes, and I’ll respond to them via Monday Mailbag episodes. You can participate in Monday Mailbags by visiting the Golden Spiral Media listener feedback page at goldenspirlamedia.com/feedback.