Creating Your Board of Directors

Life gets hard from time to time. But, the good news is that we don’t do life alone. You’re nuts if you think you do. Time and time again the quality of your life is tied to the quality of your relationships. And, I’m not talking about girlfriends or drinking buddies. I’m talking brass tacks, I’m stuck, I’m freaking out. Who are you turning to for help?

The Greatest Advice

Despite the eight years that separated us, my brother and I shared a room growing up. After he was kicked out of college because he liked to party more than he liked to study, he entered the Navy. On the morning he left for boot camp, he provided the greatest piece of advice I’ve every received: “Learn from my mistakes. I made them for you.”

In an instant, I realized that I didn’t have to make my own mistakes. If I could just be highly self-aware and scan the landscape of life, I could quickly discern, “Yes to this and no to that.” There are no more valuable words I’ve ever heard. I read an unattributed quote years later that sums up my brother’s words:

“A wise man learns from his own mistakes. A genius learns from the mistakes of others.”

My First BOD

I was twelve years old when I formed my first Board of Directors. I grew up in a broken and addicted home. Normally, your parents are Vice Chair 1 and Vice Chair 2 on your Board. I didn’t have that luxury at that time of my life, so I had to open my mind to new possibilities.

Leaning on my brother’s words, I scanned the landscape of the smartest people I knew. I found them. They happened to be in books. Quote books to be exact. Instead of asking my parents for advice, quotes shaped and guided my thinking. I realized at an early age that I could learn from the smartest, best thinkers in the world and throughout time with quotes. My brother was right. I didn’t have to figure it all out on my own. When I was having a tough time, I simply flipped the pages to “persistence” or “tenacity” or “resilience.”

Quotes steeled my reserves to succeed. Think about this original powerhouse Board of Directors: Ghandi was on it. Abraham Lincoln was on it. Martin Luther King was on it. Confucius was on it. Ben Franklin was on it. Amazingly, everyone I asked accepted my invitation – and did so gladly and without compensation.

Selecting Your BOD

Today’s BOD is similarly compensated and similarly accomplished. I don’t even ask them; I just invest heavily in my relationship with them. And, every time I’ve needed them, they were there for me. A well-rounded BOD meets the following three important, rigorous components:


As you think about the dilemmas you will face, there are five key life dimensions to consider. Each dimension should be represented. In many cases, your high quality team will crossover to share many dimensions. For instance, my wife Rachel covers the spectrum of dimensions. The five key dimensions are:

  1. Family
  2. Health
  3. Business
  4. Financial
  5. Spiritual

Cheerleaders and Critics

There are many roles on a Board. Two of them involve the approach for the member. I call them cheerleaders and critics.

When things are hard, you natural tendency is to seek the shelter of a cheerleader. But, you should really be seeking out the critics – the people who are going to be real and shoot straight. For instance, my Mom is always going to be a Cheerleader for me. It’s just who she is in life. When I have a difficult situation with complex competing interests, I shouldn’t seek her shadow. I need to find the critic who is going to get real, boil it down and help create clarity.

Make sure you know your Board and who fulfills what role.

Prerequisites to your BOD

I’ve learned to ask three questions about a potential member. Each question is critical to forming the very best board that is genuinely helpful and interested in your success.

  • Do they love you enough to tell you you’re wrong?
  • Do they have the intellectual horsepower to contribute to your biggest decisions?
  • Are they open-minded enough to listen all the way through before jumping in to “solve” the challenge?

Your Board

Nothing has created more strength and support in my life than naming my BOD. I know that when I have those dark moments, and I promise they are coming, I know exactly who is on speed dial.

Who are you phoning?

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Random Quote

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

— H Jackson Brown

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