If I Were 22: Tackle Issues With an Imaginary Board of Directors

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This post is part of a series in which Influencers share lessons from their youth. Read all the stories here.

Ok, admit it. Your family still talks about your imaginary friend from when you were little. And you actually still miss that friend. The friend came from deep in your young soul and may have been called Marsha or Peter or Mrs. Blinkin or Rascal the Postman. The name didn’t matter; you loved that friend.

Those imaginary friends were always there – through thick and thin. You could seek counsel when you were in trouble and the friend never judged you. The friend was always available and always up for any activity you suggested. The Hall of Fame for Imaginary Friends ranges from Mr. Snuffleupagus of Sesame Street to Tyler Durden of the movie Fight Club. Most importantly, your imaginary friend was the one you could trust to do what was best for you.

If you are just starting your career, it’s time to bring back imaginary friends. The friends may just be a different group with a different purpose. Imaginary friends can help your career. And now that you are an adult, let’s transition the cast of imaginary friends to a PERSONAL BOARD of DIRECTORS.

“Ha!” you say. Here is why you need a Personal Board of Directors.

Your friends are gone. All of those room mates and close buddies you could share secrets with at 2:00 AM are now dispersed and busy. Sure they are still your life long friends, but they are dealing with their own issues.
Your parents are still around and good advisors but do you really want to ask them where to sit in the conference room or how best to prepare a report?
At times you will need a cheerleader. Who better to serve that role than a member of the Board who knows you so well?
You will be in unknown territory every day. Each situation at work will be one where you are wondering what you might/should do and you need someone handy. That is where the Personal Board of Directors enters the scene. Ask them what to do.
I have a Personal Board of Directors and I call on them for advice on a regular basis. Several regulars are on the Board including: Wilford Butler (now deceased) who taught me there is always a proper way to do things in the business world. Also included is Paul Newman, whom I never met but always admired for his integrity, bravery, humor and a sense that he always did the right thing. As the situation dictates, I add other members to the Board, some alive, some not. Some I know, some of whom I never met. They are my advisors and counselors.

When faced with an unknown situation, I ask them what to do. Or, more pointedly, what would Paul do now? Or what would Wilford do now? The answers, based on what I think they would say, always guide me in a good way.

Don’t be embarrassed by this notion. Research shows that having imaginary friends does not indicate an emotional void or problems and that almost everyone has the “special” friends. Research shows too that extroverts have as many imaginary friends as introverts and that imaginary friends are usually in the form of a role model, not the ones who make the mistakes. All the same findings would, I think, apply to a Personal Board of Directors.

So go create one – all it takes is a little imagination building a bond between the person you know you are and the person that you want to be. A Personal Board of Directors can make a big difference.

Photo: stephanie/Shutterstock

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