Scott Hanselman

Who is on your Life's Board of Directors?

June 13, 2012 Comment on this post [18] Posted in Musings
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UPDATE: Share this URL! and tell YOUR support network about this idea!

My good friend Luvvie, a humor blogger, recently tweeted this in response to some goodness in her life:

Luvvie and I have talked about this before and even assembled board of directors for ourselves, have suggested the idea to friends, acquaintances and even a few real-life famous people. My friend Adria Richards has "Team Adria" for example, and reaches out when life gets exciting and confusing.

The idea is of a board of directors is such a simple one but it's truly life changing when put to work.

Adria, myself and Luvvie

My wife and I talk a little about mission statements in the context of marriage in our (perpetually) upcoming book on Relationship Hacks. Here's a quote from our as-of-yet-unfinished book:

And so we sat down to develop a mission statement. Historically the idea of a mission statement has been associated with religious groups, guiding missionaries on their religious missions by giving them specific principles they can hold on to. In recent times most people are familiar with the concept of a mission statement in a corporate context.

Using the definition of "mission statement" from Wikipedia - the source of all geek wisdom until it's edited by someone else - and we'll replace the words company or organization with marriage. If you're not married, of course adjust the paragraph to your preference.

A formal, short, written statement of the purpose of a marriage. The mission statement should guide the actions of the marriage, spell out its overall goal, provide a sense of direction, and guide decision-making. It provides "the framework or context within which the marriage's strategies are formulated."

Take a moment and drink that in, as Scott likes to say. That seems like a totally reasonable thing to do doesn't it? I mean, you agonize about your vows for weeks, why not take an evening and write a mission statement? Why do so few people work for months to plan home purchases, months deciding where they live, what car to buy, but don't create guiding principles for the next 50 years of your life?

Companies have mission statements and a Board of Directors. Your life is pretty important. Why not create a Life Board of Directors to help you through it? Pick 2 to 5 of your friends. Not necessarily your closest friends, but friends that are close enough where you can really confide but not so close that they can't see the big picture. Email them one a month, once a quarter or "once a crisis." Ask them for advice, lean on them, trust them and help them as well.

Assemble "Team You" and use your team to brainstorm directions and implementations of big decisions like moving to New York, or changing your business's direction, starting a new venture, or getting fit. 

Use your personal Board of Directors as one of the compasses in your life. You've got family, friends, perhaps faith, hobbies, values, etc. Add your Team to this list of personal compasses. 

It might sound like a silly mind game, but that's common with many hacks. Hacks feel insignificant but can have huge effects. The trick is to remember that it is a hack - you're hacking yourself. The idea of life's board of directors is a relationship hack meant to remind you in difficult times that you can agree on something fundamental and you have a team to support you in your endeavors. Set a direction and head in that direction with the confidence you've got a supportive group behind you.

Go assemble your Life's Board today.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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June 13, 2012 11:47
Liked the idea.
June 13, 2012 12:54
Holy cuss. I like you Scott you wear your heart on your sleeve and you give a cuss. We need more Hanselmans
June 13, 2012 20:07
Ok Scott now I know you are a fashionable metro guy but what is it with you and brown and black shirts ? Where you at some point told that brown is your colour ? or is that blue isn't ? I hope you see where I am coming from you are always pictured in brown shirts. Down under here their is an old joke about brown suits don't fall into that category. From someone who cares ;)
PS at least you have a black T under this.
June 13, 2012 20:14
Stephen - No, I don't get your point?
June 13, 2012 20:47
Hiya Scott -
Am a HUGE fan of the idea of having a Advisory Board of Directors for your life. I created one for myself when I was in career transition and recognized the magic of it, so I started creating and facilitating them for others, which became a process that I call Board of Your Life (not bad, eh?) Just released a product by the same name.

The program is designed for someone who wants to make a shift and doesn't know that that shift might be. Powerful + transformative stuff.

It's exciting to see others talking about the power of support systems.

Happy to have found you and am looking forward to diving in deeper.

I'll be in your gorgeous city next month for the World Domination Summit. I can almost taste the voodoo donuts.
June 13, 2012 22:17
So this inspired me. I'll send this link to certain people. I need a board of directors in my life! Must get started on this soon. ~BahSun
June 13, 2012 22:42
I already have my Life's Board of Directors.

The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost!
June 14, 2012 0:32
My 3 Irish wives. Strong family relationships with strong women at the core keep me grounded and help me ask the right questions of myself when I need it most. I thought for years that I needed a mentor to help with career issues since tech bores the wives so quickly. It might not hurt, but I find plenty of value in the opinion and advice of the most important women in my life. If I can't convince them that something is important, relevant, or even exciting, then it may not be all that. Here's a plug for the strong, smart, and opinionated women helping men like me get their priorities straight. I think any good Life Board of Directors should include at least one (other than Mom).
June 14, 2012 14:06
I have spent my life listening to other people tell me that I should do things their way. I am now finally free of that, and never, willingly, going back.

The freedom to pursue my own great, creative ideas is wildly liberating. Why would I set up a board of directors to say, "Well, you're not doing that!"

June 14, 2012 18:12
Michael wrote:
I already have my Life's Board of Directors.

The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost!

Does the Lord not grant you wisdom and guidance through other people in your life? Your preacher, your family and your friends? I don't think the idea of a flesh and blood board of directors is contrary to Christian belief. I think if you pick the right board, its complementary.

Colonel Tusker wrote:
I have spent my life listening to other people tell me that I should do things their way. I am now finally free of that, and never, willingly, going back.

The trick is finding people that will advise you and not tell you what to do. Not all companies have a board of directors. Some good sized privately held companies are run as autocratically. I'm always seeking good advice from people. Some people are able to use advice in such a way that their still living their own life.
June 14, 2012 19:24
Great topic!

However, I think the term "Board of Advisors" might be more appropriate.
June 15, 2012 5:12
I used to poll my friends often about stuff like this, but I was so unhappy with things that it just turned into a bitch session every time. I have begun to gather people around but never quite as formally as this.

Something else I have is called "the power of ultimate veto". It is to be use when it is clear that a decision/choice I've made is really not in my best interest. Specifically when I can't see it myself. One of my friends (close, but not closest) can "veto" my choice. Tell me that I need to undo whatever it was.

It has been 11 years since giving this power and it has not been invoked. This isn't from lack of bad decisions, but because I've either seen the problem myself or been convinced to see things from a different perspective. My friend respects this ultimate power of choice in my life. It is never joked about, no "you should get this for lunch" or anything.

I'm pretty sure this isn't maintainable forever, nor for everybody. But it is a checks and balances system not unlike the Life Board of Directors or the USA political system.
June 15, 2012 15:01
Hey Scott,

Very interested in your mission journey. My wife and I found our family went through specific "seasons", which required a more dynamic approach than your average mission statement could provide.

We came across a concept of a thematic goal which seems to fit our family much better. To begin with, its focus is between 6-12 months. Then there are two specific areas 1 for reaching the goal, and the other for acknowledging the necessities in life.

More info can be found at

Our thematic goal for this year was to focus on our family. It is quite amazing how by having a goal, how much it can affect your decision making for the good!

Hope it helps.

Kia Ora Reuben
June 15, 2012 18:30
WTF? I get enough of corporate operations at work.

Perhaps you should get some nail polish remover to remove your lips from the corporate backside.

That is the most asinine idea I have ever heard. You maybe a good coder but I think you may need professional help.
June 15, 2012 22:37
This is a great concept! Finding those appropriately qualified directors can sometimes be challenging though.

Jin: You do understand that he did not mean you need to get incorporated and literally get a board of directors right? sigh

June 18, 2012 7:00
As long as I don't need a "Life's HR Department", I'm game, although I'm more interested in just a partnership or sole proprietership :)

>>Perhaps you should get some nail polish remover to remove your lips from the corporate backside.

Time to change that prescription, son.

June 24, 2012 6:01
Assuming that you have the proper people to fill such a position in a company context is a must have, or else if you don't have the good+capable+willing+suitable people, you have bigger problems.

In the context of a the company, this is just common sense. At least that's how it feels in software companies.

However, when it comes to personal life, things can be quite trickier. You don't get to choose your parents or siblings. Many get to choose their partners so early and regret it for the rest of their lives. Breaking up with families (especially when kids involved or when family is parents and siblings) is not as simple firing somebody from your company.

Many people don't choose where to live. Many friends are too busy to be there even though they're genuinely willing to.

I heart taking advice whenever possible. Keeping your friends and family around and involving with them, but for many people, they have an "enforced" board of directors / stakeholders who control the most parts of their lives, not because they want to control, but because they have their own implications from their own board as well. To many, those would be in family, close people, work, gov/society, and more... So when I picture getting to many people with such initiative, some would say they want to get a break from their existing board already.
January 26, 2013 20:15
I appreciate your suggestions. I have created what I have come to call my life board of mentors. I consult with at least some of them regularly - but in thought. You see most of my mentors are deceased and one group I include is the seventh generation from the future. Some of my mentors, deceased or still living, I have met in person. Most I have just met through their writing or life work. God/Goddess and Christ Jesus are among them.

Usually I gather together the individuals I'd like to consult with about a particular problem into an imaginary location and ask for their guidance. Occasionally they discuss among themselves and decide by consensus, often not. The discussion is always interesting to me. More often then not an individual mentor will convey their advice to me directly. Usually without speaking - eye contact, smile, gesture, hug. Very affirming. "My" Mahatma Gandhi, chair of board development: peace is especially reliable in getting through to the real me.

I commune with my board mentors at every opportunity. As a portrait artist I paint their portraits. As a reader I commune with them in their writings and anecdotes or biographies about them. I like to think that they are honored and want to serve as mentors. Across time and space and even particularly with me.

So are my life board of mentors imaginary? Probably. Practical? Definitely. Helpful? Undoubtedly.

But don't take just my word for it. Let's allow the likes of Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Benjamin Franklin, William Morris, Marcel Proust, Henry David Thoreau, and Mother Theresa (to name just some of my distinguished deceased Mentors) have the last word. Asked what their response is to the idea of life mentors. Collectively and with resonance, "Om!"

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.