How Not to Face Big Decisions Alone

How to build your “personal advisory board.”

I recently encountered a complex business challenge that I just couldn’t solve. Two days later, my phone rang and a major life decision landed in my lap.  The gravity of these choices weighed on me and after much time, thought, and prayer, I realized that I needed some outside perspective. Who did I call? Members of the JSAB, of course.

The JSAB- Jessica Stollings Advisory Board- is made up of my peeps. My go-tos. My friends, family, and mentors. I’ve asked them to sit at my table and help me think through life’s challenges and opportunities. I’m so happy they said yes!

Within minutes of reaching out, I received an innovative idea for my business issue. I never would have dreamed up this out-of-the-box solution on my own. The feedback I received on the personal front was consistent with my gut feeling. Seven out of seven “board members” offered the same reply, almost verbatim. Why? Because they know me and want the best for me and- in this situation- the road forward was clear.

Power in multiple perspectives

Should you declare the major? Date the guy or girl? Take the job? Make the move? Buy the house? Life if full of choices and sometimes in the middle of pondering them, it can get increasingly hard to see your situation clearly. Inviting others into your journey is a great way to gain perspective.

Certainly you want to develop the confidence, patience, and critical thinking skills to make decisions on your own, but there is also wisdom in seeking counsel from multiple advisors. Regardless of your age or stage, consider surrounding yourself with people who love you, care about you, and want to see you succeed.

How do you know who these people are? Here are some qualities I looked for in my board:

  • Values alignment – Who shares your core values? You may align with someone in the quest to achieve results, but do you agree on the principles that guide the way there? If your underlying values are different then one person may opt for the honest (and often longer) path forward, while another may suggest cutting corners or manipulating others to attain the goal. You may desire the same outcome, but take two very different roads to get there.
  • Trust – Who has proven trustworthy through multiple seasons of your life? Who has honored your request for confidence? Who has been by your side through life’s celebrations and heartaches? Consider inviting these people in.
  • Insight- Who knows you inside and out and still loves you unconditionally? Who knows your story, personality, dreams, and aspirations as well as your failures and setbacks? Stick close to the people who adore you no matter what.
  • Challenge- Who doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear? Who challenges you to be better and to take the higher road even when it’s the last thing on your radar? The people who really care about you will always speak truth, even when it hurts.
  • Inspiration– Who motivates you to be a better person, to dream bigger, to love deeper? Don’t bring negative land-dwellers onto your board when you were born to fly. Sync up with positive people who encourage you to spread your wings and soar.
  • Diversity– It’s tempting to create a circle of people who are just like you. However, this is a recipe for stagnation. A dynamic support team will have people with different backgrounds, ages, experiences, gift sets, and who see the world through a different lens than you.

My board consists of family members, close friends, professional coaches, spiritual advisors, and mentors. They are the kind of people who write my important dates on their calendars too. I’m continuously floored when I get texts from my board saying, “Praying for your meeting on XYZ date.”, “How did your speaking event go today?”, “Thinking of you on this challenging day.”

I keep in regular contact with each of my board members to see how they are doing and to share updates on my life. I also engage their strengths, meaning I go to some for strategic business direction, some for heart-issues, and some for all of the above!

Although my core group has largely remained the same, some people have rotated in and some out, and that is OK and to be expected. I’m thankful for the value they added for a season and for their overall influence in my life.

Pull up a chair

Wooden table and chair

What about you? Do you have a personal or professional advisory board, a tribe, a network of people who support you? Who are they? What qualities do they possess? Have you thanked them lately? Make sure to let your people know how much you appreciate them.

If you don’t have a support system in place, consider getting one. You have to be pro-active and let the right people know when you need support. Don’t sit, wait, and feel sorry for yourself. Let down your pride and allow others to invest in you, just as you would for them if the roles were reversed. Who should you invite to sit at your table? What qualities are you looking for in advisors?

And now the really tough question: am I (or you) living a life worthy of being asked into other people’s lives? Am I (or you) taking time to walk out life with others? Who should I (or you) be investing in?

Ultimately, it’s not about how many chairs surround your table, or whether your table sits in a kitchen or a boardroom. It is about intentionally surrounding yourself with people who care about you and are willing to help you navigate this crazy journey called life. And it’s about you helping them when they need you.

The lesson: Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed. @ReGenerations #shareitfwd

A special thanks to the people who sit at my table. Words cannot express my gratitude for your kindness. 

And to the people who have asked me to sit at their table: thank you for entrusting me with your life story. 

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Jessica Stollings
Jessica Stollings is the founder of reGenerations. Often called a “generational translator,” her passion (besides coffee) is making sure there is clear understanding and communication between the newest batch of college graduates and the generation of parents and grandparents already in the office. Management teams, pastors, policy groups, educators and others have built solutions around her ideas. In addition to generational speaking and consulting, Jessica serves as the Director of Talent Development for an energy company and lives in Tennessee.

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