Male Speaker: You have a personal board of directors.
Jim Collins: Yes.
Male Speaker: I don’t. But it’s a good idea. What is a personal board of directors? Who’s on yours? What function does it serve? How long have you had it? Should everybody in the room have their own personal board of directors?
Jim Collins: Going back to the idea of knowing your own three circles and then designing —the entrepreneurial path is to design a life that perfectly fits with your understanding of those three circles. And if you view entrepreneurship as a life activity, then just as good entrepreneurs have strong boards for their companies, you should also have a strong board of directors for your life. The only difference is that, for whatever reason, I kind of stumbled on the idea of formalizing it and actually having a personal board of directors. These are the people who are like a tribal-elders council of people whom you can turn to for guidance, input, and wisdom. And they’re also people whom you would feel terrible to let down.
You use them either actively, at pivotal points in your life—like when I was leaving Stanford, I relied heavily on my personal board. “Should I do this? What guidance would you give?” And they helped me get the confidence to say, “Jim, if you don’t do it, you’re going to be hypocritical in relationship to your own teachings.” That was what my board really pushed me to do. Now, on my board I’ve got some people who are just very, very close to me. My wife is on my personal board. We’ve been married for twenty years. I mean, she’s sort of chairman of the board.
But John Gardner, the former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Johnson administration, is on my board. He’s the one who always reminds me—he founded Common Cause and, you know, that wonderful adage, “Don’t try to be an interesting person; be an interested person.” And every one of the members of my board—they’re usually past teachers.