Your personal board of directors

How I expanded my set of role models to reflect the way I want to bring creative expression into my life

Original artwork by Bernadette Cay

Original artwork by Bernadette Cay

In the words of Aristotle, “Man is by nature a social animal.” That’s why “what other people think” can become a creative block, as you saw in my previous email on creative permission

Each of us have different layers of social support. For example, there are folks I would interact with daily (friends, family and coworkers), to communities I interact with weekly or monthly, to role models I admire from afar.

I have deep respect for Silicon Valley’s pantheon of leaders, such as Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Sheryl Sandberg. The careers of these leaders are of course highly creative and interdisciplinary, but there are a lot of different ways to integrate creativity into one’s life. 

In bringing creativity back into my life, I noticed that I needed to expand my set of role models to include people who expressed those elements in ways that interested me the most.

I remembered an unusual assignment from college: each of us had to create a “Personal Business Plan.” A business plan is usually intended to help a company with strategic planning. It includes stuff like the company's vision statement, the company’s product/service offerings, market opportunity and market risks. 

For this assignment, we had to create a business plan for our lives as if we were a company, e.g. describe our vision for our lives, our strengths and skills, etc.

Companies can have a board of directors to help lead the company. For this assignment, we got to nominate a “Personal Board of Directors” of people whose “superpowers” could complement our own skills.

Here’s the twist: The “board members” could be real of fictional. They could be dead or alive. No need to have met them before, or to share the list with anyone.

I didn’t think about this exercise for years. Now, as I encounter creative and interdisciplinary people in articles or conferences, I add them to a doc that’s an ever-growing list of virtual "board members."

When I have an idea for new project, a decision to make or I’m feeling discouraged by my “inner critic,” sometimes it helps to think about how one of my “board members” would have approached it. This practice helps me feel less alone as I navigate my interdisciplinary creative adventures and puts my fears into perspective.

How have your role models inspired your creative journey?