Create Your Imaginary Advisory Board

Create Your Imaginary Advisory Board - The Well Dressed Life

They say one of the keys to success is to have a mentor. Someone to go to for guidance and advice. Preferably, it should be someone who is an expert, who you admire, who’s reached a certain level of success and is willing and able to guide you on your journey. That last piece, “willing and able” has been the most challenging for me. The older I get, the harder it’s been to find someone that meets all of those qualifications. I can name a million people I admire, but I don’t know any of them. Over the last few years, I’ve all but given up on the concept. Instead, I focused on reading books and watching videos of popular influencers in an attempt to stay motivated and inspired.

A few nights ago I was scrolling through Instagram and landed on a post about creating an “Imaginary Advisory Board.” (It was on one of my favorite accounts, Grace Bonney’s @designsponge c/o @freeperiodpress.) The idea, based on Napoleone Hill’s “Invisible Counselors Technique” found in Think and Grow Rich, is a form of visualization, where you imagine a group of successful leaders (living or dead) sitting around a table, discussing your needs, goals, and challenges. According to Hill, by doing this, you can tap into the knowledge and skills of some of the greatest minds the world has ever known.

It sounds goofy and oddly intriguing, so it’s right up my alley. The modern interpretation of the technique is to create a Vision Board with five of the people you admire and look up to most. When we decided to write a post about this, Lauren and I went back and forth on text about who we would include, and it was fascinating and surprising to sort out our top five.

I printed out my image (below) and pinned it on the cork board over my desk at home. My list includes an array of people who cover the scope of everything I love. It serves as a guidepost of my influences and who I aspire to be like. I’m sharing my Imaginary Advisory Board today and would love to hear who you would include and why.

Sheryl Sandberg, Gary Vaynerchuck, Ina Garten, Oprah, Brené Brown

My Imaginary Advisory Board

Brene Brown: The first time I watched her Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability , I didn’t feel so alone in the world. She’s openly messy, impulsive and flawed, yet filled with empathy and compassion. Her message about letting go of perfectionism, embracing your authenticity and that we are all searching for belonging and connection changed how I navigate the world and made me a better wife and mother.

Read: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness. They will change your life.

Oprah – No surprise here. Sitting in my living room as a little girl, I grew up with Oprah on my television. She exposed me to stories and ways of thinking I would have never learned otherwise. Her life is a miracle; there’s nothing she can’t do, and like millions of other women, I idolize her.

Read: The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations.

Gary Vaynerchuk – Gary V is an intense social media guru who preaches hustle and no excuses. He owns VaynerMedia, a full service digital agency and is prolific with not only his understanding of the social space but his ability to predict the next big thing. I’ve followed him for years, watch DailyVee (his daily video blog) religiously, and have read all of his books, multiple times. He has a lot of energy and says some crazy things. I take the bits and pieces of his advice that work for me, which is basically: if you want to be successful, you have to put in the work and quit complaining. If you are an entrepreneur he’s a must follow, especially on days when you are feeling sorry for yourself and want to give up.

Read: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness, The Thank You EconomyCrushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too

Sheryl Sandberg – I read Lean In at a point in my life and career as a young mom when I really needed to hear her message. While the book has its flaws, the foundation of it has influenced my advocacy of women in the workforce more than anything else. More so, her latest book, Option B, is a heartbreaking and compelling account of the loss of her beloved husband, and the lessons she learned about how to be resilient in your darkest times. She articulates feelings in a way that hit me in my core.

Read: Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to LeadOption B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Ina Garten – The single most influential member of my imaginary council is The Barefoot Contessa. I don’t want to say I’m obsessed with her, but I am. I received her first cookbook when I was 23 years old as a bridal shower gift and slowly cooked my way through the entire book, then her next, and on and on. A read every word, over and again, sometimes in bed, like it was a novel. She opened up a world I didn’t know existed, inspired my passion for cooking and showed me how I wanted to live.

More than that, her personal story is so inspirational to me. Living in D.C., working in the White House, she drives up to the Hamptons, buys a specialty food store with no experience whatsoever and turns it into an empire. I mean, come on, she’s amazing. I love how she cooks, I love how she lives, and I love her philosophy that things don’t have to be complicated to be special and lovely.

Read: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Parties!, At Home, Back to Basics, In Paris, Foolproof, Make it Ahead, Cooking for Jeffrey.

Who would you include in you Imaginary Advisory Board, and Why?

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

11 Comments
  1. This is such a wonderful idea! I too have struggled to find mentors and have pretty much given up at this point. So wonderful to know about this concept!

    1. It’s good, right? At first I thought it sounded so silly, but I love this kind of stuff. When you come up with your list let me know!

  2. I love this blog so hard! Your list is awesome and inspiring. My initial reaction would be Brene Brown as I have loved every book, every TED talk and when I speak I want to sound smart and authentic and real like she does. I’d add Seth Godin as I love the way his brain works (as you know I am so attracted to the way people think). I have admired Oprah since I was a little girl and would watch her after school and not just for success, TV personality but also for the way she has used her celebrity and made a true impact on the lives of young girls (and people the world over). I am also in awe of Nido Qubein, president of High Point University for his story, his drive, his elegance and the way he role models my core belief of ‘intentional attention’. Now I need to create a visual – thank you for sharing this – brilliant conversation.

  3. Megan, this is amazing! Gosh there has to be a better word for it, but I’m in a rush. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Have you ever heard the “Who are the 5 friends you spend the most time with. Spend time with the right 5 people.” Well I’ve heard that a lot lately so I tried to come up with the fit and the exercise PAINS ME! As a working Mom in a male dominated field, with young kids and one with special needs, I don’t think I have 5 people I spend time with unless I get to count my 3 kids, husband, and my daughter’s nurse…. It hurts. Without a “fierce five” (maybe someday), I keep my head clear and keep moving forward through reading and videos that inspire as well. I allow small good moments to happen with whomever I come across for now but this Advisory Board is good. This is a plan I can succeed at. Fantastic! Thank you.

    1. Totally agree with the 5 people challenge. I definitely don’t have a fierce 5 – maybe 2.5? LOL. I think that’s why I like this exercise so much. It stretches you out of your comfort zone and opens up an opportunity for new perspectives without being limited to who you actually know. xx

  4. OK, so I have been thinking about this for a bit, and here is my working list: Oprah (for the reasons you listed above), Alyssa Mastromonaco (She has a great work ethic, has a diversified and interesting resume, and has worked very closely with Obama and Biden, so I feel like I get their advice by proxy too. 3-in-1), Jony Ive (as a designer in the tech industry, this is obvious, if not a little cliche), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Do I need to explain this one? Eat some kale, Ruth, stay with us!), and Joan Rivers (she was a pioneer in a man’s field and I always appreciated her inappropriate, boundary-pushing humor).

    Others on the short list: J.K. Rowling (her imagination!), DVF (her glamour!), Dolly Parton (her confidence!), and Martha (obviously because she’s the Lifestyle O.G., but she also went to prison, while not admirable, it’s certainly something that she made the best of it and came back better than ever. And, I mean, how great is her friendship with Snoop?!), and John Oliver (for his hilarious, yet informed look at this country’s Upside-Down)

    1. All so good. Don’t know how I forgot about Joan Rivers. She’s one of my favorites. And Dolly – yes! She’s so okay being herself.

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