Recently, it’s become clearer than ever to me that no one is successful without the help of others. Several months ago, I had an idea. It was the kind of idea that stays with you, keeps you up at night and wakes you early in the morning to get back to it. Asking for help is never easy for me, but admitting that I need it is essential to success. My number one piece of advice: build your own personal advisory board.
My “advisory board” members are a group of inspiring people I trust and look up to. Some of these people are more experienced in my field and some are not in my field at all. Some are peers and some are younger. In many areas, they are smarter than me. I often think of hearing Ben Milne, CEO of Dwolla, once talk about how he thinks it’s a good day when he’s the dumbest person in the room. I want to be surrounded by people I can learn from. These people help me move forward in both career and personal situations.
Once I knew I was never going to drop my big idea until I dove in deeper, I brought it to the attention of several of my advisers. Their feedback was invaluable throughout the process. They knew they could speak openly with me about suggestions and changes. While I may not always agree with everything they are saying — there are times you have to trust your gut just as much or even more — I always appreciate and respect their opinions. Luckily, they thought it was a big idea, too, and helped me solidify my next steps.
One of the reasons I love living in Des Moines is because there are so many business leaders who are willing to mentor young talent. I have met with many leaders just because I reached out to them. This is unique and part of what makes Des Moines so special. People understand that they didn’t make it to their place of leadership without the help of others. Some mentor or adviser relationships build naturally and some happen because of a formal request. I believe that both situations work.
I encourage you to build your own personal advisory board. Look for people you admire and feel comfortable talking to about sometimes uncomfortable topics. Look for people who have been where you are, and now are where you want to go. Look for people who are smarter than you and aren’t afraid to tell you that it could be done in a different way. But most importantly, some day when young professionals are coming to you, remember you didn’t get to where you are alone. Some day, be willing to sit on someone’s advisory board.