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Your Personal Board of Directors
The role of mentors, coaches, and sponsors in your life.
I’m publishing this piece while en-route to Toronto to celebrate my birthday with the most important people in my life - my parents. Tomorrow… I turn 28!
It’s been an astounding year of personal and professional growth, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and influence of the people around me.
“The quality of your relationships determine your ability to push yourself beyond our own limits.”
I couldn’t agree more.
So today’s piece is about curating your inner circle. It’s about proactively surrounding yourself with people who support, uplift, and inspire you.
My perception of “mentorship” has changed a lot in the past years.
I used to think of mentorship as a relationship with one person with whom I would meet formally once a month for 30 minutes to discuss career, life, and philosophy using a pre-determined list of questions.
But over time, I’ve realized how counterproductive that can be:
It’s a huge ask for just one person
It’s overly formal, inorganic, and potentially awkward…
And that person couldn’t possibly have all the knowledge in the world to solve your problems
Instead, I realized I needed a Personal Board of Directors - a broad set of people I refer to as mentors, sponsors, and coaches from different disciplines.
Build a Personal Board of Directors
Think about the last time you need support from people in your network.
You might have needed:
An introduction to an investor
Advice on negotiating your contracts
Motivating words to push you past the finish line
Perhaps you can get all that from one person. If you do, make sure to keep this super-human around.
But most likely, you’ll need a “board” of people.
Specifically, a mentor, sponsor, and coach.
A mentor is someone you’ll rely on career guidance and knowledge. They’ll provide you with both strategic and emotional support, helping you problem-solve, and understand your strengths and blindspots.
A coach is a functional expert that teach you specific skills and push you, challenge you, and keep you accountable to your goals.
A sponsor will champion you, give you access to new things, and put you in the path of new opportunities.
You might work with your mentors to identify your long term career goals and gather inspiration for what your next 5 years could look like. Mentors can also help you identify the skills you need to develop in order to get there.
Once you have an idea of the path you want to embark on, your coaches can keep you accountable and push you to meet the milestones you set for yourself.
And once you’ve hit those milestones, your sponsors can help evangelize your brand and open doors to new opportunities.
Finding Mentors, Coaches, and Sponsors
The next question is, how do you find them?
You can do these 3 things:
Reach out to your existing network
Cold contact new people
Join a community
Reach out to your existing network: For those of you with access to large networks like alumni associations or employee groups - reach out to folks or ask for a warm introduction to get started. From there, be clear on what your intent is and get to know the person (and try to reciprocate by providing value to them!).
This method is effective - but you’ll be limited to the breadth of your personal network. To maximize serendipitous connections, you might want to go further.
Cold contact new people: This is how I’ve built most of my network - by sending tens of thousands of cold emails and messages in the last few years. You’ll have to learn the art of emailing internet strangers (easier than it looks!), and while this requires significantly more effort than the method above, you’ll be able to access new people and knowledge that you normally wouldn’t have access to.
Join a community like Sidebar: The ultimate cheat code that I wish I had when I first started. I recently met the Sidebar team and their value proposition was clear:
Join a private membership community like Sidebar to be paired with 6-8 ambitious and growth-driven senior leaders who can help you drive extraordinary success in your career.
You’ll get access, knowledge, and support from people you normally would never meet.
Note, Sidebar is a highly-vetted and paid community. You must apply and be accepted. There are currently over 4,000 senior leaders from top technology companies around the world currently on the waitlist. Sign up here.
No matter where you are in your career, it’s important to establish a Personal Board of Directors. Whether you're an operator looking to start your own business, a mid-level manager aspiring to be an executive, or a recent grad looking for your first job, you'll need to surround yourself with people who will challenge, inspire, and support you.
📌 Andrew’s Picks
Fascinating internet things I’ve come across:
A Market for Almost Everything — Millennia ago - there was no market for the most basic things, like food. Today, you can pay to get donuts delivered to your door - or even things to be sent to space. We have a market for almost everything.
Blizzard NYC – I've probably seen this video a hundred times. It serves as a reminder of the incredible city I live in (NYC) and why I spent years trying to move here in the first place. I love this city.
Nathan For You’s Self-Improvement Schemes — An absolute masterclass in sarcastic, dry humor by Nathan Fielder. Watch if you’re in need of a laugh.
🖼️ Behind the Scenes
We rented out a massive space for the two-day affair. This picture doesn’t do it any justice.
And we invited speakers to share their wisdom with y’all. Speakers like…
It’s the most epic production I’ve done to date. And it’ll be free for founders.
If you’re a founder, I think you’d really dig it. Apply here while we still have spots.