About three years ago, I read the excellent book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. At that time, I made a list of the top 5-10 people in my life that I was to and had similar goals with. I sent out emails to them every once a month with what I was working on.
Eventually, I fell off from this habit. Not sure why - I'd had gotten good advice, stayed in touch with people I like, and it was a positive experience. I started re-thinking building my counsel a little over a year ago.
The challenge is, I've got a diverse set of goals and ideas. I write, I do business, I travel, I create art, I adventure, I'm looking to establish a strong family, and so on. I have friends who are writers or artists that aren't interested in business. I've got friends in business that pretty much always stick to their one city. I know guys who are pretty simple, work a normal job, don't make any art or do any entrepreneurship, but have very strong and good families. I know very successful businessmen who travel and adventure, but aren't interested in having kids.
So I was thinking - how do I balance this all on my counsel?
And eventually, the idea hits me. I need multiple, relevant counsels.
Why I need multiple counsels:
*Gives me people to figure out who to contact when I need to improve
*Gives me the list of people to update with new insights that are relevant to them
*If I had just one counsel, it'd be overwhelming to update them on everything - multiple counsels means I can reach out to people on topics they're interested in, but not bother them on topics they're not interested in.
From my notes:
Why would someone serve on my counsel: Because it serves them AND they believe in what I'm doing in that sphere. Why would it serve them? Many different reasons, people have many motivations. Professionals will be paid in direct cash or indirect cash - people should become more wealthy for having me in their life. People will get the joy of learning, sharing, and mentoring - I get immense joy out of teaching someone who will put it into practice, and I think many people also feel the same way. I'll serve on their counsel and deploy my talents to make them successful. I'll take an interest in their goals and objectives in the world, and help them reach them. I'll help them build their families, lifestyles, and skillset. If they're underperforming in an area and wish to improve, I'll put myself at their disposal to help increase their ability there. We'll have lots of fun - the joy and bliss of creating and bringing things into the world, the fulfillment from helping people and bettering the world, and good ol' fashioned fun and adventure from traveling, going to cool places, doing cool things, spending time in nice rooms, and things like that. I'll show my appreciation regularly with good gestures, gifts, introductions, connections, and otherwise try to make people successful. I'll regularly ask what someone is working on, and do what I can to help them succeed at that. People on my counsel will achieve more of everything they wish to achieve.
When someone helps me make money, I'll give them some cash in appreciation. If they're not in a position to accept cash or cash isn't appropriate for the situation, I'll get them something that they'd like that can be of great use.
That's from my personal notes, and pretty much unedited.
I identified six areas I want to build a counsel in on the short term:
Business - freelancers, entrepreneurs, doing business, getting clients, operations, execution
Wealth - investing, managing money, setting financial goals
Creativity - writing, producing, exploring, being prolific
Discipline - habits, practice, continuous improvement
Health - diet, exercise, biochemistry, research, mental health, doctors
Family - parents, teachers, empire builders, guys with many children and happy families
I also put down an idea for four more that I'll likely do in the near future:
Warrior - martial arts training, weapons training, survival, defense, security
Operations - ability to get things done, practical things, secretary, personal assistant, research, other skilled professionals
Resourcefulness - machinists, inventors, survivalists, camping, tracking, map-making, problem solving
Service - charity, government, philanthropy, researchers, university, churches, religous organizations
Developing my Counsels:
My Creative Counsel support me in producing, shipping, and getting things out the door. They help me market my things out to people and get paid. We teach each other to improve our artistry, creativity, and craft. We swap ideas and support each other.
Who would be on this counsel? Writers, painters, songwriters and musicians, agents, editors, general creative people.
Who would be on my business counsel? Businessmen, entrepreneurs, executives, lawyers, accountants, traders, shippers, non-corrupt government people who can advise on things and help me coordinate with the authorities, retired government officials, assistants and facilitating people.
My business counsel helps me build, create, exchange, transport, ship, deliver, service, serve, support, and get in return receive some of the value we created. We build and do things in the world, and get a small amount of what we created in return.
Who would be on my wealth counsel? Investors, real estate experts, wealthy people, bankers, financiers, brokers, accountants, experts in how things move, market makers, etc.
My wealth counsel helps me deploy, improve, maintain, preserve, protect, and grow the wealth I build, save, and invest. They help me find and navigate great deals and avoid risks. We turn wealth into more wealth together.
Discipline counsel - coaches, trainers, upstanding religious figures, organizing people, motivational speakers, inspiring people, people with great habits and self discipline themselves, experts on time management and habits, productivity experts.
My discipline counsel helps me become better, stronger, more focused, continuous improvement. If I start to fall off, they help pick me back up and keep me going.
Health counsel - nutritionists, doctors, massage, mental health/meditation/sprituality, personal trainer, doctors, dentists, skin experts, researchers, athletes, performance experts, biochemists, other people in exceptional health
My health counsel helps keep my body and mind healthy, stay on top of and scrutinize research on ways to be healthier and live longer, maintain my longevity, mobility, and general health.
Family counsel - parents, teachers, empire builders, guys with many children and happy families, experts on family and child development, trainers.
My family counsel helps me learn how to parent and manage a household, grow it, and build it into a virtuous dynasty.
Warrior counsel - law enforcement, soldiers - officers and enlisted, martial artists, boxers, general guardians of society, marksmen, people who can handle guns/swords/fists, people who understand heavy arms/artillery, military scientists
My warrior counsel helps me learn how to develop my body, mind, and spirit into a warrior, in order that I can be a force of good, stability, virtue, and safety everywhere I am all the time. So that I can protect myself and protect people around me, so that I can subdue or destroy criminals, violent madmen, and other enemies/oppressors of the innocent. These people help me train myself to a state of readiness for combat, to live in the borderlands of life and death, to be prepared to die for what I believe in if necessary.
Operations counsel - Logistics, supply, support, sales, transport, service, react quickly promptly and effectively, system design, etc.
My operations counsel helps me put things into motion and keep them in motion. If I'm sleeping only 4 hours per night, that only leaves 20 hours per day. That's not enough time to actively manage everything I need to manage, so I need to learn how to design, automate, streamline, and manage systems effectively, learn how to find great people who would thrive in a role of managing a system, and communicate with those people.
Resourceful counsel - machinists, inventors, camping, tracking, scouts, map-making, problem solving, repair, maintenance, improvisation.
My resourcefulness counsel helps me train my mind and skills in order to rapidly deal with new and alien situations, so that I can thrive when placed in situations I don't understand, so that I'm always become more self sufficient, and able to survive worst case scenarios. I occasionally travel through dangerous places and do dangerous things, this counsel helps me prepare for if anything goes wrong.
Service - charity, government, philanthropy, researchers, university, churches, religous organizations
My service counsel helps me give back intelligently and track the results in doing so. Charity is still poorly understood, so having smart philanthropists, researchers, and officials on this counsel will mean we can do the most good by thinking things through instead of just doing "feel good measures."
I'm violating the rule of sprezzatura by posting this, and I know that. Long story short, sprezzatura is an Italian concept that goes, "Make it look easy and natural." People don't want to see the rehearsals and the stage being built, they want a production that lets them escape reality to fantasy. Well, sorry, I'm still building the stage and casting for actors and we've got a lot of practice to do.
I'm still thinking on how to meet and connect with and serve the kind of people I want in my life. To some extent, it's slow going. But it's going to be worth it.
I'm probably on the counsel of 5-10 people worldwide, where I'm one of the first people they'd reach out to if something is important. That number should be higher. In the end, I'll probably have 60-100 people that I respect that I can reach out to in a way that's related to their field, and I'll be able to refer other people to them. This will be a mix of hired professionals, partners, friends, and mentors. I'll look to serve them diligently and do great things together, and we'll have a lot of fun in the process. Yes, I'm violating the "make it look easy" rule, I'm showing you that I'm building the stage and casting for actors. So be it. Things don't happen magically. It's never easy. You see the game-winning shot, you don't see the thousands of hours of practice in the gym. Need to keep reaching out to strong and virtuous people, I figure 1 out of 100 people I reach out to will wind up being someone significant in my life and we'll be good for each other. Onwards.
Sebastian - First, Thank you so much for sharing these words. Know that they are consumed with great care.
Have you any thoughts about how to manage these counsels? OnLine perhaps?
I would like to explore that further. I am programmer/Developer with interest in network programming. Not neccesarily Web Programming per se, but probably more specifically developing network enabled software. I might be interested in exploring this with you further.
I really like your idea, it reminds me a little the concept of "core business" but for our personal knowledge/expertise management.
I am also questionning if "warrior counsel" and "survival" are that necessary (except first aid, conflict resolution skills and common sense). We aren't living during Sengoku :)
This is very interesting to me. I also like to have counselers around me, specially now I am building my start-up (as a lone founder) and I also have a diverse set of goals, ideas and interests. A big coincidence is that I would have pretty much the same counsels as you, even the martial arts counsel, as I am also a fighter. Anyway, a few thoughts though:
1) I cannot imagine having a person that wouldn't be at least in 2 or 3 counsels, because most of my problems involves multiple subjects at the same time;
2) Sometimes you cannot discuss individually with a counseler, you need others involved, and it is very hard to engage different people in the same discussion, specially if a counseler doesn't know the other, being this relevant when the discussion involves multiple areas. It is even harder as some people use phones, others use email and others just visiting them, in order to comunicate;
3) Sometimes I just need someone to chat about random thoughts and ideas, but most people I know tend to not talk much when I share with them. This happens because usually the idea is too broad and involve other areas that aren't of their expertise, and then their insecurity blocks them, failing to share any thoughts or ideas that might give me insights, new ideas or an improved one. This is also a very high blocking wall when I am trying to keep these close people updated in my projects, usually they tend to lose interest.
4) Though the internet is a good place to find people with the same interests and potential counselers, it is also harder to get their attention to even read your thoughts and ideas. It takes lots of time to build a relationship and the trust needed through it.
Still, I am trying to find solutions to these issues. One success I had is that counseling others is a good way to get future counselers. That is particularly easier through the internet, as things like age, social class and others tend to not matter in a discussion.