Jim Collins: And I was 25 or something at the time and I literally pulled off the side of the road and I thought to myself, I have five years to figure this out. So, I came up with this idea of a personal board of directors. Now, companies have a board of directors, but I thought, I need a personal board of directors, I need a gathering of people who I can really look up to.
My own choice, I took a sheet of paper and drew a little oval like a conference table and I put seven seats around it. The first seat I filled was with my wife, Joanne. But, others I started filling in and I started really thinking, who would I really want to be on my personal board. Interestingly, a couple of them never knew they were on my personal board, but they were enormously influential on me.
And I chose them for their character more than their success, some of them were enormously successful people, but that's not why I chose them. I chose them for character, for the kinds of people they were, for the sorts of ideas they had. Instead of choosing employees for character I was choosing mentors for character. And these people had a huge shaping influence on my life, and I carefully would envision what they would say, but sometimes I would, actually if I had the opportunity I would ask them, and I would stay in touch with them. And by having a systematic mechanism like that, that became a way for a group of people to help me develop, and it was huge in my own development. Those people, at critical times, I didn't necessarily have that much contact, but they might have had a profound influence with one thing that they said.
Since then what I've come to see, is that mentoring then becomes a giant debt. So, if you had the privilege of having some great mentors, you have an incalculable factor. And as a result, I don't know how this would fit with the culture of China, I hope it plays here in the United States, but there's an informal process which you have to pay the debt back. And before you're done, your responsibility is to mentor others and then that becomes, and then you're open, it's not that you can on everyone, but as you see people and they come into your orbit and they seem coachable. You kind of take them on and it becomes your responsibility to do that. So, the next generation works on the generation coming up, and so on and so forth forever. Now, the other side of that I think sometimes involves actually reaching out to try to reach out to those mentors. That's why I say; I don't know how that would work in China. In my experience, I reached out to some of these people, directly and just said, for whatever reason, I would like to have their input and then I felt that my debt was to really listen. So, sort of a two-sided debt, if someone mentors you, you have to honor it. And if you have been mentored, you have to mentor others.