Clearness committee or board of directors: whatever you call it, we all need one

I’m currently reading an advance copy of a book called “Make a Move: How to Stop Wavering and Make Decisions in a Disorienting World” by Stephanie O’Brien; a pastor, preacher, author, and activist in Minnesota. I signed up for this book launch for a myriad of reasons, the largest of which being that one of my biggest character flaws (besides being a grown woman and not knowing how to apply makeup) is that I completely suck at making decisions – from what to eat for dinner to what to do with my life – and the title of this book spoke directly to me. Basically, I get to read a book that, on the surface at least, seems to be written specifically for me before it hits the public; and I hopefully get some helpful advice on how to get past what Pastor Steph as she is known on the interwebs calls “decision paralysis,” and maybe my life moves forward a little bit. There is no scenario in which I lose here. And Pastor Steph? Well, lucky her – she gets her book put in front of the literal tens of people that might read what I write about it.

Full disclosure – I have not finished the book yet, so this is nowhere near anything that can be called a comprehensive summary or review. The purpose of this post is purely for me to process a concept that was introduced in Chapter 5 that Pastor Steph calls the “Clearness Committee Process.” The basic idea of a clearness committee is that as tempting as it is to make large decisions on our own, life altering decisions are best made in community. This isn’t meant to be a call-your-bestie-and-see-what-they-think kind of community decision making, this is an actual process with a specific group of people that you trust enough to charge with this task. In her book, Pastor Steph lays out the process for this group, and sadly, it does not involve sitting around tossing out ideas over a bottle of wine. It actually sounds like mentally and probably emotionally exhausting work. There are ground rules about keeping the focus on the person needing discernment, time limits, and reflection. And the real kicker? There’s no guarantee that at the end of the session, the person facing the decision will have actually made one. Rude. What the Clearness Committee Process does do though, is require the person to answer questions from outside perspectives causing them to think more deeply about the decision from other angles, and then provides reflection from the viewpoints of the other people involved in the process. So while it’s not a fast-track to decision making, it’s definitely a useful tool in preventing the person from spiraling through their own cycle of thoughts, and ensures that when a decision is made, it has been made with a level of information and wisdom that you could never have if you chose to try to make the decision on your own.

Let’s take a little side trip now, and I promise we’ll circle back around. In January, I joined an online group called the Red House Writer’s Collective, which is the brainchild of author and speaker and all-around charismatic person, Kathi Lipp. The goal of The Collective is to “combine check-ins, community, coaching, and a proven 12-month program to help writers build a sustainable career from their message.” For sake of brevity, I won’t go into the entire structure of the program, but the coaching component is typically live video sessions with an expert in whichever area The Collective is focused on that month: create (content), serve (your audience), or build (your business). In March, the focus area of The Collective was the “build” piece. This is the piece that I struggle with most, because how on earth am I supposed to build a business that doesn’t exist? While this aspect never got what I would consider easy, I did eventually come to terms with the idea that, while I don’t have a business to build, I am actively trying to build myself as a brand, and the two are not really all that different. Once I came to that realization, I found myself going back through recordings of the videos that had been presented during the month; now with a little more of an open mind. One of the videos that I revisited was presented by Kathi Lipp herself, and was on the topic of creating a board of directors. I hadn’t given it much attention when she was presenting it live (who needs a board of directors when you don’t have a business, right?), but with my new outlook, thought maybe I should give it another listen. Kathi explained the role of a writer/speaker/business owner’s board of directors as a group of people that provide structure and accountability for the goals that you set for yourself. This group should include someone who knows you well, someone who is familiar with the industry, someone who will be a cheerleader, someone who will help you to set, and adhere to, boundaries, and a spiritual warrior who will hold you up in prayer. The first time I heard Kathi talk about this concept, I only about half heard what she was saying because the negative self-talk going through my head was talking so much louder, but after some reflection, and chapter 5 of the “Make a Move” book, it hit me: this concept of a board of directors isn’t much different than the concept of a clearness committee!

It’s funny how much power words have, and how just changing the vocabulary of a concept can take some of the pressure off. The idea of a board of directors sounds like a no-brainer to anyone running a business of any size. I once worked for a non-profit agency with a staff of four people, and we had a board of directors. Conversely, the school district I most recently taught in employs roughly 2800 people, and naturally they fall under a board of directors as well. It’s a straightforward concept when you’re coming from a business standpoint. From a personal standpoint though, it was a little bit scary, and made me think it just wasn’t something I was ready for yet. Once I made the connection between a board of directors to a clearness committee however, it felt like something I was qualified for. Silly, right? Both are a specific group of people with intentional roles to support and guide you to make the best decision for a specific situation. I’m calling this small epiphany a win in my personal journey, and I am going to start intentionally thinking of people that would serve me well in this role – whether I call it a clearness committee or a board of directors.

Some vague clarity moving forward (if only for me)

Man, I love a good contradiction in terms. “Which is it?” you might be wondering, “Vague or clear?” And my honest, really not trying to frustrate anyone, answer is both.

We’ll start with the vague. This part is pretty simple. I still don’t know what my purpose is. I still don’t know what exactly I’m searching for. I don’t know if I’m looking for a job with an existing organization or if I’m leaning toward an entrepreneur kind of situation. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to develop my current manuscript (resembling a memoir) or if I’ll scrap it and take my publication efforts in a completely different direction. Oddly enough, for a person that thrives on certainty, I’ve found a pretty crazy level of peace in all this vague not knowing.

Here’s what I do know: the clarity piece of this puzzle. I have done a remarkable amount of self-reflection in the past couple of weeks, and have had some pretty big “aha”s. When I launched this blog, the intention was “to establish community with people that share my affection for humanity and my passion for social justice and to learn about different people, customs, cultures, etc. outside of my very small circle of experience.” That is a direct quote from my first post in February 2020. Somewhere along the way though, I got caught up in the idea of somehow building a business. I’m not sure how the blog ever fit into that idea, or if it did at all, but suddenly building a business became a big focus for me. The more I worked toward building this business, the more discouraged I became, and here’s why: I was trying to build on something that doesn’t exist. I don’t offer a product or a service. People aren’t calling me to offer my expertise on anything. There is no business to build. I got to the point where I was ready to scrap the whole nonexistent thing and just get a job, because at least working for someone else I would have some concrete direction and clear expectation.

And then one day it hit me – rather bluntly – during a fairly difficult conversation with my counselor (whom I typically love, but less so on this particular day). I don’t remember what exactly was said, or how it was stated, but the theme I logged off the session with was this: I am not building a business. There is no business – that was never the goal. I am however, building a brand. I am the brand that I am building. If I continue to build myself as a brand, staying true to the values that are important to me, any business I choose to build will come organically.

So there you have it: still pretty vague overall, but the little bit of clarity has been game changing. In the weeks since that session, I have been reading and reflecting, and really digging in to my values and the things I want for my life. Among those values, inclusion, acceptance, and community stand front and center, and it’s time I bring the focus back to that.