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Saturday, 02 August 2008

Who is on your High Council of Jedi Knights?


Do you ever have moments in your life when you wish that you could tune into The Force, use your telepathic powers and call Yoda for advice?  I do.

We talk a lot about the importance of business experts or professional mentors in the context of career development.  But when you want to do something really bodacious, like start a non-profit organization or open a business or write a great novel or radically change your life,  you need to think bigger. You need a  High Council of Jedi Knights.

This wise council is made up of  people that you really respect and admire and see as symbols of who you want to be when you grow up.  They don't have to be powerhouses or stars, or old in age, they just need to be highly evolved people in business and in life.  I see this group in addition to your immediate family, who obviously also plays a huge role in supporting and encouraging you. 

How do you identify your own High Council?

  • Notice the kind of people in the world that get you really excited.  Are they authors, musicians, doctors, computer programmers, spiritual figures?  Scan through your bookshelf and determine your favorite books.  Examine the blogs that are at the top of your RSS reader.  Note the kind of people that really interest you when you read about them in the newspaper or watch them on television.
  • Pay attention to how you feel when you think about these people. Some smart people have lots of knowledge but make you feel a bit inferior when you read their work or interact with them.  The feeling of positive connection reserved for High Council members is what Martha Beck calls "the urge to merge," where you feel an unexplainable desire to be in their presence.  Yes, at times it is fan boy or fan girl behavior, but very powerful nonetheless.  If you really pay attention, you will notice that you have very strong positive physical feelings when you imagine these people, like openness in your chest, easy, relaxed breathing and the feeling that your brain is tingling, as if your neurons were jumping around doing the happy dance.
  • Ask:  Do they use their superpowers for good?  This is a favorite expression of my dear friend Marilyn Scott-Waters, who creates f*ree paper toys on her website thetoymaker (over 3 million downloads and counting!). Someone can be brilliant, charismatic and accomplished, but how are they using their life?  In Star Wars terms, do they lean towards The Force or The Dark Side?  Are they involved in activities that solve problems, heal wounds, increase happiness and bring people together?
  • Imagine that you are in a critical stage of your bodacious goal and you feel really awful.  You want to cry and give up.  Who would immediately make you feel better?  Who has faced a similar challenge and moved through it with success?  Who would be gentle and loving while at the same time push you very hard to live up to your highest potential?

Here are some  people on my Council:

Seth Godin:  I love the way Seth thinks and how he produces such a consistent flow of high-quality work.  He is down-to-earth and very true to his beliefs. As a marketing expert, he practices what he preaches and has a series of healthy businesses as a result.  While he doesn't write extensively about his family, it is clear that he is proud of and devoted to his wife and kids.
Isabelle Allende:  She is one of my favorite authors and her novels carry me away into a wonderful world (favorite:  The House of the Spirits).  She is an amazing storyteller, and very connected with intuition and spirituality.  She is an activist for human rights, and does not shy away from serious world issues.
Martha Beck
:  Martha is fiercely interested in the world around her and has a gift for translating complex concepts into useful tools.  I adore her sense of humor, and appreciate that she is fiercely committed to being truthful, even if it generates enormous criticism.
Oprah:  Despite all of her fame and fortune, I never forget that Oprah created her empire from humble roots.  While she might not have time to sit on my Council, I reserve her an honorary chair.  :)
Steve Darden:  Steve is a dear family friend and medicine man.  He is the kind of person who emanates love in everything he does, but is a warrior for truth and justice.  He is an accomplished artist, passionate family man, and tireless advocate for sharing the traditional Native American way of life.
Guy Kawasaki:  I like the playfulness and generosity of spirit that Guy demonstrates in his work, and the way that he actively promotes and develops young entrepreneurs.  He takes risks and stands up to criticism with humor and strength.  He is a devoted family man and not embarrassed to gush about his wife (what I consider a great quality in a man). 
Desireé Adaway:  My best friend, and one of the smartest people I know.  She is an amazing Mom, manager and thinker.  She currently is taking on the small task of revamping Habitat for Humanity's volunteer system.  She is the kind of person who always has something wise and uplifting to say, no matter the situation.  And she always tells the truth, even if it stings.

Creating this list is certainly an exercise in positive visualization.  If you imagine a circle of highly accomplished, creative, productive people who have designed lives that you admire, you will feel increased motivation to move forward with your plans.  Unlike fictional characters like Yoda, these are real, live human beings who faced the same fear and doubt as you, but moved forward anyway.

The exercise can also be  something more:  you may actually find that by identifying the best in your field, you meet them in real life.  When I read Martha Beck's book seven years ago, I never dreamed that I would actually work with her.  But because I connected so strongly with her ideas, our paths eventually crossed.   Guy Kawasaki started out as a blogging hero, and has since become a friend.  You may be very surprised to find that those people who seem out of reach are actually very open to connecting with you.

Once you create your list, use it in times of stress.  Sit down somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and imagine yourself as a young Luke Skywaker (correction thanks to Joe: it was Anakin who visited the council, not Luke!)   stepping into the quiet circular room of the High Council of Jedi Knights.  As you look at the faces of your wise mentors, don't you feel better?  Doesn't it make your task of writing a book or starting a business or losing 50 pounds a bit more like a spiritual quest?

Try the exercise and let me know how it works.  Who is on your High Council?


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Kim Dushinski


Excellent post. I've always said I want to be a Jedi and now I can =:) I'm going to start my High Council list right away.


Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

What an excellent article! Found it by Kim's tweet. Stumbled!

Thanks for writing this, Barbara

Tynisha Thompson

Hey Pam,
My list is ready...I have a phrase that I use when I talk about my jedi council. I call them "my secret boardroom members" though Jedi Council sounds cooler. Of course there's Oprah, my fantasy husband Donny Deustch is there along with Alexandria Brown,Octavia Butler,Dwight Miller-my biz coach, David Neagle (spiritual coach)Dan Kennedy (gruff guy, but love him)my best "business" girlfriends Leesa Barnes and Monique Caradine for their daily inspiration to keep on keeping on, Fabienne Fredrickson who I am finding out is like a client attraction genius and so many more people I depend to help me take my life and business to the top. Thanks for the great post. Oops...did I mention you're on the council too? Yep, you inspire me to be a better blogger :)
@tynishathompson - twitter


Hey Pam,
I love the analogy, I have actually met some of my "council" at both SOBCon events.
(BTW, Luke never visited the council, that was Anakin) ;-)


Thanks Joe!

I made the correction from Luke to Anakin. I guess I am not a certified fan! ;)


Mike Piper

As I was reading through this, the person that popped instantly to mind for me was Seth Godin.

Then I see that he's at the top of your list also. :)


Wow, great exercise. My list includes some interesting players:

Joe Vitale (LoA guru/author)

Pat & Linda Parelli (Natural Horsemanship)

Musicians, for their music and for their other qualities:
Steve Vai (very metaphysical)
Stevie Nicks (mystical/wise)
Nikki Sixx (overcame addiction)
Gene Simmons (entrepreneur/savvy)

Joel Osteen (televangelist/positive thinker)

JK Rowling (Harry Potter author)

Jackie Warner (fitness guru)

Next step, identify the details! Thanks for this great post.


Oddly enough, Samuel L. Jackson sits on my Jedi Council as well as the actual Jedi Council. He is in charge of "How to co-exist with snakes on a plane." He is not good at it.


What a fun and motivating exercise. I haven't got my list completed yet, but wanted to thank you for the idea. A nice way to spend a quiet hour this sunny Sunday morning.


i love this idea!!

starting my business, i put together my "board of directors" -- people i know in real life who can advise me in different areas. i never thought about a high council of this sort -- of people who inspire me and what advice i think they would give.

that's fantastic.
i'm putting mine together now.

all the best!

Alice Bachini-Smith

I need to do this so much right now! Was thinking of the vision board but this is much more accessible & immediate for now- thanks!


i love this story. my family has long since used the idea of having our own personal "round table" as in king arthur's knights and advisors. it is a great reminder of resources to draw on.

Matt Langdon

I get my students to create their own "Round Table" in the Hero Workshop. They take their table home with them and use those people to help them when they get stuck on their personal journeys.

Mike Calimbas

I think everyone should have a healthy allowance of role models and mentors to guide life decisions. A little reflection on this kind of stuff could only do a person good. Excellent post!



This is a lovely idea. I would have John Stewart of the Daily Show on my council. He has a way putting things into a not-too-serious perspective that works for me.


This is a lovely idea. I would have John Stewart of the Daily Show on my council. He has a way of putting things into a not-too-serious perspective that works for me.


This is an excellent post and my first visit to your blog. I'll keep reading :-D

(Another correction for the star wars references: You used "the Force" and the "Dark Side" as good and evil opposites. The Force is neutral. It is the light side of the force and the dark side of the force that are good and evil )



Thanks for visiting Jeremy! And as you can see, I not a hard-core fan who knows all the stories, I just steal the metaphors and use them loosely. :) You get the spirit, and I will make sure to watch my use of The Force in the future. :)

Hope to see you again.


Joanna Van Vleck

As the other comments read, what a wonderful idea. We are the average of the six people we spend the most time with. And, as you stated, our "high" council can become our friends as well. I have heard fabulous things about you and look forward to learning more!

Web Design Company USA

I must say that I loved reading your blog and this post in particular, on my first visit. Thanks for sharing such a lovely idea, that too with the Jedi Concept.


Hi Pam,
Here is my “may the power be with them and may they share it all with me” list:

Author Anne Lamott: A witty and very wise author of wonderful books like “Bird by Bird” and “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.”
Her thoughts on faith and life (and she has had a colorful one so far) don’t really beat you up as much as they wake you up. Plus I love how her humor invites you in and then you don’t want to leave. I’d like to come back as her sense of humor.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: he left us all too soon. Nobody could put words together and have that much impact as he did. I still tear up when I hear, “I Have a Dream.” He would teach me how to put more passion into my words.
Intuitive Consultant Lynn Robinson: I have added intuition as a tool that I try to help my coaching clients develop. Lynn has taught me a lot through her books and interviews that I know how to make better decisions now.
Robert Redford: far more then eye candy. He is a man who started to work for the environment years ago – maybe when we had a chance to make a change. Plus, okay did you see him in “The Way We Were.?” End of drooling.
My dearly departed and much missed best friend, David, who still whispers things in my ear as to where I have left things: David could have taught the world to get along so I would put him in charge of peace negotiations. Plus he was a good ballroom dancer.
Whoopi Goldberg: She has sass and is very opinionated. I like that. I have sass and I want to be more opinionated. Well, I am. I just want to get away with it! Well, I do. I just want to get paid the big bucks to do it!
My sixth grade teacher Mrs. Gold: for not leaving me behind a grade. She knew I could do it. All.
The publisher of my book (still being written): – come out, come out wherever you are.



Shucks! I dunno'. I never thought about it. A symptom of arrogance?

So who would I pick? You, of course, Pam. Alistair Cockburn. (Not as celebrated as he ought to be.) Say ... do these have to be real, living people? Can I have Eleanor Roosevelt?


Sure Peter, to the first point, you can have whoever you imagine would be a great role model and would be inspiring.

To the second point, if you want to connect with them in person, if they are not living, it may complicate things a bit. :)

Thrilled I would be on yours, thanks!


Casper ter Kuile

Dear Pam!

This is the perfect post for me today :)

I've just co-founded the UK Youth Climate Coalition to unite diverse groups of young people to voice our generational concern on Climate Change, and we're putting together our advisory board.

Thank you for the continued inspiration and practical help.

Much love, Casper


Great to hear from you Casper, thanks for stopping by!

Congrats on your awesome new endeavor. May The Force be with you! :)



I've been thinking about this - none of my High Council members, or the Board members in my real life, are in my profession - everyone I admire and am jazzed by does the things I really enjoy and care about. Can't come up with anyone in my own line of work that I like or admire more than the very barest amount.

YES I know this is an issue....

Fantastic insight MJ, and I would say, a good indicator that maybe you want to check into other work ... :)



Well -- I need to sit down and think of this.

But my instinctual first response was "Wow Pam, YOU are on my Jedi Council!"


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