My Influences

An exercise in mapping modular mentorship.

The modern world is enables us to cherry pick a stable of thought leaders and gurus to help us construct our values. In an age where we are no longer moored to our physical location’s culture, this endeavor is a personal imperative.


A friend of mine inspired me to do this post while talking over coffee. I had rattled off a few names of folks that I read or listen to and he hadn’t heard of a half of them. He encouraged me to share my influences so that others could learn from their wisdom.

The point of this exercise is to help you discover new thinkers and experts that can change your life. With that in mind, I’m not going to mention the countless individuals in my personal life who teach me regularly.

If I did, my dad would be at the top of this list. There are many others who don’t actively share their knowledge through media and prefer more private lives.

Systems Thinking

The first category lacks a coherent title. I’d broadly label it as teachers of Politics/Life/Systems thinking. They are three of the smartest people I’ve ever come across.

The first is Tyler Cowen, a professor at George Mason University. While a chair of the economics department there, Tyler’s interests are wide and varied. He can seemingly talk coherently with almost any topic with anyone. This capacity is evidenced in his podcast Conversations with Tyler, which is a must listen.

Tyler Cowen conducts some of the best conversations in the world of podcasts.

Next, Dan Carlin hosts two must-listen podcasts, Hardcore History and Common Sense. He helps me understand systems through his vast, incomparable knowledge of history. Folks that are worried about the amount of power that Donald Trump has recently inherited would be well-informed by Carlin’s perspective, as he has voiced concerns over the growing power of centralized government for years. He is a particularly vocal critic of pervasive surveillance.

Third, Nassim Taleb is a master of probability with razor sharp opinions. I mentioned my love for his book Antifragile in my book review in episode 171 of my podcast. Enlightening yourself on the Lindy Effect alone is enough to warrant reading Taleb. He delivers well beyond that.

Business

Next are four people have greatly affected my understanding of business.

First is Ben Thompson, who blogs and podcasts at a site called Stratechery. Ben calls upon a background working at Apple and Microsoft while analyzing business, strategy, and technology. He understands intimately why giant technology companies do what they do. He’s helped me understand subtleties of battles between Google and Amazon for example.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a master of self-promotion, so I won’t spend much time here. He inspires hustle, teaches business strategy, and is a personal role model for public speaking and presentation.

A third business influence is the very well-covered Warren Buffett. The most important lesson I’ve learned from studying Buffett is that acting ethically is a practical way to conduct business. I would recommend reading Lawrence Cunningham’s collection of Buffett’s shareholder letters if you haven’t done so. It’s a full business education in a $20 book.

Scott Galloway, NYU professor

Fourth, Scott Galloway is a professor of marketing at NYU. Galloway just gets marketing and teaches it in his weekly YouTube videos. He understand brand and digital reach, and distills complexity into understandable units. In addition to having a dry sense of humor, Galloway has also delivered some very insightful keynotes.

Writing?

Next are two writers that I struggled to put into a coherent category. My best explanation is that they masterfully build context to help their readers understand where they fit within the greater culture and business world

Venkatesh Rao founded Ribbonfarm and sends out a unique newsletter called Breaking Smart. Venkatesh has been visionary in predicting the future of work and is consistently a must read personally. Like Taleb, he delivers hard truths when others won’t and mines for unique takes through frequent travel. Expect to learn more about him in the next episode.

Next Taylor Pearson, who has been a guest on my podcast, wrote a great book called The End of Jobs and thinks deeply about how to work in the digital age. In addition to being an inspiration for writing my own book, he is very proficient at outlining how to progress towards achieving your goals.

Productivity & Organization

In a similar vein, I want to quickly mention two masters of productivity, David Allen and Tiago Forte.

David Allen wrote the New York Times bestseller, Getting Things Done, a book the truly lives up to its title. One read has led me to greatly improve my personal productivity.

Tiago Forte is a disciple of Allen and takes things further by outlining an in-depth course titled, Building a Second Brain. By offloading your memories and to-do lists, you free up more space within your brain for creativity and peaceful zen. Embrace this reality and learn from these two thinkers.

Health & the Natural World

Adam Haritan is a master forager & entrepreneur.

I’m only going to mention one name when it comes to health because a lot of people in this space share very similar information.

Adam Haritan is probably the least well-known name on the list, but I am putting him on here because I believe Adam is going to do for naturalism and mushroom foraging, what Howard Schultz did to coffee. That sounds hyperbolic, I know. Maybe I’m exaggerating, probably not.

What I’m certain of is that Adam has a transformative effect on most everyone he meets and an energy that is intoxicating. Adam is a master in his domain, waiting for you to discover him. He will make you appreciate the natural world in new ways.

Learning & Reading

Mike Dariano is another person I learn from that more people should know about. He has been a guest on the show twice, and I love reading his blog. He deconstructs the people he learns from into concise, digestible lessons. His ability to make big ideas digestible is something I envy.

Finance

Finally, I come from a background in economics and finance. To bring things full circle, my father introduced me to Barry Ritholtz’s blog when I declared economics my major. I love Barry for his deconstruction of the arrogance and cognitive biases many economists bring to the field.

I have learned a great deal from him, and his colleagues at Ritholtz Wealth Management Josh Brown, Ben Carlson, and Michael Batnick. Together, the set an example for ethical work in the field of finance and clear vision for practical personal finance.

They’ve also served as inspiration for my own personal digital content production.


Thank you so much for sticking with me through all this. I found creating this list to be an valuable practice and would encourage you to do the same.

I am also constantly on the hunt for more people from whom I can learn. Who are some of your biggest influences?

If you decide to do a similar exercise, please share it with me!


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I host a podcast where I interview writers, entrepreneurs and other interesting people. I also send out a newsletter with cool links, books, and other stuff. You should check that out, too.

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