The 8 Thought Leaders I am Obsessed With
This month marks the 6th anniversary of my personal development journey. In January 2016, I felt a little lost. I was turning 32 and had gotten married five months prior. I felt like I had been on a steady climb since I was 18. I hit all the cultural and social checkmarks: graduate high school, graduate college, get married. I even got some extra credit with a graduate degree and a brief and fun stint living out my dream to work in the film industry in Los Angeles. The only checkmark I felt I had left was having kids, and I wasn’t quite ready to take that step. So what does someone do when they feel like they have nothing left to accomplish? I chose personal development.
I reached out to a friend who was a therapist and asked if he had any recommendations for where to start. “Daring Greatly,” was his succinct answer. That one book was enough to launch me on this personal development journey and foster my deep love for thought leaders in that area. Here are the top 8 leaders whose lessons have stayed with me these last six years.
I have read all her books, at least partly, and my opinion is that Daring Greatly is her absolute best. It is a masterwork that dives into what it means to be vulnerable, a word we are all terrified of. Daring Greatly changed how I viewed myself in the world and how I viewed my most intimate relationships.
Brené is everywhere. Her TED Talk is one of the most popular and has over 56 million views. Her two podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead, both Spotify Exclusives, keep a pretty constant stream of excellent talks and thoughts with brilliant people. She has in-depth discussions with other thought leaders like James Clear and Adam Grant and delightful conversations with people we know and love, like Brett Goldstein, better known as the dark and swearing Roy Kent from Ted Lasso.
If you have followed the illustrious Elizabeth Gilbert, you know that she lives her truth so delightfully publically that you feel like she is a good friend you could call up in a moment’s notice. But alas, she is a brilliant thought leader that I will never have on my call list.
As a creative, Big Magic has been an essential read for me. It’s one that I go back to often to visit the pages I have dog-eared and the notes I wrote in the margins. The way she talks about the magic present in creativity helps me by taking the pressure off to create. Instead, I know that there are days when the creative juices flow and are so present they are palpable, and there are days when I am in a creative desert.
I also enjoy her turns with fiction, notably The Signature of All Things and City of Girls. She writes women who have a combination of flaws and hopes that is unmatched in the fiction I have read. It roots the characters so much that you want to Google them to learn more. But alas, they are fiction.
Old Glennon would not have made my list. But Untamed Glennon does. I am so in love with Glennon’s story, and the trials and tribulations that got her to this place in her life are so powerful. Particularly her love story with the great Abby Wambach.
Glennon’s social media is such a delightful mix of vulnerability, inspirations, and collective sadness at the chaos in the world. She wants to save the world, like so many of us, and she is not afraid to own that.
Tim Ferriss’s weekly newsletters are one of the few I look forward to. And his podcasts, The Tim Ferriss Show, Tools of Titans, and A Tribe of Mentors, feel like the ultimate act in fanboy behavior, and I am envious that he interviews so many interesting people.
His books Tribe of Mentors and Tools of the Titans, which are compilations of some of the best advice from thought leaders, actors, activists, politicians, and so many other interesting people, are exciting to read. They both come with the warning not to read them chronologically but to pick around instead. I advise this method with all his books and podcasts. You will always find the inspiration you need right when you need it.
A word of caution, though: I do not like nor recommend Tim’s book The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s like he’s not fully cooked yet, and to be honest, I don’t want him in it. If that had been the first Tim Ferriss book I had read, I would not have continued. The lessons he is cultivating later in life are much better.
The Warrior Goddess series from HeatherAsh Amara were defining books for me. A follower of Don Miguel Ruiz, Amara’s book aims to heal from the rules we have built for ourselves, often unknowingly, over the years of our lives.
I have had the great privilege of having lunch with Amara and attending one of her weekend workshops that included firewalking. She is a delightful teacher and speaker who empowers women. I was a skeptic when it came to firewalking, and while I still don’t understand the science or pseudoscience around it, I will tell you it feels pretty damn powerful to walk across hot coals and come away unscathed.
I could listen to Jay Shetty talk all day. He has a soft monk-like voice with a delightful British accent that encapsulates the modern drive, so many thought leaders must be part of the old world and the modern one. His book Think Like a Monk is such a fantastic read that even though it came to me when I wasn’t ready for it, I still enjoyed it. His podcast is more my speed, and I love his varied subject matter and guests.
While she isn’t generally on the thought leaders list, her book Year of Yes is one of the most important books I have read. I see a lot of myself in Shonda Rhimes. She is a bit of a pop culture nerd and introvert who prefers to say no to things. She had satisfying results when she decided to say yes to her life instead.
You can’t deny she hasn’t affected so much of the cultural conversation with the shows she has created and produced, from the long-running Grey’s Anatomy to the recent Netflix sensation Bridgerton. My favorite thing about Rhimes is that she is a powerhouse and immensely successful in the things that I was always taught were silly and frivolous: romance, pop culture, and television. It turns out there is a bigger audience for that than we think, and Rhimes used it to bust through more than a few glass ceilings.
Adam Grant’s social media is on fire. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see someone repost something Grant said in my feed. And while I have read The Originals, and I look forward to finally getting the chance to read his book Think Again, it’s his daily snippets that light up my days.
Do you have a favorite?
I am always looking for new thought leaders to add to my reading list. Comment with your favorites, and let me know why you love them.