Who Can You Learn From?

My teenage son asked me who my heroes were when I was his age. I struggled to come up with any names. I never really had any heroes, and I still don’t. But I do have a list of people who have shaped my thinking and my work.

In 1995, I read Howard Bloom’s book The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Journey Into the Forces of History. I wanted to understand memetics (memes, long before the word meme meant something gone viral on the Internet). So I emailed Bloom. He added me to a newsgroup that he was part of, and I dove in and started reading.

Whenever I am in Brooklyn, I try to meet with Howard and buy him dinner or join him on his daily walk through the park, a walk that always entails stopping to interact with every canine between his flat and whatever coffee shop he will be working from. Howard’s work has had a tremendous influence on my work and my thinking.

A few years later, I wanted to learn about John Boyd’s work, particularly OODA loops. Colonel Boyd had passed away long before I became familiar with his work. But in my studies, I came across the work of Chet Richards, one of the key people with whom Boyd worked. Chet had written a book called Certain to Win, in which he masterfully applied John Boyd’s work to business strategy.

I emailed Chet, met him in Atlanta, bought him lunch (and maybe a couple nice beers), and he helped me to understand OODA Loops. Boyd and Richards both helped me think about strategy.

I read every book and every blog post that Tom Peters has written. Tom was the first person to write about the importance of people in a business. And he doesn’t mince words about the obligation of leaders to empower their people; he really, really means it. Nor does he pull any punches when he speaks about the individual’s obligation to do their best work.

Tom’s work helped me understand what business can—and should—be. I spent an hour on the phone with Tom interviewing him for this blog. I may not have any heroes, but I was thrilled beyond measure.

Right now, I am studying everything Ken Wilber has written (which is a massive undertaking by itself). I am also listening to dozens of audio recordings to strengthen my understanding of his theories and their application to individuals and organizations (myself included). Wilber’s work provides a massive and complete framework for how people evolve and change, individually and in groups.

I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours with Ken, and I have pages of notes. I’m working on the application of those ideas now.

I am still a student. I still seek understanding. I still seek growth. I look for people who have something that I want to learn. Who can you learn from?

  • From who have you learned the things that have shaped your thinking?
  • Who has helped you develop your beliefs and your values?
  • What are you reading and studying now that will help you live the life you want to live and make your contribution?
  • Who should you be learning from now?

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