A Timeline of Influencers

Running a digital company isn’t easy.

Those that think new age entrepreneurs are just Starbucks sipping hipsters pushing pixels on a laptop screen need to walk a mile in our shoes. There’s a certain “something” missing when you’re not flocking with society on a daily basis. For example, I run a distributed digital agency, which means that I have a small team that I see in office with another small remote team that mostly communicates through Slack.

While outsiders commute on a train, take lunch breaks, and generally walk and talk with a lot of human beings during the day — digital nomads, like us, are mostly siloed. So what is that missing piece to the puzzle? For me, in the context of this discussion, it’s not having immediate peers and colleagues that we can learn from or look up to. Even a boss or owner that wants, heck, motivates us to be better. So where do we turn to for motivation and guidance?

It’s within our nature to exist, communicate, and learn online, so following online personalities as intimately as social media allows, is a go to thing. Personalities that strike you as knowledgeable, successful or that embodies a certain skill that you’re passionate about improving in your own business and life.

Today, I started to think about the personalities that I’ve connected with over the years and how they have shaped my career over time.

Who is in your Timeline of Influencers? 

Here is my timeline of influencers in the order that I discovered them. I’ve spent at least 1 year studying their habits and advice as best as the internet has allowed me to. I’ve exchanged e-mails or at the very least, short communications with each of the following individuals:

Chris Brogan

Humility, Honesty, and Communication; my first “Internet Celebrity.” He’s the proverbial foundation that kickstarted my blog and helped me understand that being curious (even pushy) isn’t a bad thing.

Jason Fried

You weren’t living the digital dream if you were not a Basecamp fan in the early days. It was the place to learn the SaaS business before the SaaS business, was the SaaS business.

But those weren’t the lessons I’ve collected from Fried. It was about taking a step back and looking at my business in scale, how to look for more opportunity, and to put residual pieces of my business to work.

Andrew Warner

The first business podcast I got addicted to. I’ve learned three things from Andrew:

  1. You can’t copy someone to replicate their success. (speaking as a fellow podcaster.)
  2. Have deeper conversations.
  3. Never stop questioning yourself.

Jason Calacanis

Live your personality. #medeirosing as it’s known to my friends on Twitter. Over the years Jason has become sharper, smarter and more refined, but he’s still the Jason from Brooklyn — that’s so important.

Gary Vay-ner-chuck

I’ve been following Gary, not because of the hustle or because he drops F-bombs, but because he’s still not satisfied. This is someone who is, from what we see on social media, a success story. Perhaps once you reach his level of success, you cash in. That’s perfectly fine. I’m watching him because I want to see how he makes it to the next level, not for the Enzo he could be driving around in.

Again, I ask: Who is in your Timeline of Influencers? 

This post was inspired by shorter posts by Tom McFarlin.

2 Comments

Seth Godin was probably my first influence when it comes to digital marketing. I used to read his stuff on the way home from shifts at the factory, and he would usually publish (around 4 or 5am PST) about the time I’d be getting home. The Dip is perhaps the one book I would recommend every entrepreneur or business owner read. Most people quit right in the middle of The Dip.

Gary Vaynerchuk was not very far behind Seth on my radar when I first started down my current path. I started seeing him in the early days of YouTube’s ascent, and Crush It was a revelation to me. He has earned every bit of respect in the industry he gets, because he never forgot where he came from.

Derek Sivers is another guy who I followed early on (and still do). A lot of it boils down to having better customer service than your competitors, and not being afraid to put out Idea 0.1 and just keep building.

Mike Monteiro is another cat who I latched onto early in my web design incubation (along with people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Andrew Clarke, Jeremy Keith, and Frank Chimero). What separates Monteiro from his contemporaries is not his ability to tell stories (they all do that very well, in their own ways), but his utter conviction in the principles he believes in. People remember him mostly as the “F You, Pay Me” guy, but he has a lot of talks these last couple of years that remind us as web professionals that we have a responsibility for the things we put into the world.

I’ve had lots of influences since then. Ramit Sethi showed me you need to know your worth and be able to exhibit that worth logically. Chase Reeves taught me you can be quirky and vulnerable, and people will love you for it. James Altucher showed me it is good to be humble and expose your weaknesses. Chris Lema demonstrates how powerful the power of storytelling can be. Professor Galloway proves that you can present data in a way that is entertaining, while being completely deadpan.

What is important about influencers is we absorb their lessons, shake those beliefs up, and filter them out through our our voice. We instill their wisdom and it comes out of us through our own personality. We take the things we want from the world, and accept or reject what we wish. This process never stops.

In the end, we craft who we want to be by observing those we want to be like, and putting our own flair on it.

Before I forget, let me mention a couple more:

Seam McCabe is building an empire from 100+ true fans. He is distilling the things he has learned from his own influences and has accomplished more in five years than most marketers/ content creators ever will. Smart guy with lots of time left.

Merlin Mann. If you’ve ever watched his talk “Scared Sh*tless”, that is the definition of winning people over by being vulnerable. This cat (along with Dan Benjamin) built the blueprint for what a podcasting empire should look like. You can hear his “Merlin-isms” in tons of other podcasts, and people don;t even know where they appropriated them from.

Bryan Alvarez. He and Dave Meltzer had one of the very first daily podcasts back in 1998-1999, discussing of all things, pro wrestling. Fast forward to today, and they have one of the longest running subscription podcast networks in existence, more content than you could consume in five lifetimes, and a thriving community that supports them and several others.

Patrick McKensie, the developer. Most developers suck at writing, abhor marketing, and talk only about code. Patrick rarely writes or podcasts, but when he does, they are long-form knowledge bombs about Running A Business, not coding hacks. His Twitter feed (and Hacker News posts) shine a lot of truth on the fact that development is only one small piece of the puzzle if you’re a developer. Getting the business part down is the part that most people neglect, and Patrick is one of many people out there educating people to reality.

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