Actively seeking new insights that spur us to rethink what we know (or thought we knew) or to think in new ways is the path to personal growth and fulfillment. Where do you find those valuable insights? Who are your go-to sources of knowledge and wisdom?
Helping other people grow and improve is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so it is with a bit of selfishness that I share with you some of the thought leaders, experts, and other high-level thinkers whose work has made a difference to me and helped me grow as a person.
My hope is that you will not only want to check out their work, but will also be motivated to share your own favorite providers of insight with others.
A few criteria
My list below is by no means comprehensive, and I have included only living people who:
- make their knowledge and ideas accessible to the public, such as through books, lectures, interviews, podcasts, social media, blogs, etc.
- have valuable and useful insights. For example, their content can help you perform better, be happier, achieve more, and/or have better relationships
- have developed their insight through study and experience
- are able to present their ideas in a way that is clear, compelling and “sticky” (persuasive and memorable)
The people on my list also tend to have a few other commonalities: credibility, likeability, and a unique perspective.
NOTE: Although there are many insightful thought leaders in the areas of theology and politics, I am not including them on this list.
Here are a few of my favorite purveyors of insight, in no particular order.
The content on Shane’s site and blog, Farnam Street, is designed to help us learn faster, think better, and make better decisions. His weekly newsletter, Brain Food, is always good for getting the brain synapses popping. On his video podcast, The Knowledge Project, he interviews some of the best minds and high performers, including some of the people on this list.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath
The Heath brothers have written - and continue to write - some of the most insightful and fun to read books on personal development. Topics include decision making skills (Decisive), influence and persuasion (Made to Stick), and making difficult change (Switch). They always present multiple compelling examples and case studies to support their insights, and a big bonus is the free supporting materials they provide for their books - giving even more value.
Famous as the creator of Dilbert, Adams has also written several highly-acclaimed books on topics such as persuasion, achievement and happiness. If you have heard the terms “talent stack” or “systems over goals” - that’s Scott Adams.
I have gifted his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, to several family members, including my daughters.
Check out his short but legendary post on writing - The Day You Became a Better Writer.
A prolific business author and business thought leader, Godin offers his takes on leadership and all areas of personal and professional improvement. My initial exposure to Seth was through one of his TED talks, where I first heard the term, “lizard brain.”
Godin has authored more than 20 books but he shares massive amounts of great insight for free on his blog, online lectures and interviews. Google him and you may get lost in his wisdom for hours. Or you can start with his short daily posts on Seth’s Blog.
Kahneman is one of the founding fathers of the field of behavioral economics. As a psychologist, his studies have uncovered new ways of thinking about how we think and behave. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002 for his work on prospect theory.
Thinking Fast and Slow should be on the bookshelf of everyone who wants to understand what the brain is good at and what it isn’t. I have covered many of the concepts in this blog, including the many cognitive biases that I first discovered through Kahneman's work.
Annie is a former professional poker player who is now an author, speaker, and executive coach. She wrote the phenomenal book Thinking in Bets in which she shares how to embrace uncertainty and assess probabilities like great poker players do.
Her latest book Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away is on my must-read list. Seth Godin, Shane Parrish, and Daniel Kahneman have all endorsed it - so I’m in!
For a peak into her insights on quitting, watch her interview on the Today Show.
As she says in that segment, “Quitting is an important decision skill that we need to get good at.”
Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania specializing in organizational psychology. One of the most useful and insightful books I have ever read is his Think Again - The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.
Even if you have not read the book, you should go to Grant's website and take his self-assessment quiz on rethinking. He also hosts the Re:Thinking podcast where he interviews successful people on how they think and work, such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Cuban, and Jane Goodall, to name just a few.
A few other titans of insight you should check out:
James Clear - an expert on habits. Check out his massively popular bestseller, Atomic Habits.
Stephen M.R. Covey - his research and books on trust are eye-opening
Tim Ferris - focuses on high performance and learning from elite-level performers.
Who are your favorite thinkers? Don’t be selfish - share them with others!
Think well - live well.
- Steve Haffner, mind performance strategist
Want to learn more about improving your decision making and performance?
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