As I’ve said multiple times on this podcast, it’s extremely important to find mentors. People that we can look up to, that we can emulate and seek out for guidance when puzzling situations sit before us.
Luckily, in today’s interconnected digital world, we can find mentors at the click of a button. We don’t even need to meet them; we can just follow along with their content and pick up all of the inspirational tidbits and advice we need to go about attacking our daily lives.
I first realized this in the fall of 2016.
I distinctly remember sitting in my dorm room at the University of Glasgow. With college graduation just a few months away, I began wondering about the next phase of my life.
I'd rarely thought about the job I wanted, or the kind of person I hoped to be. No vision surfaced. No dreams to shoot for. Nothing.
But at some point that fall, two friends recommended I watch a documentary on Netflix. I take recs very seriously, so I found the film and flipped it on.
For the next 90 minutes, my eyes refused to leave the screen.
And that marked the beginning of my commitment to self-improvement, becoming the first of many digital mentorships I’ve sought out in the last five years.
Here’s a list of 10 of them and some of the wisdom I've extracted.
1. Joshua Fields-Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus: The Minimalists
More commonly known as The Minimalists, Josh and Ryan changed my life with the film I just mentioned.
They inspired me to start asking all sorts of tough questions about my life: What’s important to me? What possessions do I value? What’s truly essential in life? How are my relationships? What’s my place in this world?
As a 21-year-old kid at the time, these questions felt strange. And really difficult to answer.
Before then, I'd never considered how our possessions weigh us down and that by removing non essential objects, habits, activities and people from our lives, we can make room for the things that truly matter and make us better.
But something about minimalism really appealed to me.
And for the next two years, minimalism became my religion, and Josh and Ryan became my gods.
I read their books and blogs. I subscribed on YouTube. I re-watched the film multiple times (this is my favorite clip from it.) I listened to their podcast weekly and even began supporting them on Patreon.
When depression overtook me in my first year in the adult world, the work of The Minimalists helped pull me out of one of the darkest periods of my life.
Every week, I retreated into my headphones, the comfort and familiarity of their voices giving me the strength to just keep going.
In fact, I credit Josh and Ryan for my success as a podcast producer. They showed me just how much a podcast can change a person's life, and that's why I put so much time and energy into my show and the ones I create for others.
Unfortunately, I don’t listen to their show or read their work as much as I used to. The Minimalists always stress that when something no longer adds value to our lives that it’s time to move on.
And that’s OK.
I’ve absorbed all they can give me. I’m endlessly grateful for their teachings and the majority of the people coming up on this list first came to me via The Minimalists.
2. Matt D’Avella: Filmmaker and YouTuber
Like Josh and Ryan, Matt also rediscovered his purpose in life when he began to embrace the benefits of minimalism.
Rather than listen to one voice on a subject, I recognize the importance of finding multiple opinions in order to more clearly grasp the full picture.
And Matt’s YouTube videos about minimalism and work really helped me gain more perspective.
In fact, it’s this video from Matt that partly inspired me to quit my job this year and go out on my own. He praised the freedom of the independent lifestyle and showed me that I truly don't need a consistent weekly paycheck or great benefits to find happiness.
He was right.
3. Colin Wright: Author, blogger, speaker and podcaster
You guessed it. Colin is another minimalist.
But he takes it to the next level.
Several years ago, Collin decided to leave his budding (and lucrative) career in California. His own mentors and family members called him crazy for doing so.
“Look at the money you’ll make!”
“You’ll regret this!”
When he made that decision, he let his new interest in minimalism guide him. So, he sold, destroyed or threw away the vast majority of his possessions, reducing his life to 52 objects.
He then set out on his own, writing blogs, books and recording podcasts along the way, meeting some of the coolest people in the coolest places the world offers.
Although owning only 52 things isn't my cup of tea (the average American household has 300,000 items, per The Minimalists), his carefree nature and love of traveling partly inspired me to visit Norway on my own, to live in Colorado for a few months and to get comfortable living outside of our comfort zones.
Unlike everyone else on this list, I actually met Colin! After a few months of exchanging some emails, I attended a talk of his in Jersey City. We even chit-chatted beforehand.
“Never meet your heroes” is bad advice. Because he’s even nicer than I envisioned.
4. Rachel Cruze/Dave Ramsey: Authors, podcasters and financial gurus
Rachel is the daughter of Dave Ramsey, one of the foremost thinkers on personal finance in the world.
Before Rachel and Dave entered my life, I held a very conservative view of money:
I didn't like spending it.
But Rachel and Dave showed me a new way, and it profoundly changed my relationship with money.
They taught me about the importance of a budget and how creating one actually empowers us to spend more freely on the things we want, rather than make us feel constricted.
The EveryDollar app, founded by Dave (and recommended by The Minimalists, of course) is a staple of my life. I document every purchase big and small on this app, giving me more financial freedom than I ever thought possible.
Dave also introduced me to the world of Roth IRAs, saving and investing, and so many more sound financial strategies that will help set me up in the long-term.
5. Tim Ferriss: Author, podcaster and investor
Learning about the habits of highly successful people is an obsession of mine.
Walking the halls of the Bristol library in 2018, I couldn’t help but notice Tim’s massive book titled “Tools of Titans,” a 600ish-page compilation of conversations between Tim and some of the world’s most successful and inspirational people. People like Ariana Huffington, Peter Thiel, Jocko Wilinck and Ryan Holiday (below), to name a few.
I checked out the book and diligently started taking notes on a Google Doc, a page I still refer to frequently to refresh my mind about the habits of the world’s most successful people.
Here’s some of the wisdom I extracted:
- Be your unapologetically weird self.
- Why kill yourself on a 43 minute bike ride when you can enjoy a 45 minute one so much more?
- Lack of time is lack of priorities.
- The successful people we look up to, the superheroes, are weird, neurotic creatures who do big things despite lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk.
- Forget purpose. It’s OK to be happy without one. The quest for a single purpose has ruined many lives.
- The biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time.
- When considering taking a risk, ask yourself the worst thing that could possibly happen.
- People are starving for someone authentic. Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don’t ever try to be anything else.
- No matter what the situation is, the right course of action is always compassion and love
6. Ryan Holiday: Author, speaker, podcaster and founder of The Daily Stoic
Minimalism was once my religion.
Now, it’s Stoicism.
An ancient philosophy, Stoicism came to us from the Greeks, and the Romans transformed it. Unlike most ancient philosophies (such as Cynicism or Epicureanism) Stoicism's highly-practical teachings still apply to us today.
Ryan Holiday is one of the world’s foremost writers and speakers on Stoicism. Remarkably, he's built an entire business around it.
He’s written several New York Times bestsellers and is often invited to speak to the world’s top business leaders and athletes, teaching people about finding tranquility, the mortality of life and the importance of the four Stoic virtues: courage, justice, wisdom and temperance.
I’ve read several of his books and currently listen to his podcast, The Daily Stoic, every day. I’ve spoken about Ryan’s work on my podcast as well, and I’ve exchanged a few emails with him.
Like The Minimalists, I imagine I’ll move on from Ryan’s work at some point.
But like minimalism, my belief in Stoicism will remain forever.
7. Gary Vaynerchuk: Author, speaker, investor and founder of VaynerMedia
If this name means nothing to you, you need to change that.
A lightning rod of energy, GaryVee spits inspirational and motivational fire around the clock.
One of the world’s most well-known businessmen, GaryVee hammers out content on every platform imaginable. I consume his stuff weekly on Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn and Discord, and I also receive some of his Community text messages.
He swears like a madman, but he does so from a place of love. He’s so f*cking passionate about his work and it shows through the way he speaks.
He’s in his 40s, but everything he says resonates with me (and about 10 million other people on social media). He talks candidly about the importance of patience, not caring what other people think, doing shit for ourselves and so much more.
Until a few months ago, I cared deeply about how much you guys listened, read and watched my stuff. Your perception of me affected my feeling of self-worth. When an episode or blog post flopped, I'd get down on myself and consider stopping the show altogether.
But GaryVee inspired me to push through. He reminded me why I started this show in the first place and that if it makes me happy, I need to continue doing it.
8. Alex Cooper, host of the Call Her Daddy podcast
Yeah, I listen to Call Her Daddy, and I’m proud of it.
After the drama last year, I stopped listening to the show. But in the past month or two, I resumed listening and following Alex closely on all her channels.
And when rumors of a $60 million Spotify deal surfaced, I knew I needed to rejoin my rightful place in #TheDaddyGang for good.
The sex tips, dating advice and overall raunchiness of the show don't appeal much to me.
But I greatly appreciate Alex's openness, her brutal honesty and her ability to be completely herself. That’s admirable. It’s real.
And that’s something a lot of public-facing people fail to understand.
To get people to truly buy into you, you have to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to share things most people wouldn’t.
Alex does just that, and she’s inspired me to do the same.
On top of that, she’s really smart, and people don't credit her enough for that. She's very business-savvy, knowing what she wants and how to get it.
Finesse or be finessed, right, Alex?
Anyways, there you have it! Ten total strangers who have completely changed my trajectory and outlook on life. They inspire me. They motivate me. They educate me.
And I encourage all of you to go out and find your own people you can look up to and learn from. And when you do, please let me know!
For more from me, check out my podcast.