6 of The Most Influential People In My Life and What They Taught Me

1. Andrea Scott

Andrea was my marketing professor in business school. On the day of my graduation, she went to my parents and said “I have a feeling about this one. He’s going to do something special.” Nothing specific, just a prophecy of sorts. In an interview on The Unmistakable Creative, Donald Miller said he asked Pete Caroll if he believed he was special, and he said yes. If there’s anything my professor taught me it was that it’s ok to believe you’re special. The difference between this and arrogance is that the second comes from a place of insecurity. I’m kind of willing to bet almost everyone i’ve interviewed on some level believes this about themselves.

2. Josh Hanagarne

Josh was the first person I ever interviewed. After our interview he said “don’t underestimate what this is going to do for you.” 600+ interviews later it turns out he was spot on. It’s exceeded anything I could have anticipated after doing that first interview. In fact the day I walked into my literary agent’s office for the first time I looked at the books on her shelf and I saw Josh’s book,and told her “wow, this is surreal. He was the first person I ever interviewed.”

3. Sid Savara

Sid had the foresight to tell me my writing was average but my interviewing skills weren’t. He was the one who suggested spinning our weekly interview series on my blog out into a separate site. He taught me two things.

  • Be open to suggestions: Sid sent me an email which I’ve shared in the past. At the end of it he signed it by saying something along the lines of “off my soapbox.” Listening to what he had to say was one of the best things I ever did for my life and my career. And we hardly knew each other at the time.
  • Start Quickly: I mocked up the first version of what is now Unmistakable Creative within an hour and sent it to Sid. I asked him if this is what he had in mind. I actually dug up some screenshots of the initial graphics. I didn’t know anything about designing web sites, and I was just screwing around in wordpress. But I learned the power of starting quickly.

4. Greg Hartle

If you’ve been familiar with my work for the last 2–3 years, than you probably know what a profound influence Greg had on the development of Unmistakable Creative. The name was his suggestion. He did send me about 100 names before we chose one, and I hated all of them. I could do an entire article on the things he taught me, but here are the critical few.

  • Momentum is everything: Careers, organizations and individuals are brought to life by momentum. When you achieve momentum, you will enter a momentum window. It’s not a coincidence that many of the most successful people always seem to follow a big project with another one. And in a momentum window you can make quantum leaps. It was a momentum window that caused a best selling self published book, a sold out event, a new brand, and an article that went viral on medium to all happen in the span of about 4 weeks. If you achieve momentum, do everything you can to never lose it. This is why I’ve never stopped writing 1000 words a day.
  • Your Temporary Circumstances Don’t have to Become Your Permanent Reality: Bad shit happens to all of us. Heartbreak, financial setbacks, getting fired and the end of friendships are all par for the course if you’re going to live a full color full contact life. But all these things are usually temporary. But we tend to think they’re permanent and if we’re not careful they become our permanent reality.
  • Human Beings are The Only Species with the Capacity to Pause Between Stimulus and Response : It wasn’t until I heard those words that I finally got into the habit of meditating on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I still have visceral reactions to things.
  • Things piss me off.
  • People drive me insane.

But a meditation habit has made me less likely to fall victim to the stimulus of the day. Also, don’t read reviews of anything you’ve created early in the morning or ever for that matter.

5. AJ Leon

To say that AJ has had an impact on my life would be an understatement. The entire concept of unmistakable was brought to life because he, having either lost his mind or made some sort of error in judgement thought it would be a good idea for someone to speak at Misfit 2013 about how to commit career suicide one Facebook status update at a time. The talk I gave at Fargo was titled The Art of Being Unmistakable,, which ended up becoming the book I wrote. But AJ taught me two really important things that have made a difference

  • Be a creator, not a behind the scenes guy: Up until that year I’d tried my hand at just about every job that was possible in the online world, social media consultant, book marketer, and freelance blogger. AJ convinced me of the virtues of being an artist for my own projects instead of a mechanic for others, which takes me to the next point.
  • Think like an artist, not a marketer: It wasn’t until I saw the way AJ showed up in the world that I realized that art, design and beauty were things that lit my eyes up. And things that light our eyes up became the filter for everything we do as part of Unmistakable Creative.

6. Brian Koehn

Brian is like a brother to me, and my CEO. The thing that he manages to do better than almost anybody I’ve ever met is build people around him up no matter how shitty things are. He always finds the little bits of genius in everything people do.

The things that I take for granted like throwing together a landing page or a web site for a project idea in a day, he sends emails and text messages about telling me how great they look. When you’re on a small team this makes a world of difference.

He also taught me how to find hope and possibility in uncertain and dark times by asking very different questions, some of which you’ll read about in my new book. When I described him to my editor, she said “he’s like your emotional sherpa.” We should all be so blessed to have people like this in our lives.

But more than anything, his support and partnership has been unconditional. Small teams have to stick together unconditionally because that’s how you manage not to fall apart when the shit hits the fan. And if you do anything of significance at some point the shit will hit the fan. Push a few edges and you’ll know.

Throughout our lives we’ll encounter messengers. They’ll come in different shapes and sizes. And if we’re open to it, they’ll leave their mark, which we’ll pass on to one person and that person to the next and so on, until what happens is a ripple beyond measure.

I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive our next issue by signing up here.

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