Exposing Yourself to Really Impressive People

Last night I was lying in bed awake at 2 AM in my hotel room in Wisconsin (here to do a quick speech) and I did something I rarely do in hotels: turned on the TV.

I flipped around and finally settled on CSPAN. I watched Richard Holbrooke‘s 25 minute testimony to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. Holbrooke, former ambassador to the UN under Clinton, was describing his thoughts on where we stand in Iraq. (He supports, by the way, a loose federalist state — a single Iraq with three strong regions and a weak central government.)

He blew me away. The clarity of his thinking, the forcefulness of his presentation yet appropriate deference to congress, his command of history. It was a virtually identical experience to one I had a couple years ago in a hotel room in New York City — again watching CSPAN — that time being captivated by then New Republic editor Peter Beinart.

It’s not just their intelligence. It’s the way they deploy and present their intelligence.

If I think about what I’ve learned from the really impressive people in business I’ve had the honor meeting, working with, or watching from afar, it’s not so much specific tips and tricks as much as the raw impression the person makes me: So this is how someone at the top of his game carries himself and thinks about his / her life.

Needless to say, I think exposing oneself to as many impressive people as possible — whether in-person, on TV, or in books — is a wonderful way to stay driven and stay inspired.

3 comments on “Exposing Yourself to Really Impressive People
  • I totally think and feel the same way Ben. And it doesn’t matter what they’re “intelligent” about either. I get hugely inspired and motivated spending time with anybody that is at the top of their respective game. Took me a long time to identify why I gravitated to these kinds of people so much– because it wasn’t about how they worked, it was about how they carried themselves as they worked–you nailed it.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes it’s not just the content of what they’re saying, but the clarity of thought, their frequency, that leaves a lasting impression. Sometimes I can’t even remember exactly what was said – in an article, in a book, on a program – all I know was that I got a piece of their energy, their vibe, and that it helped me. I constantly try to surround myself with these role models in person and in all forms of media. It would be nice to find out which measures people take to stay surrounded by this stuff.

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