There is an endless number of voices to listen to in life — some are worth following. I thought it would be useful to share a few of the people whose work I respect and follow from a business standpoint. The majority of these folks are not in my field but they are experts. Most I’ve been following for over a year, and the majority of them I’ve met, spoken to, or corresponded with personally.
I will listen to just about anyone one time. And I use these unwritten (until now!) questions to determine if I want to continue to follow their thinking further:
- Does the content and ideas they share resonate with me, my clients, or a specific situation/problem?
- Are they authentic, and by that I mean vulnerable about their shortcomings, willing to listen to others, and practicing what they teach?
- Do they have deep expertise (or at least a lot deeper than mine) in their field? Are they willing to share that expertise with others?
- Do they personally respond when you ask a question? This is important to me. Responding to their readers tells me if they have grown too big for their britches.
- Do they challenge my thinking about a subject that will shift a paradigm in important and meaningful ways?
- Does their work have a practical component grounded in experience, trial, and error?
Without further adieu, here are the people I’m learning from regularly through books, tweets, podcasts, newsletters, LinkedIn, and posts:
David C. Baker
It’s so long ago I don’t even remember how I was introduced to David’s work on expertise, but I do remember hearing him and reading his first book, Managing Right for the First Time. This book introduced me to David’s thinking, and I became hooked (I’m even quoted at the bottom of his page for this book!). His next book, The Business of Expertise, has become the benchmark book for independent professionals wanting to convert their expertise into “impact and wealth”. This book I highly recommend as it will shift your entire understanding and relationship with expertise.
Besides David’s books, I read his biweekly newsletter, LinkedIn posts, and tweets. He’s a no BS kind of guy, which can be off-putting at times. If you disagree with him publicly, be prepared to back your thoughts up because he will challenge them. Though his focus is on agencies and principles, independent professionals can relate to and apply most of his free advice especially if you are in the creative fields. He also has an excellent podcast, “The 2 Bobs” with Blair Enns, author of Win Without Pitching. Blair should be on my list because Win Without Pitching is the single most important business book for creatives I’ve ever read. However, I haven’t had time to follow him long enough to recommend. Maybe next year!
Why do I keep following David’s work? One, he’s the expert’s expert. And second, he will tell you exactly what he thinks, which is usually not what I’m thinking. That’s valuable to me.
If you only follow one person on my list, follow Philip.
When I stumbled across Philip Morgan’s work on specialization, I wasn’t sure if he was credible. At the time, Philip’s website and writing leaned toward the direct marketing side, something I wasn’t that comfortable with at the time (I’m much more comfortable with now). I reached out to David C. Baker and asked what he thought of Philip’s work, “Oh, he’s the real deal” David responded. That was enough to send me down the rabbit trail of specialization and understanding Philip’s work.
First I started reading Philip’s newsletter, which at the time was a meandering mashup of topics on specialization and life. It was highly entertaining and long! I had/have been journeying from generalist to specialist in the area of website strategy, design, and development for over two years and Philip’s excellent ideas and writing really shaped my personal understanding and business focus decisions.
I was able to meet Philip in person for a brief but enjoyable lunch in Nashville where he met other clients and past workshop participants to discuss their specialization journey. He was the real deal — down-to-earth, approachable, and helpful. I continue to learn from Philip more about specialization and its application than any other person. I took his online Point of View Workshop, which was enlightening, and am working my way through the most current edition of his seminal Positioning Manual. Philip also has an Expertise Incubator course which I one day hope to be in a position to participate. He’s very generous with his time and expertise and even offers free live events.
I heard about Jonathan through a mention in Philip’s newsletter. He is a very successful software developer turned independent consultant and coach. Jonathan’s most significant contribution has been helping me think about the relationship between value, price, and expertise. He also has a very entertaining and practical podcast with co-host Rochelle Moulton called The Business of Authority. Jonathan emails daily to his list (not kidding…daily), and I get one or two nuggets of wisdom each week from them. He also responds to every newsletter comment (and I’ve sent a lot of them) and is extremely generous with his expertise.
I used to hate “sales”, but hat was before I started following Liston. His big contribution is understanding that sales is all about serving. He gives tons of practical, not cringeworthy-used-car-salesman advice. If you don’t like the way you’re doing sales or haven’t thought of sales in a positive light, Liston’s newsletter is fantastic. He also runs training courses as well.