A question I’ve been asked a number of times in press and radio interviews is “who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why?” The answers change almost every time I am asked, as it depends on what I’ve been reading, watching and listening to as well as the context in which the question is asked.

Recently I read the book Choose Yourself! by James Altucher and one of the concepts it introduces is the importance of growing your idea muscle and becoming an idea machine. There is also a companion book called Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century which is written by James’ wife, Claudia Azula Altucher. This book suggests coming up with an least 10 new ideas each day, and gives 180 topics to create your ideas around.

I started working my way through the book a few days ago and whilst doing so I got to thinking about the ‘dinner party’ question. This time though, I decided to limit the list to living people who I’ve not yet met.

There are numerous people who’ve influenced my life, including family members, friends, authors and thought leaders. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with many of them, including Tony Robbins, Jamie Oliver and Mimi Kirk, who just a few years ago would have definitely been on this list.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are 10 living people who’ve influenced my life and I’d love to hang out with, although we haven’t yet met!

Brené Brown

If you are not familiar with Brené Brown, she is a New York Times bestselling author. Brené’s day job is as a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and she has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

Brené’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 25 million viewers. If you haven’t seen it, then it is most definitely worth the 18 minute investment.

When I discovered Brené’s work it was like someone just switched on a really bright light and revealed something I knew was there and yet I was finding it hard to see.

I remember a conversation 4 or 5 years before I discovered Brené Brown where I told a friend how I felt that to really help others I had to make myself vulnerable. Slowly I opened myself up and shared more and more of my story. Yet, I still carried shame about some of my past and feared judgement. Brené’s work has helped me to accept myself completely and drop the self-judgement, which was perhaps the most critical voice of all.

Rev Run (Joseph Simmons)

I always had a love of music. My first crush as a kid was Debbie Harry from Blondie and the answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” was “Adam Ant”. Then I discovered Hip Hop and my world changed.

I was fascinated by the whole culture: breakdancing, graffiti writing, DJing, MCing and the sharing of knowledge and wisdom. Hip Hop has not only provided much of the soundtrack to my life, the beats and rhymes gave me education too.

One of the early Hip Hop groups to really grab my attention was Run DMC. No longer did I want to be Adam Ant. I wore my Adidas, had posters on my wall and learned the words to all their songs.

When I saw Run was going to be in a reality show on MTV, following him and his family, I was intrigued and had to see it. What I saw was a man who was not only a role model with his music, but also as a family man and an example to his kids.

It may be over 10 years since Rev Run last released a record, but his knowledge and wisdom (the 5th element of Hip Hop culture) continues to this day.

Russell Simmons

Maybe I could join the Simmons family for dinner? Just like his brother Joe (Rev Run), Russell Simmons has been another significant influence on my life. Russell (a.k.a. Uncle Rush) was the co-founder of Def Jam records, one of the most important Hip Hop labels. He was also the guy the Beastie Boys rapped about on No Sleep ’Til Brooklyn, saying “Our manager’s crazy, he always smokes dust. He’s got his own room at the back of the bus.”

To me, Russell Simmons is the original Hip Hop entrepreneur. He is also a fantastic example of personal reinvention. He is over 20 years sober having quit drugs and alcohol and focusing on his health though a plant-based diet and daily yoga and meditation practices.

If you want to learn more from Russell Simmons then I highly recommend his books Do You!: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, Success Through Stillness and Happy Vegan, The : A Guide to Living a Long, Healthy, and Successful Life.

He also has a really great (and FREE) meditation app – Meditation Made Simple.

Rich Roll

Continuing the personal reinvention theme, the next person on my list is Rich Roll. Rich is the host of the awesome Rich Roll Podcast and the author of the best selling book Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself.

The night before he turned 40, Rich had what he calls a “moment of clarity.” He was overweight and out of shape. Climbing the stairs at his home, Rich had to stop to catch his breath and feared he was close to a heart attack.

That moment of clarity ultimately transformed Rich into one of the fittest men on the planet. He adopted a vplant-based diet and, with almost no experience, entered an extreme endurance event where he completed a 10 kilometre ocean swim, more than 260 miles on a bike and a 52.4 mile run.

Rich’s book, Finding Ultra, was one of the catalysts to me signing up to run my first ultra-marathon and completing my first triathlon just 4 weeks later!

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vay-ner-chuk, perhaps better known as Gary Vee is a legend of the social media generation. Recently asked in a video for 3 words to “give inspiration for any day I’m feelin’ down” he simply replied “You’re Gonna Die”. That’s what I LOVE about Gary Vee. There is no BS, no pretence, he just gets straight to the point and says it as he sees it.

I follow Gary on almost every social media platform there is and he always talks sense.

Click here for Part 2 (with the other 5 people)


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