My Mentors – Thinking Outside the Box

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always thought outside the box. In school, I would come up with new ways to solve problems, which pissed my teachers off constantly. I’ve always hated being told “just because”…to me those are the most closed-minded words on earth. Those words crush creativity and curiosity, and I have always been extremely creative and very, very curious.

My creativity and curiosity have set me on a lifelong path of learning. I love to read, attend lectures, debate things, ask questions, and solve problems. As I’ve continued on this quest for knowledge, I’ve found three individuals that have significantly impacted the way I view the world: Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, and Tony Hsieh.

Tim Ferriss is a successful entrepreneur, a personal productivity guru, and the author of The 4-Hour Work Week (4HWW). The 4HWW completely changed the way I looked at life, from business to life goals.

Some people view Tim’s book as a manifesto of laziness, a cry to stop working and start playing. It is anything but that. Tim’s approach to life is about efficiency, about trimming the unimportant things from your life to free up time, thereby allowing you to spend your time doing the things you love, as opposed to just the things you “have” to do. If I could summarize Tim’s wisdom in one sentence, it would go something like this:

Stripping away the inefficiencies in your life through the creation of detailed systems and the use of outsourcing makes it possible for you to enjoy your dreams today, instead of putting them off for a tomorrow that may never arise.

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and most importantly: an agent of change. Seth’s view of life is that nothing is fixed, that yesterday doesn’t have to be tomorrow. Just because something is done a certain way doesn’t mean that it is being done the right way, or the best way.

I love Seth Godin’s books, as they unflinchingly bash the status quo and criticize the companies and practices that are destroying our world, our hope, and our happiness. If I could summarize Seth’s teachings in one sentence:

Creativity, passion and an ability to adapt, change and grow are the keys to true success, in every facet of life. We are all artists and geniuses, and if we can ignore the voice inside us that holds us back, we can truly succeed.

Tony Hsieh is the founder and CEO of Zappo’s, an online shoe retailer that was recently acquired by Amazon.com. Tony is on this list because, to me, he represents everything a leader should be. I would refer to Tony as the wizard of happiness, because that is what drives him…happiness. He believes that both his employees and customers can be truly happy…a concept that most companies seem to think is impossible.

I doubt there is a better boss in all the world. Zappo’s, last I checked, allows employees unlimited paid sick days, pays employees well above the industry average, and goes out of its way in every way to make sure employees are happy, at work and at home. Heck, they even offer new hires $2,000 to quit, just to make sure they are there for more than just money. I wish more bosses were like Tony, and more companies like Zappo’s.

From Tim I’ve learned to focus on efficiency and productivity, and not to put off my dreams for a tomorrow that may never come.You can never get back lost time, so don’t ever waste it.

From Seth I’ve learned to view the world with an open mind, to create and lead with passion, creativity and sincerity, and that art and genius are present in all of us, waiting to be set free.

From Tony I’ve learned that happiness is the bottom line. Looking out for your employee’s best interests is the best way to look out for the business’s best interests. If your employees are truly happy doing their work, your customers will be happy too.

So that is that. Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin and Tony Hsieh are three of the greatest outside-of-the-box thinkers of our age. I consider Tim, Seth and Tony to be my mentors, and I’m grateful for their contributions to this world and my life.

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