Over the past several months, I’ve reflected on some of the people, currently alive, who have greatly influenced my life (outside of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers). I’m talking about people, I don’t know, but I’ve invited into my life through their art or expertise (like authors or musicians).
I started writing down their names. I did my first draft in mid-March 2020 and every once in a while went back and revised the names. I worked with about 25 names along the way and ultimately narrowed the list to eight people I would like to have “lunch” with – either a real lunch or some sort of extended conversation.
In selecting this group, I considered things like:
- How long have they been an influence in my life?
- Did they send me in new directions on how think?
- Did they help me find my own voice (verses adopting their voice)?
- How much do I admire them and/or their accomplishments?
- How much have I learned from them?
- Was that learning of lasting value?
- Is there still an opportunity to learn from them in a way that moves my thinking or life forward?
When selecting my top eight people, it wasn’t initially difficult identifying names. What was difficult was narrowing the list to eight people. So, in alphabetical order here I the eight people I would like to have lunch with:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Ruth Bader-Ginsburg
- Robert Caro
- Annie Dillard
- Bob Dylan
- Maya Lin
- Laura Marling
- George Will
I debated whether to add a short bio or the reason they’ve had such an influence on my life. For a number of reasons, I decided not to do that and leave it at the names — although, I would be happy to answer questions in the comments section about my selections.
There was a number of other people I also considered. Several of these names could easily be interchangeable with some of people in my top eight. In fact, if I was having a “real lunch”, I might now choose a couple of these individuals over a few in my top eight. People on the below list most likely didn’t make the top eight due to something like a shorter time span related to their influence in my life, but I still owe them a debt of gratitude for what I’ve learned from them. I then interspersed the names of a few people that emerged more recently in my purview — people I should hear from more. In no particular order the rest of my “lunch group” would be:
- Barack Obama
- Rebecca Solnit
- Maria Popova
- Michelle Obama
- Wendell Berry
- Lori Gottlieb
- Charlie Munger
- Greg Boyd
- Oprah Winfrey
- Elena Kagan
- Rana el Kaliouby
- Dani Shapiro
- Barbara Benagh
- John Roberts
- Anne Tyler
- Josh Waitzkin
Obviously, it’s only wishful thinking to have lunch with most of these people. But, I have their music, their writing, their leadership, their ideas, and insights into the way they think. Most of all, I have their influence as a way to find my own voice which is the most important thing.
In the comments section, feel free to add your own list, comment on my list, or ask questions.