You can't be what you can't see.
This wonderful quote comes from a book of the same name that explains how powerful and life-changing good exposure to highly aspirational individuals can be. When young people are deciding who they want to be, they look outward to see what is possible. If they never see great, inspiring examples of people accomplishing amazing things, then they will not believe it is possible for themselves and will thus never choose to be that someone who achieves greatly.
In my own life, the wisdom of this quote helps me as I strive to define my identity and explore my potential. Sometimes I can become easily disheartened by what I see around me and worried that my life will never amount to much in the long run. However, what helps me most is to find people I admire for their positive impacts and study their actualizations. When I see that there are others in the world with brilliant visions and aspirations who achieved their goals, I am inspired and motivated to do the same. (Sometimes I purposefully emulate individuals who have achieved goals closely aligned with my own.) Overall, I need to see people in the world having a significant positive impact on the world, so that I can know what is possible and strive to be what I see.
(This list is in no particular order at all.)
Nicola Sturgeon - politician
- Established the Wellbeing Economy Governments
- Political and socio-economic ideas / changes
- Helped millions of people see the need for a nation's government to cultivate an economy that prioritizes well-being and see the benefits and successes of nations that embrace this socio-politico-economic ideology.
George Monbiot - journalist, environmental/political activist, author
- vision for society built around our capacity for altruism and cooperation
- environmental and political activism / writing
- Helped millions of people rally behind the vision for a society built around the human capacity for altruism and cooperation.
Kate Raworth - economist, university, professor, researcher, author
- sustainable, universally beneficial economy
- economic model that balances essential human needs and planetary boundaries
- Helped millions of people understand the problematic nature of capitalist economic systems in light of the unsustainability of infinite growth and realize the need for a sustainable, universally beneficial economic model that balances essential human needs and planetary boundaries.
Andrew Yang - entrepreneur, nonprofit founder
- A vision for Universal Basic Income
- economic policy
- Reform capitalism and change its value system
- federal government reorganize the economy
- capitalist economy that’s geared toward maximizing human well-being and fulfillment
Human capitalism would have a few core tenets:
- Humanity is more important than money.
- The unit of an economy is each person, not each dollar.
- Markets exist to serve our common goals and values.
- Helped millions of people conceptualize and envision universal basic income and an effective reformation of capitalism that values humanity and its common goals and values above all else and maximizes human well-being and fulfillment.
Martin E.P. Seligman - psychologist, author, professor
- founder of positive psychology
- Proposed idea of "Flourishing" psychology and its implications in a book
- Well-being Theory and PERMA
- Helped millions of people realize the potential for psychology to focus on happiness, well-being, and flourishing, instead of just focusing solely on disorders, diseases, and abnormalities.
- Helped millions of people conceptualize flourishing as a theory and measurable framework of psychological scientific study.
Daniel Gilbert - psychologist, author, professor
- Ideas on happiness and beliefs
- affective forecasting
- through perception and cognitive biases, people imagine the future poorly, in particular what will make them happy
- our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy
- Helped millions of people recognize and understand our cognitive biases, misperceptions, and misjudgements about what will believe will make us happy and combat these systematic cognitive problems with effective affective forecasting.
Dan Ariely - psychologist, professor, author
- Ideas on decision making, morality, the intersection of economics and psychology, workplace logic and fulfillment, and irrationality and its connection to happiness
- Helped millions of people better understand their decision making, their morality, and their behavior, along with the causes and underpinnings behind them.
Sir Ken Robinson - author, speaker, professor
- Ideas on reforming education / school systems — to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence
- Humans are naturally diverse, curious, and creative. Education should cultivate that.
- Intelligence is diverse (we think about the world in all the ways that we experience it), dynamic (the brain is interactive), and distinct (unique)
- Helped millions of people understand the importance of diverse intelligence, curiosity, and creativity and understand how to cultivate that in children with our educational systems.
Brené Brown - research professor, author, speaker
- Ideas on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy
- Helped millions of people understand and embrace the importance of vulnerability, courage, and empathy, especially to combat shame.
Yuval Noah Harari - professor, author
- Explains the rise of humanity
- Helped millions of people understand the rise of humanity from a historic and scientific basis.
Tim Jackson - economist, professor, author
- Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP)
- Challenging traditional capitalism (growth) economics with ecological sustainability (consumption)
- Examining the future, consequences, and implications of current capitalist, consumerist economic systems (challenging them)
- Helped millions of people recognize the problematic nature of capitalism, consumerism, and infinite growth as an economic system and instead turn to an ecologically sustainable economic system.
Guy Winch - (licensed) psychologist (private practice), author, speaker, blogger
- Advocate for psychological, emotional health and well-being
- Examines causes of emotional distress and their cures
- Helped millions of people improve their psychological and emotional health and well-being.
Esther Perel - psychotherapist, author, speaker, podcaster
- explored the tension between the need for security (love, belonging and closeness) and the need for freedom (erotic desire, adventure and distance) in human relationships
- promoted the concept of Erotic Intelligence
- changing the conversation on what it means to be in love and have a fulfilling sex life
- Helped millions of people understand the tense dichotomy of modern love and use erotic intelligence to shift our perspectives of what it means to be in love and have a fulfilling sex life.
Hannah Fry - mathematician, professor, lecturer, podcaster, speaker, author
- complex social behavior can be analyzed and perhaps predicted
- researches the trends in our civilization and ways we can forecast its future
- discovering new connections between mathematically described systems and human interaction at the largest scale
- Discussing the impact of algorithms that affect lives
- Helped millions of people better understand, predict, and forecast complex systems, social behavior, and human interactions — including love, crime, and crowds — through the use of mathematical analysis, modeling, and algorithms.
Sophie Scott - neuroscientist, research fellow, professor
- Researches the cognitive neuroscience of laughter as a complex social behavior
- Helped millions of people understand the importance of laughter as a complex, multi-purpose social behavior.
Kelly McGonigal - psychologist, professor, speaker, author
- Promotes and works in the field of 'science help' which focuses on translating insights from psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies that support health and well-being.
- emphasized the importance of an individual's subjective belief in themselves as someone who is able to cope successfully as being a crucial factor in their actual response to stress
- research on how the beliefs held about stress, such as thinking of stress as bad, can affect health
- emphasizes that choosing to view one's stress response as helpful creates the "biology of courage", while connecting with others under stress can create resilience
- Emphasizes willpower and mindfulness
- Helped millions of people understand how to build up positive beliefs of stress, resilience, willpower, and mindfulness to improve their health, well-being, and responses to stress.
Jane McGonigal - game designer, author, speaker
- Builds games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems
- Advocates the use of mobile and digital technology to channel positive attitudes and collaboration in a real world context
- Using current research from the positive psychology movement, McGonigal argues that games contribute powerfully to human happiness and motivation, a sense of meaning, and the development of community
- Advocates for the use of video games as tools to solve real problems, improve social connections, build communities, and instill values
- Helped millions of people understand the important potential of video games to improve one's life, connections, communities, understanding, and values.
Daniel Kahneman - psychologist, economist, professor, author
- "Father"/founder of behavioral economics
- Worked on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, as well as behavioral economics
- Helped millions of people learn from and study the effects of psychological, cognitive, emotional, cultural and social factors on the economic decisions of individuals and institutions.
- Helped millions of people understand "integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty".
Tim Urban - blogger
- Blogs at length about important topics in an often humorous and informative way
- Regarded for discussions on technology but also writes about social and psychological topics
- Helped millions of people better understand themselves, their nature, their psychology, their technology, and some of their biggest decisions.
Matthieu Ricard - author, French interpreter for the Dalai Lama
- Studies happiness, meditation, and mind training — emphasizing the importance of the mind on life
- Writes on the meaning and fulfillment of happiness, "caring economics", altruism, and compassion
- Helped millions of people understand the necessity of mind training in the pursuit of happiness and the importance of care, compassion, and altruism.
Yann Dall'Aglio - philosopher, author
- studies "the joyous effects of nihilism — the happy and comical consequences of the nonsense of life"
- "explores the challenges and triumphs in the modern era, where individualism and consumerism reign"
- "writes about love in the modern era and he defines love as the desire of being desired"
- Challenges modernity and its emphasis on individualism, consumerism, the anxious desire to be desired, and the endless collection of "seduction capital"
- Helped millions of people recognize the problematic nature of our individualistic consumerism, our obsessive desire to be desired, our hysterical collection of "seduction capital", and our narcissistic capitalization — and thus turn to a somewhat nihilistic form of love and tenderness instead.
Donald Hoffman - psychologist, professor, author
- "reality is best understood as a set of phenomena our brain constructs to guide our behavior. To put it simply: we actively create everything we see, and there is no aspect of reality that does not depend on consciousness."
- Studies scientific breakthroughs on the interaction of consciousness, perception, and reality, exploring how we construct our reality
- Challenges previously fundamental ideas on the nature of reality
- Helped millions of people understand the way our consciousness constructs our reality using our perception and rethink the nature of reality.
Simon Sinek - author, speaker, consultant
- Emphasizes the need in human nature for a Why, for a belief, reasoning, and motivation
- Helped millions of people understand the human need for a Why — for a belief, motivation, and reaonsing (reason for living; raison d'etre).
Barry Schwartz - psychologist, professor, author
- Challenges our obsession with options and freedom of choice in light of our paralysis from choices and overwhelming decision making, revealing a paradox of choice
- Helped millions of people understand the paradox of choice and the need for practical wisdom.
Celeste Headlee - journalist, author, speaker, radio host
- Emphasizes the crucial aspects of good conversation
- Teaches and encourages good conversation practices
- Helped millions of people improve their conversational skills so that they might go on to thrive in conversations, share wonderful discussions, and build great connections.
Dave Isay - radio producer, editor, author
- Emphasizes the need for stories, listening, and conversation
- Helped millions of people be heard in good conversations and gave them a platform to tell their stories.
Robert Sapolsky - neuroendocrinologist, biologist, neurologist, professor, author
- Emphasizes our broad capacity to do both incredible good and terrible evil
- Breaks down the biology of our best and worst behavior (/selves)
- Helped millions of people understand the deep complexity of the biology of our best and worst behavior.
Margaret Heffernan - entrepreneur, CEO, author, speaker
- Helped people understand how to create organizations and institutions that foster good leadership and mentorship, talent and potential, and an environment that values and rewards its people.
Dan Pink - author, host, speechwriter
- Studies motivation
- Promotes autonomy, mastery, and purpose in work
- Helped millions of people understand the importance of motivation, autonomy, mastery, and purpose in work.
Robert Waldinger - psychiatrist, professor
- Helped millions of people understand that the good life is built on good relationships (and other key insights and conclusions from the "Grant Study", an over-75-year-long Harvard study on adult happiness that he currently directs).
Steven Pinker - psychologist, linguist, author, professor
- Challenged widespread notions about the world getting worse and more violent
- Promotes ideas, ideals, and values of the Enlightenment: reason, science, humanism, and progress
- Helped millions of people understand the value of reason, science, and humanism in the progress of humanity.
Ray Dalio - investor, hedge fund manager, philanthropist, founder, author
- Emphasizes the importance of principles to guide behavior
- Promotes proven principles
- Promotes computer algorithm aided decision making
- Helped millions of people understand the importance of using principles to make decisions and taught them how to discover and create principles of their own.
Bill Gates - investor, author, philanthropist, humanitarian, founder
- Helped millions of people through effective philanthropic efforts. (Used enormous amounts of money to found a foundation that strives to reduce inequality, improve healthcare and education, combat infectious diseases, etc.)
Sam Harris - author, neuroscientist, philosopher, public intellectual, blogger, podcast host
- Promotes a scientific foundation for morality, which measures experiences on a scale of flourishing
- Helped millions of people construct a moral foundation using science, reason, logic, and evidence.
Kathryn Schulz - journalist, author
- "Explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes our relationships—whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations."
- Helped millions of people understand human fallibility and the tendency to err (to be wrong) in light of our obsession with being right; and understand how to effectively deal with this and embrace our nature humbly.
Julia Galef - writer, speaker, founder, podcaster
- Explores how to "improve human judgment, especially on complex, high-stakes decisions."
- Helped millions of people understand the importance of rationality in decision making, recognize human irrationality, and embrace critical self-skepticism paired with curiosity and an openness to being wrong.
Andrew Solomon - author, professor
- Emphasizes the importance of forging meaning and building identity all throughout life, even from our worst experiences
- Helped millions of people forge meaning and build identity out of their life experiences, even the worst ones.
Philipp Dettmer - information designer, founder, YouTube channel "director"
- Founded the YouTube channel, Kurzgesagt
- "Raises awareness for topics from the fields of science, space, technology, biology, history and philosophy."
- Inspires millions of people to learn and share in a passion for knowledge.
- Uses educational film, infographics and illustrations, to make knowledge more accessible to audiences and to convey memorable insights and reveal new connections within the subject matter.
- Helped millions of people learn (complex) scientific, technological, political, philosophical, and psychological subjects through information design (videos, animations, graphics, etc) that makes concepts easy, accessible, and understandable.
Peter Singer - philosopher, professor, author
- Promotes effective altruism
- Helped millions of people understand and embrace effective altruism (and veganism).
Alain de Botton - philosopher, author, founder
- Promotes emotional intelligence and social intelligence
- Helped millions of people improve their emotional and social intelligence, and provided them with advice on life issues, including work, relationships, self-knowledge, and achieving calmness.
Dave Eggers - author, editor, publisher, founder
- Helped millions of children learn to read and write, find confidence in their literacy and writing, and publish books and short stories of their own — all while having a lot of fun.
Hans Rosling - physician, statistician, speaker, founder, professor
- Promotes the effective use of data and statistics to shape our perspectives of world problems
- Helped millions of people gain significant insights into the world's biggest problems by presenting clear ways of visualising and understanding the data and statistics behind these problems.
Helen Fisher - anthropologist, human behavior researcher, fellow, university, author
- Promotes a scientific approach to studying the nature of love as a phenomenon in the brain
- Helped millions of people understand the neuroscience, psychology, and biology of love, and helped these people shape an accurate and realistic perspective of love.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - psychologist, professor, author
- Founded the concept of flow
- Promotes flow as an essential aspect of fulfilling and flourishing
- Helped millions of people understand the importance of flow as an essential aspect of fulfilling and flourishing, and taught them how to engage in flow more effectively.
Steven Johnson - author, media theorist, TV presenter, host, podcaster, advisor, founder
- Helped millions of people better understand decision making, innovation, creativity, cognition, and emergence.
Malcolm Gladwell - journalist, author, speaker, staff writer
- Effectively uses stories to demonstrate key discoveries about human nature
- Wrote several books and articles on the implications of research in the social sciences, making frequent and extended use of studies in the areas of sociology, psychology, and social psychology.
Mariano Sigman - physicist, neuroscientist, author, researcher
- Helped develop an empirical and theoretical approach to decision making, with special focus on understanding the construction of confidence and subjective beliefs.
- Helped improve educational practice by applying understanding of cognitive neuroscience.
- Helped millions of people understand the research of cognitive neuroscience on learning and decision-making.
Ruth Chang - professor, philosopher, fellow, researcher, author, lecturer, consultant
- Promotes effective decision making with our toughest decisions
- Provided important strategies for people to make their toughest decisions
Ze Frank - online performance artist, composer, humorist, public speaker
- Uses humor and fascinating experiences or interactions to convey important messages about human nature
- Made millions of people laugh and have fun all while promoting the positive potential of people and the internet.
Daniel Goleman - author, science journalist, psychologist
- Writes about the brain and behavioral sciences, Emotional Intelligence, self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, social intelligence, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis
- challenges traditional measures of intelligence as a predictor of life success
- Helped millions of people better understand empathy in humans and how to empathize effectively by focusing our attention well.
If somehow you happen to know any of these amazing people, please tell them I said "thanks" :)