John Maeda

John Maeda is a Partner at Kleiner Perkins who is just an amazing personality. John is putting together an annual Design in Tech (here’s the 2015 video) report similar to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report. Maeda has done some really interesting work on STEM to STEAM – combining STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) with Art. He’s also done some great TED talks and came up with some fascinating stuff in the 1990s around interactive books. Though I might just like him for things like the following. When he was the head of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) he was quoted as saying, “America is a weird country. It’s like I was a waitress somewhere, and now I’m in a movie—a futuristic astronaut cast in a new kind of Wild West picture. [At RISD] I get to make, like, a space Western,” in Fast Company.

I also watched this crazy video where Maeda talked about being a Venture Capitalist (hey there’s bad people everywhere), why he became president of RISD (because he was inspired by Barak Obama) and why he left (because the challenge was gone). All through it he’s incredibly humble — see the quote below.

Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winning physicist who wrote one of the most interesting memoirs of scientific inquiry in Surely You Must be Joking Mr. Feyman. For a real treat listen to Feynman’s telling of his time of Lost Alamos From Below. Feynman was one of the best explainers of science. For a taste of this take a look at Physics is Fun to Imagine where Feynman talks about things like why mirrors reverse left and right and how fire is just stored sunlight.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of the earliest books to describe the quintessential American. It also has a nice little bit on self improvement. Franklin listed 13 virtues that he thought were the most important and focused on one each week. He would write in his notebook each time he lapsed on the focus virtue. My grandfather Norman Schlaff was a big fan of Benjamin Franklin the entrepreneur and scientist.

Behavioral Economics

Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize for Economics — becoming the first non-Economist to win that distinction. He summarized the field in a wonderful tome called Thinking Fast and Slow. The basic thrust of the book is that we have a number of unconscious heuristics and biases that drive our decision making — which work well MOST of the time but not ALL of the time. On a different note, Kahneman gave a fascinating TED talk about happiness that’s well worth watching. Kahnemann’s book is a fantastic tome but a little long for the people new to the field. If you want something that’s a little quicker on the topic, check out Dan Ariely’s books Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality. I wrote a few hundred words summarizing Ariely’s work on default settings as well. For more of a financial look at this, check out Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s books Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan.

Po Bronson

Po Bronson writes on a number of fascinating topics. He wrote a great magazine article on how mindset applies to child rearing. It’s also a great and short introduction to the Mindset concept. The upshot from Po’s article is that you should praise children for how hard they try, not their innate qualities like how smart or pretty they are. Po expands upon this in the book Nurtureshock. He’s also wrote other great books like Nudist on the Late Shift where he convinces people to join the internet boom at the turn of the century and What Should I Do With My Life? Where he apologies and attempts to help people figure out what to do after the crash.