Top 10 Most Influential People of the Decade (to me)

Yesterday, I showed Chris my Top 10 Internet THINGS (that influenced me) of the past decade.

His first question was, “And where am I?! :(”

I retorted, “You’re not an internet thing!”

So now that I have done Internet things and moments (or decisions), now the people. A few years ago, I started writing a list for 40×365 project — to write 40 words about one person every day for a year. A person that touched your life, whether negatively or positively. But I never did perhaps due to a discovery from the past or that…I had trouble coming up with 365 names.

But 10? Oh surely! I would say that my parents (and my sister) influenced me more in the years before 2000, but this is about the last decade. At the beginning of this decade, I entered adulthood, leaving Lafayette for college then to Pittsburgh for graduate school and then to San Francisco for work.

10. Former manager at Method
Not quite ready to name names. On my first day working with her, I cried. She never noticed I think. But over the span of the year, she pushed me to do things that I was uncomfortable with. Surprisingly, I found myself leading projects—the leadership that I had wanted the previous year and was frustrated with my lack of success. With her help despite the layoff, I achieved more steps careerwise than I never expected. One piece of wisdom she shared as we parted ways, “Always look for a manager who pushes you.” I got into a habit of “What would she do?” which I now embody as part of my work.

9. A former BFF
The unnamed BFF wrote about me in her 40×365 things. It wasn’t positive, thus the word former. But before all of this, she and I met under interesting circumstances—through a chat room of a mutual friend. We found ourselves seeing each other almost every week for any random reason. Even though she was more than 3 years my junior and still in high school. But she had a different experience growing up—surrounding herself with different people—people I had never associated with before, activities I never discovered. It was probably her that I decided that I needed to change from my usual conservative ways. To take risks.

8. Bonnie John
Well obviously! Without her, human computer interaction may not have existed…as a true educational field. I would have never gone to this well-respected masters program at Carnegie Mellon. Without her, I wouldn’t have had the education I had to lead me where I am today. Careerwise.

7. Jane McGonigal
When I first saw her picture in the SXSW 2007 keynote speaker on the website, I was a little surprised if not intrigued. Earlier, I already had been irked by Mark Zuckerberg’s session. She looked young and so unintimidating. And the title of the keynote related to games. Her talk was about happiness. Particularly about games and happiness. Having had studied game design in graduate school, I was intrigued…and yet the talk wasn’t about video games or virtual worlds. It was about making reality like games. Games are transformative. They are motivating. Ever since, I followed her work, her twitter, her blog. In graduate school, I learned that unlike interaction design, designing games should be less about careful iteration…but just starting an idea. She gave me the idea that women too can succeed and most importantly, there’s a path to find what we enjoy doing. So let’s find that happiness.

6. Steve Jobs
The other day, I think I saw him in the kitchen. But as noted in #10 of moments, without him I would have not submitted to this design revolution. Minimalist. True to the task. Risky and daring.

5. Jack Bauer
I discovered Jack Bauer en route to Pittsburgh. Namely, on my long flights between Pittsburgh and the Bay Area during my years in graduate school. On my powerbook, I could watch 4 episodes straight occupying my 8 hour flights—the flights I would buy on Priceline even with 2 stops. Jack gave me hope. There was a better day. And that things aren’t left resolved for the entire season. You know that something could be done. Every time.

4. Heathers
Even though all the Heathers I am referring to was before 2000, they still had a profound effect on me through the decade. Entering college, I was able to shed my high school persona of invisibility. But I could not shake off the effect that the Heathers gave me. If I had a weakness, this would be it. I still hate being left out, being outcasted, being rejected. And if this statement is part of my mission statement even though I don’t want it to be: I don’t want to be forgotten.

3. The first EX
As much as I have alluded to him in the past few entries…and how much I detest that part of my life because of my naivete and immaturity, it was he who made me enjoy geekery. Digital cameras. Fixing computers. Figuring out things on my own. Although I still wonder…was it him or just my natural propensity toward geekery? Despite that, he was also the first relationship and taught me what I wanted and what I didn’t want. All valuable lessons.

2. Dale Carnegie
A friend asked me why I was reading How to influence people and make friends in the middle of a social event. The irony was so great. The book was my crutch (recommended by #3) for my first year in college. But now dog-eared almost 10 years later…it gave me insight in how to survive. Socially that is. There’s a part that talked about a man who would lock himself up every day for an hour. He would spend that time writing about all the things that he wanted to change about himself. Then he would work on those goals. Likewise, I now do that instinctively and constantly. Now, self-awareness is my greatest strength and greatest weakness.

1. Chris
Of course! But because he’s so entrenched in the present, I am not quite sure how and where he has influenced me. How about these ways: how not be afraid in unfamiliar situations, compromises are always possible, the lowest price for an item can always be found, how to appreciate odd movies, how to value cars and oddly enough, finally someone who appreciates me for me and not my blog, not my writing, not my creations, not my insanity…just me.

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