2nd Derivative Idols

💡 Look to the idols of your idols

Since I was a teenager I’ve established a series of running obsessions with various people (mainly business figures) who I have idolised for their thinking, their abilities, their motivational thinking.

When I was 14 it was Warren Buffett and so I spent all my time reading about value investing and accounting books. Then in high school it was Elon Musk who was I drawn to because he was incredibly awkward but also very serious about executing on a grand vision. In university I discovered people like Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. Most recently I have been learning from Naval Ravikant.

In every age, there are people who we idolise for their achievements. For today’s audience its Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page etc. Go back in time it might have been Jack Welch, David Packard, Walt Disney. Go back even further it was Edison, Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Ford.

One of the easiest mistakes is to over-index on the founders of today and ignore the influential figures of the past.

In my search for more interesting people to learn from, I’ve found a useful heuristic is to look for the idols of my idols. I call this Second Derivative Idols. It’s a relatively underrated resource, because most media will focus on people and stories that are happening today.

Steve Jobs idolised Edwin Land, the founder and creator of Polaroid. Jobs once described visiting an older Edwin Land as “like visiting a shrine” and they connected on their shared approach to creating great products.

Jeff Bezos admired Sam Walton who helped establish and scale Walmart by strongly emphasising disciplined cost and extreme customer focus.

Peter Thiel was heavily influenced by French philosopher – Rene Girard who is most widely known for his theory of mimetic desire – the extent to which humans imitate each other and how this leads to tension and violence.

Naval Ravikant who is most famous for being Silicon Valley’s philosopher- offers incredibly clear and high value advice for how to approach building wealth and living a peaceful and happy life. Naval himself is inspired by David Deutsch who is a relatively obscure physicist.

If you are interested in finding some extra inspiration, look to the idols of your idols.