10 Dead Dudes Every Entrepreneur Should Follow (but, not on twitter)

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Sadly, none of the dudes on this list tweet, blog, text or accumulate badges on foursquare…

I’m guessing the reason is pretty obvious. But, they’ve each left legacies and a substantial body of work capable of fueling tremendous entrepreneurial growth and transforming business. If you know their work, revisit it. If not, find it and devour it and leverage it to take your venture, idea and life to the next level.

1. Gary Halbert | Persuasion in Print – Gary was a legendary copywriter and marketer, but was also known as a near-mystical storyteller, both in life and in print. And, though he passed a few years ago, he left a tremendous educational legacy in the form of a series of letters to his sons that were the equivalent of an A-list copywriting education. They’ve since become known as The Boron Letters and you can read all of them online at TheGaryHalbertLetter.com

2. Buddha | Service, Giving & Compassion – It’s not about religion, it’s not about dogma, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! Leading with humanity, respect, compassion, awareness, presence, service and hard daily work. The fundamental lessons taught by Buddha thousands of years ago still resonate powerfully in business today. A great place to start is Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Tao De Ching or Ron Hogan’s edgy, modern interpretation Getting Right With Tao (which rocks).

3. Claude Hopkins | Test or Die – Back in 1966, Hopkins wrote a 70 page book called Scientific Advertising that forever changed the way companies crafted sales messages…at least those who were paying attention. Among, them, David Ogilvy, who credits Hopkins’ book with changing his life. Because Hopkins focused in on the need to measure and improve what you do. He championed results and metrics over ego. And, that was huge. The amazing thing is, Scientific Advertising is just as relevant today as it was more than 40 years ago.

4. Milton Erickson | Story, Trance, Influence & Action – Erickson was a legendary therapist whose work in hypnosis, storytelling and trance laid the foundation for a broad array of transformative mindset technologies, including what others would eventually turn into neurolinguistic programming or NLP. While his work was centered in the field of therapy, the skills and discoveries he made about the power of language and story to drop people into trance states then lead them to change translates beautifully to the area of influence, sales, persuasion and marketing. You can learn more by starting with My Voice Will Go With You and Phoenix: Therapeutic Patterns of Milton H. Erickson. Just promise to use your new found powers only for good.

5. Eugene Schwartz | Matching Headlines to Market Stage – Schwartz is legendary for having sold over $1,000,000,000 with his copy. But, he didn’t just stop at selling other peoples’ stuff.Β  He also wrote a little known book called Breakthrough Advertising. Little known, that is, to nearly everyone but the small handful of people who’ve used the knowledge contained within it to understand how to create headlines and copy that match the “stage” of a market…then generate big, fat piles of cash. The book is expensive ($80 – $200, if you can even find it in stock). Don’t cheap out, this gem is worth hundreds of times the price.

6. P.T. Barnum | The Power of Entertainment – We all know P.T. Barnum, showman extraordinaire, the first-ever “show-biz millionaire” and creator of Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus. Why study him? Because, he understood and leveraged the power of engagement and entertainment phenomenally well. And, especially, if you’re either in or are thinking about launching a business that educates others, understanding how Barnum integrated entertainment and “mesmerization” into a business model is a powerful lesson. He was also a complex, polarizing person who came back from the financial failure. You don’t need to like him or his views, you do need to understand what he did. Check out P.T. Barnum: America’s Greatest Showman.

7. Keith Richards…oh…he’s not…never mind…

8. David Ogilvy | The Power of Selling En-Masse – The founder of one of the largest ad conglomerates in the world, Ogilvy brought a direct response sensibility to large scale communications sharing, “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” Study not only his approach to advertising, but how he built his empire. Read anything you can get your hands on, but start with Ogilvy on Advertising.

9. Stevie Ray Vaughan | The Power of Passion – Vaughan was a legendary blues guitarist and performer. But, there’s something immensely powerful to be learned from the way he lived, performed and created music. He was all in. Completely and utterly absorbed. If there’s a word that goes deeper than passion, he embodied it. Reportedly humble in person, he gave everything he had when he hit the stage. And, in devoting his life to this singular muse, he created magic that people could not get enough of.

It didn’t even matter if you were a blues fan, when you were in his presence, you were drawn in. Hell, there was a pretty good chance you wanted to BE him. Back in 1980, at the age of 26, he wrote a love song to his wife, Lenora, after she rallied 7 friends to chip in $50 each to buy him a 1965 Stratocaster guitar. The song was called Lenny. You can listen in here. Close the door, close your eyes and turn it up. If you don’t get it from that…

10. Fred Lebow | The Power of Will – A die-hard runner and much beloved founder of the New York City Marathon, Lebow turned a dream and some serious marketing savvy into one of the largest athletic events in the world. Starting from humble beginnings with only 55 finishers in 1970 (Lebow finished 45th), the race has now grown into one of the most prestigious marathons in the world, boasting more than 40,000 finishers, millions of live fans and tens of millions of TV viewers. Lebow’s accomplishment were a testament to what happens when you blend passion with marketing genius and extraordinary will. Start your reading with Anything For a T-Shirt, then google and read.

11. Bonus Live Person: Trent Reznor | Making Your Own Rules –Β  Founder of the band Nine Inch Nails. After working successfully in the traditional music label model, he turned everything upside down, stepped outside the box everyone believed defined the space and created a new paradigm. Reznor isn’t just a brilliant musician and performer, he’s also an extraordinary provocateur, community builder, business strategist with an eery ability to see where the industry is capable of going, then lead the way.

And, like many others who’ve achieved a certain level of success by breaking a lot of rules, people tend to have strong feelings about him. What he’s accomplished applies across many different industries. This video from TechDirt’s Michael Masnick does a great job of laying out what Reznor did and how it impacted not only the band, but the entire industry.

So, that’s my top 10. If you’ve got thoughts on them or have others you think would be of value, feel free to share away in the comments below.

And, if you’ve found value in this collection, why not share it?

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58 responses

58 responses to “10 Dead Dudes Every Entrepreneur Should Follow (but, not on twitter)”

  1. Nice one Jonathan!

    It’s a shame these people are not alive. I’m sure there are tons of questions they could still answer and provide wisdom. Or at least we could follow them on Twitter :))

  2. Sid Savara says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    Thanks for the pointer to the Boron Letters! That’s a great resource!

    Two of the biggest influences in my life continues to be Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People and Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World

    Those two books changed the way I looked at the world and the way I am as a person.

    Another group that has really influenced me are musicians and entertainers. Hearing about their lives, the passion they put into their work and then hearing their soul in the songs they recorded really moves and inspires me – though many of them are, like Keith Richards, not dead πŸ˜‰

  3. Dennis Baker says:

    Charlie “Tremendous” Jones – Leaders are Readers.

    “You will be the same in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read” ~C. Jones

  4. Hulbert says:

    Thanks for this list Johnathan. All of these people when they were alive had a dream to influence as many people as they could in the world. Even many years later after they have passed away, their words are still carried on by people by who wish to share their experiences, like what you’re doing here.

    I think it’s always inspiring to hear about what kind of feats others were able to accomplish before us, and be able to learn something from their experiences that helps improve our lives so we can do grow and be able to improve the lives of others as well.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No doubt, talk about the collective legacy they’ve left, it’s a bit mindblowing

  5. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by twittybean: 10 Dead People Every Entrepreneur Should Follow (but, not on twitter) http://bit.ly/bbcHW0

  6. matt says:

    Milton Erickson is truly amazing. His broad way of seeing and speaking is brilliant. The books noted are superior another one is Uncommon Therapy.

    Another name I would add to the list is James Carse who wrote the unique and in my mind seminal book “Finite and Infinite Games” which starts with a very simple premise that there are two types of games – finite and infinite. Finite games are played to be won and infinite games are played to be played. He opens this up to look at the range of human endeavors in terms of their finiteness or infiniteness. The book is full of beautiful arguments and is hardly a book of sayings but here are a few examples:

    The rules of the finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must change.
    Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.
    Finite players are serious; infinite games are playful.
    A finite player plays to be powerful; an infinite player plays with strength.
    A finite player consumes time; an infinite player generates time.
    The finite player aims for eternal life; the infinite player aims for eternal birth.

    the book and the man are breathtaking.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      That sounds very cool, had never heard of Carse before, thanks for the heads up

  7. Alysson says:

    A couple more interesting reads to add to #2: “Buddhism Without Beliefs” and “The Zen Commandments”. Both enjoyable on many levels…

    And, for the record, it would be AWESOME to have the chance to follow those on your list on Twitter. Imagine what it would be like to be able to interact with them in social web circles. Fingers crossed that Google breaks the space time continuum and can figure out how to crawl their brains and add their vast knowledge & wisdom to the search index. πŸ™‚ Did I just find a reason to encourage Google? Damn – that sucks…

  8. Great list, especially #7!

    I have a copy of “Breakthrough Advertising” and it is definitely a classic. Schwartz, like Hopkins (and that Buddha kid) were bonafide. I learned a lot from these people and others like him. If Dan Kennedy were less alive, I would nominate him for this list.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Everytime I re-read Schwartz’ book, I discover something new. And, yeah, there are bunches of living people, that’s for another list (Reznor excepted, lol)

  9. April says:

    It’s always great to get a hold of someone else’s book list. I’ve actually read a couple. Thanks for sharing, and like Erickson’s teachings, I promise to use my newfound knowledge only for good. πŸ˜‰

  10. Cool post Jonathan – Glad to see Erickson makes your list.

    I’m starting to suspect that you’ve got an NLP background too…

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      I’ve done a bit of reading, but am by no means well studied on it

  11. Mick Morris says:

    thanks Jonathon.. some of these I know of and do follow (and there is NOTHING that some great blues music from someone like Stevie Ray Vaughan can continue to weigh you down)

    You have added some extras for me to go review, and for that I am appreciative.


    • Jonathan Fields says:

      You can never go wrong with a little SRV. : )

      • While Stevie wasn’t a big surprise, I was delighted to find “Lenny” mentioned by name πŸ˜‰ When I started my music blog 8 years ago, it was one if the first songs about which I really found a way to say what I meant: http://www.knowyourmusic.com/kym/index.asp?LogID=84

        Sheesh; October of 2002.

        Hearing him always amazes, but find some concert footage: some of those astonishing licks are happening behind his back or one-handed or who knows what.

  12. First time visitor – really enjoyed the post and got some great books to add to my list of purchases…. cheers

  13. Jesse says:

    it’s 5:30 a.m. good coffee and Stevie Ray Vaughan. excellent way to start the day.

  14. Ed Gandia says:

    I have a somewhat unique way to appreciate the work of legends who’ve left this world. As a wine lover — and someone who loves and appreciates older wines — I find great pleasure in sipping wines that were crafted by paradigm-shifting winemakers who are no longer with us.

    For me, this a very different and multi-sensory way to appreciate their work, sacrifice and art (winemaking is a true artform!).

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed wines from John Daniel Jr. (the old Inglenook), Joe Heitz (Heitz Cellars), Bonaccorsi Wine Cellars (Michael Bonaccorsi) and many others who stored their best work in a bottle.

    Sharing these wines with people you love is a great way to pay tribute to the passionate men and women who changed the world of wine in some unique way.

  15. Ivan Walsh says:

    As you added Buddha, can I suggest Machiavelli (strategy) and Plato (social engineering, esp Chapter 5 of the Republic).

  16. Joris says:

    I love the work of David Ogilvy, the book I like most is Confessions of an Advertising Man. Full no-nonsense tips to make better campaigns.

  17. Kim Maxwell says:

    I remember reading about Fred Lebow and the NY marathon. He ran it and ran in it even when he had cancer and was very ill, an inspirational figure. I give him big points for the title “Anything for a T-shirt”, for some people that is so true!

  18. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I feel I have to point out that the Tao Te Ching is one of the central texts in Taoism, not Buddhism, and has nothing to do with the Buddha – though it’s arguable that the two religions / systems of thought are similar or at least broadly compatible.

    Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, was born in the sixth century B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. The Tao Te Ching is associated with Lao Tzu or Laozi, a philosopher of ancient China. Exact dates for both historical figures are a matter of debate.

    Laozi literally means “Old Master”, and many historians contend that he is likely a synthesis of multiple historical figures.

    I haven’t read Ron Hogan’s book, sounds great, I’ll check it out!

  19. Julie Roads says:

    Such an incredible list…and that song, oh THAT SONG. It leaves nothing about the kiss that must have come with it to the imagination.

  20. I love the eclecticism of this list! Wonderful. Buddha and Gary Halbert? LOL. Some folks/books were new to me, too, so thanks for that. πŸ™‚

  21. Sandi says:

    Terrific list…and SRV is on my absolute favorite musician list and now I know why — thanks so much for the background on the song πŸ™‚ All of these authors/artists were real difference-makers, sometimes radically different themselves, and had (still have!) great impact/legacy. Jesus is another for the list…

  22. Melissa says:

    No women???

  23. aday says:

    a shame they are all dudes, eh?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No more of a shame than it would be to add men to the forthcoming post on women, no? The post was called 10 Dead Dudes for a reason. πŸ˜‰

  24. Shann says:

    Sweet eclectic resource list! Thanks.

  25. Queenie says:

    Why is Napoleon Hill not on this list? He is number 1 on mine for sure.

  26. shanna says:

    so i guess the *10 dead women you should follow* post will be next, right? πŸ™‚

  27. Lain Ehmann says:

    Since we’re going with dead and dudes, here’s my nomination: Ray Bradbury, specifically, “Zen in the Art of Writing.”

    One quote: “I intend my plays to be first entertaining and grand fun that will stimulate, provoke, terrify, and, one hopes, amuse… I do NOT want to be a snobbish lecturer, a grandiloquent do-gooder, or a boring reformer. I DO wish to run, seize this greatest time in all the history of man to be alive, stuff my senses with it, eye it, touch it, listen to it, smell it, taste it, and hope that others will run with me, pursuing and pursued by ideas and ideas-made machines.”

    WOW. Just imagine if all the blogosphere stuck to that simple manifesto.

    LIVE, people. LIVE, then write. You’ll have more to write about if you’re not at your computer all day. πŸ˜‰

  28. Thanks for this!

    I’m really intrigued by what you have said about Eugene Schwartz. I’m assuming you have read and used the information in his book?

    Can you share any commentary?

  29. Derek says:

    I just want to call out that PT Barnum was a great choice for this list. For those of you who want to learn more about him, he actually authored a book called “The Art of Money-Getting”

    You can find it by going to google and searching for “Art of Money-Getting” inurl:.pdf.

    His insight back then, applies today. Trust me. The book is free. So check it out!

  30. Jonathan, amazing post bruddha

    Love the image too

    My favorite is #7… HILARIOUS

  31. Tara Mohr says:

    Love this list!

    And really looking forward to the companion Dudette piece. Glad I was not only the only one wondering about that.

    I’m shocked that spell check does not recognize Dudette as a word. What’s up with that? πŸ™‚

  32. Jonathan,

    These 10 people are who I would call invisible mentors. An invisible mentor is a unique leader who you can learn things from by observing them. With the internet and access to information, we can research almost anyone. When people choose their invisible mentors, I recommend that become so versed, that they can ask and answer the question, “What would invisible mentor A do if he were in my position?” Great list and thanks for sharing.

    Avil Beckford @avilbeckford

  33. Rich L says:

    Thanks for the incredible β€œthinkers” and β€œdoers” list.

    Going real old School (almost died 100 years ago, 1916). He thought so much he had his own printing press… I think there is a lot to learn from Elbert Hubbard. Even in his Death alone he taught me a lesson (he died on a sinking ship).

    Find some quotes of him here:



  34. Megan says:

    Great list, I’ll definitely be following a few of these links. I actually wanted to read the Barnum book and never got around to it.

    That said, I can’t help but point out that Buddha did not write the Tao De Ching; it’s not from the same tradition or the same country (Buddhism is Indian in origin and Taoism is Chinese). I’m not debating that they are both equally worthy teachers for life and business, just mentioning they technically count as two people on the list… I love the Tao, it’s beautiful, insightful, and powerful… I imagine you can say much the same thing about Buddha’s teaching too though.


  35. Anne Wayman says:

    Yikes… okay, I know some of these folks… obviously more to learn and looking forward to it.

    Two old white guys I really like to read are Emerson and Clements (Twain).

  36. Dawna Jarvis says:

    I loved your list and especially seeing SRV and the comments about him. My husband toured with him in the mid-80’s and he truly was a humble and genuine person.

    One other person I would add to the list is Walt Disney. Not only was he a leader in the entertainment field, he brought imagination and creativity to the American mindset.

  37. JF,
    Great list!

    Everyone else… This is Johnathan’s top 19 list.
    If you don’t agree,or wonder where ____ is…., you can always write your Own top 10 list!
    Someone called you “Bruddha” I think “Broddha”

  38. I love the diversity of your list. I agree that lessons come from many life experiences. The longer the conversation – the longer the list.

    I would also add Dan Tapscott(still living though). His book Grown Up Digital gives a fantastic insight into our upcoming generations and how they integrate technology into their lives. I feel this is a must read for entrepreneurs and marketers as they are the future consumers and clients.


  39. Jac says:

    Perhaps “10-very-wide-awake-women” could be the next post *wink! Great read all the same, thanks JF!

  40. Hopkins was dead by 1966. “Scientific Advertising” was published in 1923.

    Eugene Schwartz’s “Breakthrough Advertising” was published i n 1966.

  41. […] of amazing dead dudettes is really off the charts. It’s also a fairly different one than Jonathan’s list of Dead Dudes because, as it turns out, men and women really are different. And the thing is, there isn’t a […]

  42. […] Fields wrote a snappy post about 10 Dead Dudes to follow a couple of weeks ago and asked me to write the companion piece about Dudettes, seeing as […]