For some reason the last few days, I was thinking of those people in my life that have influenced me the most.  I have changed a great deal in the last few years, and I am sure I changed just as much in the years before that.  So how did I get to be the way I am?  I got this way by being influenced by the people I chose to expose myself to.  I believe I am successful, because I exposed myself to positive people.

I talk about the coming tribalism that I believe in from time to time.  Here the metaphor is even more apt.  If you think of everyone that influences you are being part of your tribe, its easy to see where you will end up.  Do you want to be on team Jersey Shore or team 101st Airborne?  The people you choose as your guide posts, or your personal tribal elders, say a lot about who you will end up being.  At the end of your life, your income will be an average of the income of your 5 closest friends.  Makes you think about who you surround yourself with doesn’t it.  When things get tough, you will be glad to have their insight.

So I felt the need to talk about who my biggest influences are, mainly to give myself a chance to really analyze who they are.

My parents / my wife: When I started writing this up, I wasn’t going to include them.  Not because they weren’t instrumental in my formation, but because I can’t even imagine how much of me they changed.  My dad gave me my work ethic, my sense of humor, and my sense of honor.  My mom gave me my great desire to read.  She also gave me my early fascination with news and politics.  My wife, Jennifer, gave me all of the good parts of the adult me.  I put them all first, because family comes first in my life.  Without a strong base, a tower is nothing.

Rush Limbaugh: Although probably not a popular fellow amongst my circle of friends, he certainly had a huge impact on me.  I remember listening to his show during “America Held Hostage”, which was the first two years of the Clinton administration.  That puts me listening to his show between 1992-1994.  Which by the way meant I was between 8 and 10.  I am guessing it had an impact on me.  From him I learned what it meant to be a conservative.  I also learned how to attack those that are wrong, not with anger, but with absurdity.  Anyone seeking to intimidate you can’t stand to be laughed at.  A valuable tool in life.

Dave Ramsey: Without Dave I would probably still be drowning in debt back in Pittsburgh.  Jenn and I were up to our eyeballs in debt at about $85000 back in January of 2009.  Since then we have eliminated all but $12000 of that, and we hope to knock that out by my birthday.  Without his book “The Total Money Makeover” I don’t know where we would be.  He taught us how to handle money.  He also taught me that debt is killing us as a culture, and to avoid it forever.

Its not just money handling thought.  I also learned that each of us is truly in business for ourselves.  There is no real security in life, except that which we create for ourselves.  Your success is equal only to your ability to leave the cave, kill something, and drag it home.  Even now I am incapable of listening to him and not getting fired up.

Terry Goodkind: Although Terry is a fiction writer, I took his stories such to heart that the shaped me as a person.  He wrote the “Sword of Truth” books.  From him I learned that true and absolute evil exists in this universe.  It must be opposed, not merely exposed.  You must stand up against what is wrong, and fight against it with everything that you have.  There is no compromise with the devil, and to pretend otherwise is folly.  I often joke with my friends that I am strong willed because I view the world only in black and white.  To the modern era thats blasphemy, I say, evil must not triumph.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs:  This man wrote the single best marriage book known to man, called “Love and Respect”.  If you are married, you need to read this book.  If you are getting married, you need to read this book.  If you are a man or a woman, you need to read this book.  It will help you understand what it is that you are truly seeking withing yourself, and best of all it will help you articulate that need.  The culture is lieing to us, and you will see instantly.

Gordon Ramsey:  You know him as the foul mouthed British chef from Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef.  I know him as the person that inspired me to learn to cook.  In his life he raised himself up from nothing to become a filthy rich TV star.  I learned that the only thing holding me back was my fear of trying.  So I plunged in to the cooking world.  Now, I love it.  If I had my life to do over, I would go to culinary school instead of college.

Jack Spirko:  This one is newer by far than any of the rest, but he has already had a huge impact on me.  Jack is the host of “The Survival Podcast”.  He taught me that I am not alone.  There are others out there that believe a change is coming, and that we should prepare.  I actually got this whole paleo diet thing from his show.  I know 99% of you that read this will write off anything survivalist as instantly crazy, but its not about that.  Its about acknowledging that life is unstable.  No one can look at the 2008 recession and say the future is always going to get better.  Take the time to learn what you can, now, before its too late.  Gaining knowledge is never wasted effort.

Although I could go on with probably dozens more, those are the biggest ones for me.  Those are the people I have identified as my tribal elders.  The helped mold me into who I am.  I will continue to seek out new elders.  The moment you stop learning, you start dieing.  Take this time to ask yourself, who do I surround myself with, and are they really who I want influencing me?