Brilliant Minds–In Person

Last month I heard Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger pontificate for
5-6 hours at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in
Omaha. And now I’ll be able to tell my children and grandchildren
someday that I once saw the world’s richest man, assuming he passes
Bill Gates this year, but more importantly that I studied the ideas of
the world’s greatest investor. It cost me a weekend and a few hundred
dollars to attend this event.

Every time I see in person one of the brilliant people of our
generation, I come away a different person, with a mind full of new
ideas and excitement. I heard Bill Gates speak in Silicon Valley about
3 years ago; Mark Andreesen at a Jupiter Conference in Napa Valley 4
years ago. John Bresee of gave a brilliant,
thought-provoking speech at UVEF last week. Paul Brockbank gave one a
few months back. Alan Hall, CEO of Marketstar, gave a
super-inspirational talk about his mission in life and the twelve
characteristics of successful entrepreneurs at Weber State in April.
Patrick Byrne gave an incredible speech at BYU a few months back; I got
to hear him again in Price Utah a couple weeks ago. Last year I
heard Clayton Christensen teach about disruptive technology at the Open
Source Business Conference. In 1999 I heard Bill Joy of Sun speak.

Other great speeches I’ve heard include Michael Gerber, author of
E-Myth, and Robert Allen author of “Nothing Down.” I was once in an
unforgettable several hour brainstorm session with Mark Victor Hansen,
author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series (close to 100 million
books sold). I’ve been in meetings with Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley,
and Henry Blodgett and Jamie Keegan. I’ve spent hours exploring
subscription business models with Pat Keene, formerly with Jupiter, who
is now a key manager at Google. I’ve met Eric Schmidt of Google before
and chatted with him about I probably attended a dozen
Jupiter events from 1995-2000, and heard great speeches each time.

But there are brilliant minds, including some of my business heroes,
whom I have never met or heard speak. I’ve never met Bill Gross of
Idealab or Jim Clark the billionaire. (When UITA honored Jim Clark with
a Hall of Fame award I was so hoping to get a chance to meet him–but
he send his son in his place.) I’ve never heard Seth Godin speak,
though I’ve studied his books carefully. I have never heard David
Neeleman speak, although when I found out he had lectured at BYU-Idaho
last year I said to myself, I would have driven the 282 miles to
Rexburg, Idaho just to hear him speak. But I didn’t know about it until
it was too late.

The return on investment I receive by spending a little time and money
to have a chance to personally see and learn from the brilliant people
of our day is incredible. They always help me think big thoughts and
dream big dreams. So why don’t I take more opportunities to do this?
What gets in my way?

I think the #1 issue for me is that I don’t know when and where my
gurus are going to be speaking next. When I found out one of the Google
founders would be attending the Always On conference at Stanford in
July, I decided I had to go. But how often do the brilliant people
speak at local or regional events that aren’t well publicized, and I
just miss the chance to go hear them?

So maybe I’ll launch a new web site that keeps track of people’s
business heroes and when and where they are going to be speaking next.
I can send email alerts so that people don’t miss out on opportunities
to gain intellectual capital by attending lectures from brilliant
people in person.

Of course, I’ll launch it by tracking my own heroes speaking schedules
first. But if I do build such a site (assuming there isn’t one like
this already), what should I call it and what other business
heroes/brilliant minds should I add to my list?

Let me know what you think….

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  1. I like seeing people in person too, but it isn’t always practical. That’s why I like ITConversations. I subscribe to several of their podcasts. It would be nice to see a service like that expand beyond technology-related topics.

    I did hear David Neeleman speak at UVSC when I was taking the Executive Lecture Series course. He was great.

  2. Brilliant idea. Here in Cambridge UK they have a science week where great guys give lectures. Will always remember the Mandlebrot lecture

  3. David Wood

    Do you have to limit it to just business professionals? Why not add religious, service, political, etc. type leaders.

  4. Ditto on IT Conversations — I’ve heard lots of great talks via their podcasts. Jim Spohrer – Service as a Science – was good. Mark Cuban had a good Web 2.0 discussion. Shai Agassi (from SAP) – Enterprise Agility – is a masterful speech and a very interesting topic.

  5. IT Conversations is a terrific resource. So is CEO Clubs and similar types of sites. But so far no one seems to be building a directory of all of these sites. Paul has inspired me, so I’m setting up a blog to aggregate these types of speeches and presentations along with important political and religious speeches. Visit and let me know what you think. If you have suggestions for sites that should be added, please submit them on

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