Checking out at Wal-Mart last week, I saw the current People Magazine special issue on “The Top 100 Celebrities Who Define Our Time.” Intriguing magazine topic, but looking at the celebrities on the People Magazine cover (including Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, and Beyonce), my reaction was, “Heaven help us if these are the people who DEFINE us.”

Creating a Top 100 List of People Who Personally Define You

The People Magazine cover made me realize the benefit from identifying the top 100 individuals who have defined your own life. That evening I created my top 100 list to see what I’d learn. Creating your personal list not only makes for a healthy dose of personal reflection, it also will make you consider whether you’ve sufficiently recognized, thanked, and passed along what you’ve learned from your top 100 personal influencers.

For me, the first 10 names came rapidly, and the first 25 were pretty obvious. By the time I made it through half the list, the rate of names being added slowed dramatically. I had to remind myself the personal top 100 did not have to be in any particular order. The objective was simply to create the list and evaluate it later. Near the end, numbers 93 through 100 seemed to take as much time to write down as the first 50 names.

My Top 100 List

Despite my challenges, it was tremendously worthwhile to create the personal top 100 list. Here’s how it broke down:

  • Co-workers – 19 (from college jobs through now)
  • Celebrities  – 16 (included religious figures, musicians, comedians, cartoonists/designers – basically anyone who influenced me on the list that I haven’t met personally)
  • Family - 15 (parents, my wife, grandparents, etc.)
  • Educators – 14 (teachers and staff at schools I attended, although  priests who were high school instructors are in the religious category below)
  • Students -  11 (people I went to school with from grade school through college)
  • Religious – 10 (mainly priests from high school and at our parishes in Kansas City)
  • Bosses – 10 (includes direct bosses and those above them)
  • Professional – 3 (people I have known, but not worked with directly on an on-going basis)
  • Other – 2 (1 of these was Max the Cat, who got me to like cats again)

I was surprised that celebrities were the second largest category instead of showing up further down the list. Before creating the list, I'd have thought  educators would be at the top along with my family.

More Observations about the List

  • Nearly 40 individuals have been featured by name or anonymously in Brainzooming blog posts so far, which is reassuring, but also prompts me to grow the list.
  • My hometown – Hays, KS – was the site of the  first meeting with 46 people on the list.
  • As far as I know, 12 people on the list are dead. Of the remaining ones, I’ve been in contact with 34 in the past year.
  • Riding around my hometown with my parents last week, we saw one of my middle school teachers (#58 on the list, but again, it’s not in order) who now pretty much just walks around town all day. That's neither good nor bad, but was surprising to find out.
I look forward to going back through the top 100 later and seeing if there are other names that should replace some of those included in the first draft.

Give Creating Your Top 100 List a Try

It was definitely worth the relatively short time it took to put together a personal version of the People Magazine  list. I’d encourage you to make the same time investment and see what you learn from thinking about the people that have defined you.  – Mike Brown


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