Recently, Time released its list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2018. You may not agree with the ideas of some of the included individuals, but the list isn’t a value judgment on any of them. Rather, it’s recognition of their power to sway the masses; a recognition that their ideas are ones you will have to grapple with.
But there are some outstanding examples on that list. These people have experienced harrowing journeys, overcome incredible obstacles, and demonstrated preternatural talent. Unsurprisingly, there are some common traits among them.
Here are the characteristics I found most frequent in examining the people on the list. You should already know most of these lessons, at least intellectually. But allow these powerful individuals to demonstrate just how vital these characteristics actually are.
1. Be Yourself…
In business and in life, authenticity is priceless, and Tiffany Haddish is an original. The comedienne overcame a difficult childhood in foster care and worked her way up in the comedy world. She’s exploded onto the scene with winning movie performances, a bestselling book, and charming interviews. Particularly compelling about her interviews is her willingness to share personal stories that deal with the difficulties of her past. Her now-infamous Groupon story even got her an endorsement deal with the company!
Kumail Nanjiani has long been hilarious on Silicon Valley. But this year, his work took a more personal tone when he wrote and starred in The Big Sick. It’s an autobiographical film about the difficult beginning of the relationship between Nanjiani and his now-wife, Emily V. Gordon. It was a personal risk for them to share such an intimate story, but audiences and critics responded with enthusiasm.
2. …Even If That’s Different
Trevor Noah and Cardi B are entertainers who have made their mark exactly because they’re different. Noah was Born a Crime in apartheid South Africa, and his experience growing up has influenced his comedy and his management of The Daily Show.
Cardi B is releasing music that’s different from anything else out there. She originally became a star on social media, and she’s been open about her time as a stripper. Some doubted whether her brand of music would be able to appeal to a broad audience, and she’s proven them fantastically wrong.
3. Be Patient
Sterling K. Brown has been an excellent actor for a long time. He has an acting degree from Stanford and an MFA from NYU Tisch. He worked for years predominantly in television, but also in movies and on the stage. Finally, after acclaimed performances in The People vs. O.J. Simpson and This Is Us, he’s getting his due. All those years of work paid off, and he’s now won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award.
The Olympics are the most prestigious collections of athletes in the entire world. But in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, there was one athlete conspicuously absent. That’s because at 13 years old, American Chloe Kim was too young to compete under Olympic rules. So young, and yet she was already considered the best female snowboarder in the world. But Kim waited for her opportunity, taking the time to get even better. And when her time came in PyeongChang, she seized it.
4. Take Chances
From the beginning, Hollywood knew John Krasinski could be funny. But he showed range when he started acting in dramas and became an action star. Now, he’s proving to be an excellent writer, director, and producer. Most recently, Krasinski took a chance on himself when he co-wrote and directed A Quiet Place. It was Krasinski’s first major directorial project, and the film is risky in itself, with a plot that requires the movie to be largely without speech.
5. Do Good
JJ Watt is one of the best football players in the NFL, but that’s not why he’s on Time’s list. In fact, he barely even played in the 2017 season. Instead, Watt was included because of his amazing fundraising for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of his team’s home of Houston. For all his work, he was named the Walter Peyton Man of the Year and the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year.
Rachael Denhollander is also an athlete, but like Watt, isn’t on the list for her physical skills. Denhollander was the first victim to go public with her accusations of Larry Nasser, the disgraced former doctor from USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. Denhollander ignited a firestorm, opening the door for dozens of other victims to tell their stories. Their bravery has brought down powerful figures at Olympic-related organizations and in the state of Michigan, and hopefully will help protect students and athletes in the future.
Adam Rippon was one of the most outspoken members of the US Olympic Team in PyeongChang. But what is also impressive about him is his incredible perseverance in his figure skating. He was a gold medalist at the Junior World Championships and at the US Championships, but he didn’t have huge success at the senior international level. He failed to make the US team for the Sochi Olympics, was never able to develop a consistent quad lutz, and nearly quit the sport. But Adam persisted. He finally made his Olympic debut in PyeongChang at age 28, where he skated well and helped the US win gold in the Team event.
7. Be Dedicated
Dr. Ann McKee is a pioneer in the field of traumatic brain injuries. Her research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has the world of impact sports doing some soul searching about childhood participation, reshaping the way those sports are played, and care later in life. When Dr. McKee’s research first came to the attention of the NFL, they tried to dismiss it and her. But Dr. McKee kept on working, allowing the science to speak for itself. Eventually, the NFL had no choice but to take her seriously, and even started funding some of her research with unrestricted money.