The smartest person in the room

During a discussion a few weeks back with a client, I was asked by the Managing Director what I read and where I go to learn. I’ve never been asked that question so directly, but proceeded to name the publications, websites, blogs, newsletters and articles I read as well as the people I follow.I try and read as much as possible, but we all know that there’s not always time.

Afterwards I thought about the question for a while and remembered what my first mentor said to me at the start of my career. He said that you don’t have to be the smartest person on the planet, just smarter than the other people in the room. There’s only one time when you don’t have to follow this rule, and that is when you’re in the room to learn.

I’ve tried to follow that advice ever since, because one of my life goals is never to stop learning. Of course I haven’t always succeeded, but such is life. The other side of the coin is that it’s always good to meet up with people who educate, enlighten and guide you, because they tend to be the smartest person in the room.

Below I’ve compiled a list of what I read, in my attempt to be the smartest person in the room.

McKinsey & Company

I’ve followed McKinsey and company since the start of my career, when they consulted for the company that employed me back then. I found them very knowledgable and has been a trusted source of reading material ever since. I subscribe to their newsletter and use their iPad app on a continious basis.

Harvard Business Review

If you don’t subscribe to the magazine, I would highly recommend it. It’s changed the way I look at business, marketing and the world around me. If you find the price tag a little hefty, there’s always the website with an impressive archive of articles that is sure to inspire and educate. There’s also various newsletters to subscribe to, which filters just the right amount of information to suit your requirements. 


Tyler Brulé started Wallpaper magazine all those years ago, but sold it to start up Monocle. The easiest way to describe the magazine is to quote the tagline, “A briefing of global affairs, business, culture and design.” There’s a lot to get through every month, and I do not buy it every month as I used to, but miss it when I don’t have it. If you like reading offline, this is your magazine.

Guardian Weekly

Newspapers are on the way out… or are they? As Seth Godin said during an interview; “I think part of the challenge is that we have to redefine what business we’re in.” that’s why I subscribe to Guardian Weekly, because the news in it is relevant for today, but also weeks after the publication date. The focus is not on selling advertising, which means the paper is thin but relevant. I’ve subscribed to a lot of newspapers in my life and the reason I stopped with all of them, has been because when I looked at the pile of papers at the end of the week, I didn’t feel as if I got my money’s worth of news from that amount of paper. The Guardian Weekly gets the balance just right with relevant international news.

Ryan Holiday

Since I started following Ryan Holiday, I started reading more than I ever have. It’s worth combing through his reading list and recommendations, because as a prolific reader, there’s a lot of content available. I’ve read all his books, and his latest one “The Obstacle is the way” twice in the last six months. Subscribe to his newsletter and join the other 35 000 subscribers who also follow him.

Shane Snow & Contently

Shane Snow is a content specialist. Simple as that. He’s an author and the founder of Contently. I’ve just finished reading his book “Smart Cuts“, it was great. Contently is a publishing platform, but to start of with, I would recommend reading his magazine called Contently and subscribing to the daily digest email about content strategy.


This is not a normal agency. They’re a supehero agency. They publish a quarterly magazine appropriately called Wake Up. It’s a strategic intelligence report, and the topics in the last year covered everything from Men, Content, Generation Z and Convergence to name a few. Worth a read and it’s free.

Other Newsletters & Websites

Other newsletters that I subscribe to, because there’s always something interesting are Web Designer Depot, Marketing Profs, Gartner Free Research, HubSpot and Marketo.