Editor’s Note: Billy Warden is a writer, marketing exec and multimedia producer based in the Research Triangle, where he co-founded the p.r. agency GBW Strategies. He’s now a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. His columns appear on Mondays.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Entrepreneur and author Christopher Gergen is a man on a mission. His Forward Impact consulting and investment fund works to address systemic economic inequities. His Raleigh Founded co-working company is home to entrepreneurs in Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Yanceyville and Greenville, SC. And his pop culture playlist here will have you making a difference through everything from songs to salad dressing.
I got to know Christopher more than a decade ago when we were working on different projects both aimed at firing up the region’s startup scene. He remains a fire-starter. Anybody who can jump from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to Chance the Rapper without missing a beat is well worth tuning in:
Music to get psyched?: I have an eclectic musical taste. So when I am walking on stage to give a talk: “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons. Getting in a great mood: “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. Cooking a nice meal for family and friends: Grateful Dead. Ready to dance: Bob Moses mix or a bit of reggae.
Music to relax and recharge?: I love deep house and electronic chill music. I also do a lot of yoga and have a great electronic chill track that I listen to on Spotify.
Fave movie and TV series with a business lesson to teach?: Just saw “Moneyball” which I loved and speaks to how an iconoclastic, data driven approach can help you see things differently – and get outsize results with limited resources. My wife and I are also enjoying “Money Heist” on Netflix – a super-smart Spanish language show about staying several steps ahead of your competition.
Books from which you draw inspiration?: Victor Frankel’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a strong reminder of the value of life and its majesty. I first read “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay when I was living in South Africa. It continues to inspire and is on top of the book list I want our kids to read. I also got a ton of inspiration interviewing 55 entrepreneurial leaders for our book “Life Entrepreneurs” and learning about how they have created extraordinary lives through values alignment, intentional action, opportunity recognition, regular reflection, and being surrounded by a diverse “personal board of directors.”
Characters with business wisdom?: “Who Owns the Ice House” is a classic entrepreneurship book, and the eight business lessons imparted by protagonist Uncle Cleve are well worth paying attention to. Jennifer Dowdna’s pioneering bio-genetic work on CRISPR as captured in Walter Isaacson’s recent biography gives a sense of where this cutting edge field is going. And I loved Colson Whitehead’s new book, “Harlem Shuffle,” featuring a scrappy entrepreneur trying to provide for and protect his family in the swirl of 1960s New York City.
Fave pop culture boss?: Beyonce immediately comes to mind as someone with enormous talent who knows where she wants to go and how to get it done while permanently changing the status quo. Taylor Swift’s move to take back control of her music by re-recording her masters is also a boss move and will have long-time implications for the music industry.
Fave pop culture entrepreneur?: I am impressed with celebrity entrepreneurs that use their platform for good. Bono helping to launch RED in 2006 to fight AIDS and ultimately fund stronger health systems is an example (U2 remains one of my favorite bands after seeing them in my first rock concert). Paul Newman’s food products are always my first choice (and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is a legendary movie). A more contemporary example is Chance the Rapper and his support for Chicago Public Schools. In short, businesses that do well and do good are top of my list and pop stars that get that are, too.
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