Tara Johnson—TIME
April 24, 2014

Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity Director: 'I Ching'

Tara Johnson—TIME

“It’s an interesting text, because it combines Confucianism and Tao, but they’re actually two different things: one deals with ethics, and the other is more metaphysical. I consult it not so much to make a choice between this or that, but to understand my own attitudes. When I’m shooting, it’s in my backpack. When I travel, it’s in my bag. It’s like a guide in my life, more than a driving force.”

Read J.J. Abrams on Cuarón’s influence.


Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator: Scalpel

Tara Johnson—TIME

“I spent 25 years doing eye surgery. There’s probably nothing more amazing than removing someone’s cataracts and having them sit up and say, “I can see again!”. In medicine, we try to diagnose a problem and then look for a solution. There’s a Groucho Marx comment that politics is sometimes the opposite — politicians misdiagnose problems, and apply the wrong solution. But being an eye surgeon reminds me to take a more analytical approach.”

Read Mitch McConnell on Paul’s influence.


Alice Waters, Chef: Mortar and pestle

Tara Johnson—TIME

“I really don’t like a lot of gadgets in the kitchen, and this is the opposite of a blender or a Cuisinart. It’s a primal way of mixing things together. Pounding something together, smelling it, putting your finger right there, tasting it. I’m using all of my senses to make something – a vinaigrette, a pesto, a salsa verde. It’s kind of therapeutic.”

Read Ruth Reichl on Waters’ influence.


Mary Barra, GM CEO: Medallion

Paola Kudacki for TIME

“I got this 10 years ago, as a gift from a close friend after my mother died. The medallion is a symbol of my faith and reminds me of my Mom, and the incredible person she was. She taught me and my brother the value of hard work, integrity and honesty. Along with my Dad, I loved and admired her deeply, and I think of her every day. The medallion motivates me to live up to the personal standards she lived by. I keep it in my purse, so it’s with me every day.”

Read Lee Iacocca on Barra’s influence.


Tony Fadell, Nest CEO: Running shoes

Tara Johnson—TIME

“When I’m running, I don’t want to be distracted by TV or anything else. I want to be outside, with no wearable computers or any of that other stuff. A lot of great things come to me that way. It’s such a part of how I think, like writing on a piece of paper.”

Read Yves Béhar on Fadell’s influence.


Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO: Dry erase marker

Tara Johnson—TIME

“My first business was SAT prep. I was 18, I had an office space, and [the score of] the first person I tutored went up by 400 points. I think I’m a teacher, that’s kind of how I roll. And it’s part of my management style today. If we have hard problems, I get up, I’m on a white board, and we’re hamming on the next big thing. It’s humorous, it’s collaborative, it’s creative and it’s high-energy.”

Read Neil Patrick Harris on Kalanick’s influence.


Diane Paulus, Director: Music stand

Tara Johnson—TIME

“As a director [of Broadway’s Pippin], I want to feel viscerally engaged in the rehearsal room. So I can’t be behind a table. It’s an anathema for me. Instead, I put my scripts on a music stand. It’s nice and tall and skinny, and I can push it to the side if I need to.”

Read Audra McDonald on Paulus’ influence.


Carl Icahn, Investor: Headset

Tara Johnson—TIME

“I’m on the phone a lot, like a telephone operator, and if I keep holding the phone it strains my muscles. I’ve been using this headset for many years. And it frees up my hands to write notes.”

Read T. Boone Pickens on Icahn’s influence.


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