Why you should care

Because hey, wouldn’t we like to be them?

Happy Holidays from OZY! Over the next few days, we’re bringing you some of our best ideas, profiles, and trends from 2014. We’ll see you back, live and kicking, on New Year’s Day!

If there are a few people you have to know, these folks should be on your list. Sure, they’re stars in their own worlds, but they might just teach you a lesson that crosses cool borders.

A New Sort of Warmonger

Congressman Mac Thornberry ’s unenviable job is to figure out how to spend all our money on the stuff that keeps America safe every day. One wrong penny — not to be dramatic — might mean big things for our collective safety. So, yeah. Quite a lot on his shoulders. He’s making a big transition, hoping to spend less money on guns (germs and steel) and more on making us smarter on the battlefield. Better strategic thinking, in his logic, might be worth several thousand pounds of military muscle. The Texan, former lawyer and Reagan conservative has been in office for nearly a decade now — and is likely to have at least a few more years ahead of him.

The Way We Work

An Indian immigrant spends most of his life thinking about Hispanic immigrants’ rights. That’s the life of Saket Soni , a New Orleans-based labor organizer who’s concerned — deeply —about the rise of “contingent labor.” The passionate activist draws a neat line that’ll work for you if you’re amenable to his leftist ways. His argument? That everyone from professors to Silicon Valley tech workers to farmhands are happening upon a new work economy that’s doomed — because no one has a safety net, no one has a home, and no workplace is stable. Yikes.

A Cancer Warrior Hungering for a Fight

An Ireland-born hard-nosed skeptic named Johanna Joyce is sick of the way we understand cancer. Zero pun intended. The standard explanation for the devastating disease goes something like this: blame certain kind of cells that multiply and cause tumors. Joyce says no way, and instead chooses to go after white blood cells, a hugely unconventional choice. And for her, it’s personal. Like many of us, she lost a grandmother to breast cancer and an uncle to glioblastoma. So maybe it’s OK for business to get personal. And to get really angry about stuff.

One to (Literally) Watch

Very few people were as funny or as widely acclaimed this year as Justin Simien , the young director of the provocative film Dear White People . It dropped at Sundance in early 2014 and then hit theaters later in the year. A project that lasted months, much of his work didn’t even take place on camera. Instead Simien built his characters and their voices on Twitter and YouTube. That not only gave him free experimental space for months, but it also helped him cultivate a fan base and a guaranteed audience way before he even had a premiere. Pretty smart, eh?

Check out the hyperlinks to read full profiles of each of the folks mentioned here.

Winning Back Rugby

He’s 25, and he got a second shot at the big-time. Israel “Izzy” Folau has had a booming career since 2013, after struggling during his amateur days. And not only is he earning eyeballs on his own performance, but he’s also helping to rekindle Aussie enthusiasm for rugby, aka footy, which had lost popularity of late. On the free-for-all field where rugby goes down, Folau’s big move is to use his huge ups. He can jump higher in the air than most competitors and uses that to hop in where he is not exactly welcome and take the game for his own. A resilient dude with, let’s be real, really cool calf muscles.

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People shaking up their fields, old dogs doing new tricks, and those who like to bring the ruckus.