Influence

I recommended that my friend Patrick take a strong multi-vitamin instead of paying for and taking  his six-separate- vitamin packets.  He said, “okay.”  Did he do it?  No.  My recommendation didn’t hold the strength nor the influence to make him change his habits.  Three weeks ago he was with his best friend, Frank, and Frank recommended the multi-vitamin that he was taking; not the exact one I’d recommended, but close.  Pat didn’t get home soon enough before he bought the multi-vitamin.  Hmmmm.  Frank had a stronger influence than I.  Was it because he’s a man and said it worked, or because Pat believed him more?  I don’t know.

How are you influenced in your buying decisions:  friends, family, co-workers, ads – all types – articles, a before-and-after look?  A compliment from a stranger on how you look in an outfit, how the tie is fabulous, or how you look in a certain color may influence you to wear the outfit, the tie, or the color more often.  It doesn’t even take someone of influence to tip you to action.  Why is it that someone’s recommendation outweighs someone else’s?  Do I like that person more?  Do I put more credence into what s/he says than someone else?  Does advertising really work?

Think back on the people who influenced you on your college choice, your major(s) choice, your vocation and/or your way of life.  Why are you living in your city?  Why not somewhere else?  Job?  People? Family? Who pointed you in that direction? Who or what’s keeping you there?

So many of our “decisions” were made for us when we were growing up.  My mother moved my brother and me to Miami from Baltimore after her divorce.  Did we have any say in the matter?  No.  My mother re-married with zero influence or input from her children, not that our opinions would have changed her mind.  After my freshman year, my Miami parents wanted me to stay in my current college and I wanted to move to Baltimore to live with my father and stepmother.  I was influenced by family and a need and want to be close to my father.  I moved, I “won.”

Of all the 1000’s of decisions I’ve made since then, I know that I’ve been influenced by certain situations not in my control as well as in my control.  Some paths I’ve walked may have been subliminal.  Maybe competitive.  And you?  How would your life have been different had you taken a different path? We’ll never know, but it’s fun to fantasize!

We are all influenced by the past – 9/11, parents, cities, wars, etc. – current events – the economy, politics, family, jobs, etc.  – and our values and likes and dislikes.   How then do we influence others?  How do we act in the midst of all the changes and the current situations that drive us to act or not, to persuade or not, or to like or not?  Our actions influence others, whether on purpose or unintentional.  Have you ever lost weight and helped someone gain the confidence and commitment to follow suit?  How did you get your current job position?  Did you have a mentor?  Do you mentor others? Have you ever stood up for a position that wasn’t exactly welcomed and won; you influenced others to do the same, to follow you?

Heroes.  Name a few of your heroes. Did they influence you in any way?  How? Why are they your heroes?  Do you want to follow in their footsteps?  If I think about how some of my heroes influenced my life, I realize that my father was the biggest influencer.  No sports figure.  No mentor.  No professor. No famous figure. (I do have several deceased heroes whom I’d love to have dinner with so I could reap the benefit of their minds and their gifts:  Walt Disney and  Beethoven are two of them.) My father’s influence on my life was like a pen writing my life for me.  I miss him.

I know that I have influenced the lives of 100’s of people and don’t know half of them.  I say this because as a trainer and speaker I have said something that helped change the life of someone in my audience.  I may not know that, but I hope it’s true.  It’s my intention to help influence people in my audiences – both paid and others – to become better people both personally and professionally.  Now it’s their chance to take those tools and tips or words to heart and act on them.  That influence will help them influence others. I remember, and wish I could find, a young high school student who worked from me when I was in the retail industry.  I became his mentor and watched the change in behavior and attitude; truly a personal reward. When we can actually see the changes, it’s like a rainbow.

You have gifts and talents that influence other’s decisions.  How you persuade someone can be as small as giving him/her a compliment, giving him/her kudos for a job well done, helping him/her feel better about him/herself.  Who’s been a big influencer in your life that allowed you to soar when you thought your wings had been clipped?  Can you return the favor?  “Pay it forward?”

Influence comes in several sizes and reaps myriad rewards – we hope.  Yes, some influence can harm:  drugs, violence, crime, even death.   But give a helping hand to those in need.  Smile at everyone you see – strangers love it; they think you’re up to something! Hug your children, spouse, partner, best friend, strangers – reach out. Be a motivating force to help positively influence others.  When you help someone else, you also influence yourself.  How wonderful is that?

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