All of us influence someone in our lives. Our friends, our families, strangers that cross our paths. According to one study, even the most introverted person, will influence as many as 10,000 people in his lifetime. So if I were to ask if you were a good influence or a bad influence, how would you answer? 99% of people would answer: good.
Then you would think for a while and realize that 99% of people in the world are not positive influences. In fact, I run into negative people all the time that irritate me and they are definitely a bad influence. Yet everyone thinks that they are good.
Universally most people think of themselves as good. Even bank robbers think that they are pretty good people compared to murderers. And murderers can justify their need to kill and take solace in the fact that at least they didn’t torture their victims first. So not one of us, right down to Charles Manson, thinks that we might be a bad influence on someone.
But very often we are.
In fact, it usually takes something dramatic to bring to light our own shortcomings; to allow us to see what we are doing from outside of that box that we normally live in. Alcoholics call it a moment of clarity.
One successful corporate husband, running along with his wife on a management fast track, one day overheard his daughters as they were “playing executive” in the den. The elder daughter carrying his briefcase said to the younger, “I’m going to be working late tonight. This is company business and company is more important than family.”
That was a wake up call. To outside appearances his family was doing well, living in an affluent neighborhood, climbing the corporate ladder, daughters in private school. But the influence that he was having on his daughters–through his absence–was that his daughters thought they were not as important a part of his life as his boss, his title, his paycheck. All things that a young child could care less about.
People only judge themselves by their intentions. Every one else, they can only judge by their actions. So his daughter saw all the best days of the best years of his life going to a faceless “company.” How could she not think that company is more important than family?
Which is more important, your child or a television? Have you ever yelled at your child to be quiet because you couldn’t hear the television? Just wanted to throw that out there to show that I’m not picking on the corporate guys only.
If we want to influence people positively, we need to do it through actions. And we need to make sure that we are conveying the right message through our actions.
You cannot influence someone for the better through good intentions only.
There is a happy ending to that story about corporate couple X. They left the rat race and started their own business. Even though the hours were equally grueling, this was a family business. Since the husband and wife were now on one track rather than two individual tracks, their efforts became synergistic and before long, she was able to carve enough time out of their schedule that she could home-school their daughters (and have a third one along the way). They were willing to take drastic actions to prove that family is more important than “the company.”
To all you working class folks who want to demonstrate the same thing through your actions, turn off the television in the middle of a program when your child starts telling you a story.
Who has been influential in your life? Do they know it?