Here is a quick two-list exercise that will help you be a person of influence. Actually, you already are a person of influence. All of us influence others in one way or the other. What I have found, however, is that many people, myself included, desire to be even more influential in ever more positive ways. This little exercise has worked for me and I think it can work for you, too. It is a good tool to start a new year, when our minds are turned toward making resolutions. Ready?
List five people you are most inspired by. No need to be obsessive compulsive. Just get down five names of people who seriously inspire you. My list would look something like this:
- Saint Augustine
- Elon Musk
- C. S. Lewis
- Kate DiCamillo
- Wendell Berry
Now, list five people who have directly influenced your life for the better. Again, no need for perfection here. Just write down five names of people who have made your life tangibly better. My list would look something this:
- Leanne Bruno
- Jim Hammond
- Mr. Harris
- Ron Sauer
- Tie: lots of friends like Todd, Jon, Brady, and others
In many self-help books or at certain inspirational conferences, you will be told stories about the people on List 1. It makes sense. The people on List 1 are inspirational. The accomplishments of List 1 people are mind boggling. Personally, when I think about List 1 people, it makes me want to change the world.
Yet, the people on List 2 changed my world. Without them, I probably would not even care about List 1 because List 2 people made me the kind of person who gets inspired by List 1 people.
Here is how to be a person of influence: give yourself entirely over to being a List 2 person. Think about the people on your List 2 and figure out how to be like them. Like how Jim Hammond used to give me his undivided attention. Or that day when I walked into my senior literature class and found Mr. Harris wrote a quote from one of my stories on the board for everyone to read. I want to get better at listening to people with my full attention because Jim taught me now. Perhaps I would still be a published author had Mr. Harris not called out my gift, but his kindness gave me courage that I tap into even to this day. I am so grateful for List 2 people.
Also, there is this. I believe you cannot get yourself on List 1 no matter how hard you try. Notice that I did not say you cannot get on List 1. You might very well end up there. But if you do, it will not be because of your own effort. People end up on List 1 in ways that are inscrutable. The best way to end up on List 1 is to be the most amazing List 2 person possible and not get in the way of providence when you are called upon to join List 1.
If you become a List 2 person, guaranteed you will be a person of influence. Guaranteed. Granted, you likely will not be remembered (on earth) much past your death. Your life, though, will have positively influenced many people whose lives would be sadder if you had not been the kind of person who ends up on their List 2.
Do not fret about making List 1. Instead, be a person of influence.