At the beginning of his message on Sunday, our pastor asked everyone to reflect on people in their lives who have had a great influence on the direction of their life. Specifically, he asked us to consider the question, “Who in your life caused the trajectory of your life to change?”
After allowing us to dialogue with someone sitting near us for a few minutes, he asked the people in the congregation to share examples of people who had greatly influenced their lives. The answers were broad-ranging – parents, spouses, teachers, bosses, siblings, etc.
Since that message, I have thought back to people who influenced my life at key times. My list includes my best friend, my mom, and my wife, as well as one of my early bosses at Citicorp. It also includes less obvious choices such as the Amway couple who exposed me to positive thinking books and authors such as James Allen, Norman Vincent Peale and Zig Ziglar. It includes Brian Tracy, who encouraged me to use my gift of public speaking and reminded me of the power of the mind at a point in my life where I was losing my vision of a world of possibilities. Additionally, in many quiet and challenging ways, it also includes Tom Kraeuter, the editor of these Insights articles each week. He challenges me to get better and better at the enchanting craft of writing, and, someday, will probably be the reason I actually finishing writing one of the books I have started.
We were not born to be alone in the world. No person can discover or achieve the greatness they were meant for without other people in their life. Our path to success will be immeasurably quicker and incredibly easier if we are able to connect with people early in our lives that we can learn from and be motivated by.
What is most amazing is that most of the people that come to mind as having caused a change in the trajectory of my life are probably unaware of the impact they had. The unselfish actions of a married couple reaching out to a confused high school kid forty-five years ago vividly changed my life. They opened up a world of possibility to me and allowed me to see a vision of a life that was not mediocre.
We also often fail to recognize the impact that we have on the lives of those we come into contact with on a day-to-day basis. I have become more aware of this in recent years since I am now of the age where I am occasionally approached by a young person asking if they could get my advice on some issue. I have also had the pleasure of being a mentor to several people in recent years and have hopefully provided some helpful input into their lives.
Even though I am a bit north of sixty years old, I still continue to seek out and value people I meet who I can learn from. The older I get, the more valuable are the relationships I have with other successful people. For example, much of the success I have in trading is the result of learning from those who are more successful than I am.
I encourage you to take some time to think about influential people in your life in the next few days. As you do so, try out the suggestion below. The process will enrich your life.
- Sit down and make a list of specific people who have had a significant positive impact on your life. Write down what you learned from them. If they changed the trajectory of your life, specifically note what the change was and why it was important. If they are still living, consider writing them a thank you note for being a positive influence on your life. (I can tell you from experience that thanking them for what they did for you will be a big blessing, both for them and you.)
- On a separate occasion, make a list of 3-5 people on whom you have had an influence. What is your relationship to each of these people? What was the situation or the process that allowed you to influence their life? If you still see them regularly, what can you do now to continue to help them be successful?
- In another time of reflection, look at the people you currently have a relationship with and consider the question, “What can I do to help them become more successful?” The most amazing thing about trying to help others grow is that it causes us to grow as well. When I teach or give a speech, I am always reminded that the teacher is truly blessed because the teacher learns twice. When you help others by sharing something that you are knowledgeable about, it also enriches you. It reinforces the knowledge or experience in you as well as in the person with whom you are sharing it.
- Commit to actively seek out mentors. Establish and grow relationships with people you admire and find a way to spend time with them. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they would allow you to meet with them once a month so that you can learn from them. I have this relationship now with several younger men and the times we spend together always benefit both of us.
- Finally, it might amaze you to learn that you can have an incredible influence on people around you that you hardly know. Even if the time you spend with someone lasts for an evening or for a few moments, you can impact their life in a positive way. Have you ever run into a person you didn’t know – perhaps someone who was happy and laughing on a day when you were down – and had your interaction with them change the direction of your day? We never know what the impact will be of simply sharing a smile or a laugh with someone we don’t know when we bump into them. But making the effort to enrich the lives of the people we meet can make their day better. And while you bless them, your life will become richer as well.