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Think of someone in your life who's had significant positive influence on you. Maybe it's a parent, a coach, a teacher, or a friend. Maybe they encouraged you to believe in yourself, or empowered you to do things you didn't know you could. Who are these people for you? Pick one of them, and answer the following four questions. One. Who is this very special person in your life, and why do you choose them as one of your biggest positive influencers? Two. What specifically did they say or do that you found so meaningful. Three.
What are the results of their actions on you and your life. And for, going forward, what are some things you can do for yourself and for others, to honor this person's contribution to you? What we just did, might not seem like it at first, but it is in fact perhaps the most powerful positive influence tool of all. It's an activity designed based on my research. In my interviews with these extraordinary positive influencers across different cultures and types of organization, a pattern emerged. Ask these amazing people how they influence others and they'll say things like, let me tell you about my grandfather.
Or their mother or high school coach, a manager or mentor. They talk about special people from their lives who inspired them. People who helped them, led by example, contributed to their success and well being so meaningfully that it left a permanent positive effect. As an example, I remember a conversation with one of my mentors, Kouji Nakata. He was born during World War II in an internment camp in California. He's Japanese American and his parents were farm laborers. He struggled with differences in language and culture, with prejudice and he was failing in school.
He took a required aptitude test and scored 86, where a score of 85 or below was an indicator of mental disability. He had no aspirations for himself, but a middle school teacher named Lester Tanner did. Kouji said, it was due to this one man's influence that he took an entirely different path in life. Mr. Tanner encouraged Kouji, and gave him different kinds of test to show his true potential. Instead of 86, he scored 134. He continued to mentor him through high school, and Kouji ultimately got a PhD and became an aspiring leader, mentor, husband, father and grandfather.
What Kouji does, is what the most effective influencers do, each in their own unique way. They always keep inspiring role models from their personal past near in their thoughts, and close in their hearts. They see influence through the eyes of people they deeply admire, and they strive to honor their legacy. It's not something to pay off. It's something to keep paying forward. It's not just a way to get things done. It's a way to be, as a person, a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a manager, a coworker, a leader. It's not an obligation, it's a motivation.
Inspiration based influence lasts a lifetime. It's the gift that keeps on giving. You already have access to what makes Kouji and other extraordinary influencers so effective. You have your own Mr. Tanners. Who are they, and what's their impact on you? Even during challenging times. Especially during challenging times. What would make these people, who are so meaningful to you, most proud of you? For Kouji, it's easy to say in one simple sentence, standing up for the potential that others don't see in themselves. If you could say it in one simple sentence like Kouji, what would it be for you? Kouji says he often falls short.
He's not perfect, and none of us are. But, he lives into that aspiration everyday, and it never gets old because it's grounded in something deeply, personally inspiring. Mr Tanner's influence. Which is a limitless reservoir of positive energy and motivation. That's the power of inspiration based influence. What would be the impact on your effectiveness in working life, if you do for others what your most positive influencers did for you? Here's an action to take. Pick one of your inspiring influencers and share the story of what that person did, what it meant to you, and how you can pay if forward in work and life.
Share it with someone by tomorrow, and notice how good it feels and how engaging it is for the other person, too. You'll find yourself inclined to ask about their positive influencers, too. It's one of the best things you could learn about anyone. And it puts you on both side of a virtuous cycle of positive influence, sharing yours, and learning theirs. Remember, you can trigger this effect, anytime, anywhere. By calling to mind your inspiring influencers. Or sharing their influence on you. Or even learning someone else's.
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