Influence is a Full Contact Sport


When I was a kid, I wanted to speak to stadiums of people. It was a recurring dream. And it scared me, once I realized that most of the people that spoke to stadiums of people were dictators.

So I shut up about it.

When I was in college, I wanted to influence hundreds of people. To train and shape them and build up leaders. It came across, sometimes, as wanting power. That wasn't the case, but I was too immature to make the distinctions.

So I shut up about it.

When I was involved with five startups (four of which generated over a million in revenue and three of which had successful exits), I wanted to build high performing teams that released successful products. Sometimes it sounded like I just wanted to be rich but it never was about the money.

So I shut up about it.

And only after stepping out of the spotlights and craziness of startups in the Silicon Valley, after settling down in marriage, building a family, and having neighbors that didn't have a clue what I did (“Can you fix my printer?), did I finally get to the core of what I was about.

I want impact. I live for influence.

Leaving Things People Better

I can't tell you how many years it's been to finally embrace my own reality about who I am and what motivates me.

If you're like me, you hide it. You keep quiet about it. You do the things that look normal because that's what other folks do.

You shut up about it.

But deep inside you realize your heart is beating to a different drummer. I don't care about the trappings of success – however anyone defines it.

For me, I define success as having an impact. As leaving people better than when I found them. As having influence so that people can look back and realize they've changed – for the better.

And I can't shut up about it.

Influence is a full contact sport.

That, at least in the way I do it, doesn't happen in a stadium.
It doesn't happen in conferences of 400 people.
It doesn't even happen creating million dollar businesses and software that large businesses use daily.
It doesn't even happen on this blog.

Influence is a full contact sport.

Influence happens when my life intersects with another's life.

Oh these days it doesn't have to be in person. I can use Google Hangouts, Skype, and GoToMeeting. But the reality is that it takes time, happens in the little and big conversations, and grows as I build relationships.

And you know what?

Influence isn't easy.

Again, note that I'm not talking about impact like movie stars or even software engineers (behind Facebook) have. I'm talking about the kind of influence your mom, dad or uncle has. (No, I don't want to be considered part of your family.)


That kind of influence is hard because we're all busy. And because we're all busy, no one wants to bother anyone else. And they don't think their questions are important enough.

So they shut up about it.

You have to be Proactive

So as I close, let me give you a tiny bit of insight I've had as I've been on the journey of having impact, influencing people, and leaving a legacy. At the end of the day, it rarely happens by chance.

I go looking, “hunting” is likely a better term, for mentors. I want to bug them and ask questions until they ask me to leave.

And equally, I tell the folks I coach, influence, or hang out with, to “pester” me all they can to get their questions answered.

We're all adults. I have no trouble having a boundary and asking you to move on. I don't need to be indirect. But more often than not, that's not the issue.

No the issue is that none of us want to admit we want help.

So we shut up about it.