“Influence may be the highest level of human skills”. – Unknown
I have always considered myself an influencer, a motivator, and a person wired to inspire people. Even on days when I’m not on a motivational high, I still find myself dishing out encouragement to those who need it. I find joy in public speaking, writing, or simply using my social media platform to post something uplifting and inspiring to help others. But lately, I have been thinking about my role as an influencer and if my influence is determined by the opportunities I get to use my gifts and talents.
I have to be honest with you: I have been looking at my influence through the wrong lens. Somewhere along the way, I’ve adopted this belief system that to be truly influential, you need a stage and an audience, and if you are void of these two things, you have no influence.
But that’s wrong… to be influential, you need to rethink everything.
For example: You call yourself a painter, a speaker, or a writer, and the goal is to share your work with the world, but it’s taking you a long time to gain the exposure and traction that makes you believe your dream is possible. You might even think, based on the lack of opportunities, you don’t qualify or that you cannot really call yourself an influencer. You see people on social media who have hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers. Your amount of followers may not even come close. You would like one day to amass a large following for your business, but you’re not there yet, so again, you measure and doubt your ability to influence.
I can see how all of this can cause you to question your gifts, talents, and your adequacy to have the impact and influence you aspire to have.
You don’t need to be discouraged because your influence hasn’t gotten to the level you desire it to be. The truth is, although there are platforms and outlets that allow you to express your creativity, I believe you can still thrive without them and connect with the world.
You can still have a voice that matters. You just need to shift your mindset and approach about how you view your influence.
Here are 4 new approaches you can take to become the influencer you were created to be.
1. Real Influence does not begin on a stage, it starts with the inner person.
So, why do we begin our influence journey here?
We start here because, above everything, great character leads to great influence. Our gifts and talents may get us on stage, but our character will determine if we can stay there. You see it all the time, people of great stature fall because their heart and character were not right. So, for me, influence starts with “A Heart Check.” It’s asking yourself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” “What is the motive behind the opportunity I am pursuing?” “Is this purpose driven or ego driven?” These are all great questions to ask yourself in order to keep your character, focus, and purpose in alignment.
True influencers show a genuine, sincere interest in others. They don’t use their platform as a means for self-elevation; instead, they use their platform as a way to elevate others.
2. The universe places people right in front of you, so start with them.
Once I stopped focusing on the influence I haven’t achieved yet, it became easy for me to use the influence I already have. Sometimes, we get so consumed with the influence we haven’t gained, the popularity, the title, the fulfillment of that dream that screams I have arrived, and if we don’t achieve this level of greatness, we feel as though we can’t have an impact. Nowadays, you can buy followers. In other words, we can buy our way into influence. The more followers we have, the more influential we will look. But not so, influence cannot be purchased, nor can it be given; it has to be earned by serving one person at a time. When you break the habit of obsessing over your future influence and think every day about the ONE you can inspire, the ONE you can serve, as a result of focusing on helping one person, your influence expands. Influence builds on influence.
I was missing opportunities to grow my influence daily, because I was so focused on a number that it took away my sensitivity to see the people right in front of me. So now, I don’t pursue a number. I pursue a person, and I wake up every day with the goal of making ONE person’s life better. I now know, the universe does not have a shortage of opportunities for us to use our influence. We just need to bring our awareness to the people placed right in front of us instead of overlooking them.
Influence does not begin with a big platform or a greater reach; it starts by touching the people placed within your reach.
3. You have to inquire if you are going to inspire.
Influence requires you to cultivate the gift of curiosity. I know it’s been said that curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity won’t kill your influence; it will enhance your influence and enlarge the capacity of your heart to care for others. Influencers are always paying attention to the needs of others. I learned the importance of that while vising my mother in the hospital. I met a young man named Brian who worked as a cashier in the cafeteria. I selected what I wanted to eat and then walked up to the register to pay for my food, but Brian had this look on his face that said, ‘I would rather be somewhere else. I could tell his body was there, but his mind was not. His coworker shouted, “Hey Brian, way to look enthusiastic.” I said, “You look tired.” He then replied, “I am.” I asked, “Why are you so tired,” and he replied, “I have two jobs.” I dug a little deeper in a friendly way without being intrusive and asked, “Why do you have two jobs?” Brian replied that he has 2 kids. That explained why this young man looked so out of it. In that moment, I felt what it would be like to be in Brian’s shoes, and I was moved by our conversation.
I proceeded to give him some encouraging words and advice and even gave him my number to call if he ever needed someone to talk to. I felt for him. It taught me a valuable lesson about the art of influence and how questions are the gateway to people’s hearts. Start by asking people what I like to call:
“The Heart Questions”
This is something I do all the time, and I want you to try it. The next time you get in an uber, don’t just sit there; strike up a conversation with the driver, or the cashier at the super market, the teller at the bank, because:
Wherever there are people, there is an opportunity for influence.
Ask them what they love, what they care about, or simple how they are doing today. You will be amazed how life changing these small inquiries can be if you take the time to be curious about others. These are all chances for us to use our gifts and prove we need not wait for the BIG opportunities to live a life of significance. We can have it right now by seizing the opportunity to meet the needs of the people we meet.
Curiosity opens you up to empathy, and empathy allows others to open up to you.
4. Be a purpose driven influencer.
Purpose driven influencers know who they are and that they were created for a reason far greater than themselves. Our influence was given for the purpose of helping others. Until we understand that and choose to use our gifts and talents with purpose in mind, the gifts and talents we have will never truly have the impact they were destined to have. Purpose driven influencers are driven by one thing, to make the lives of others better. Influencers who do it for prestige, power, popularity are also driven by one thing, themselves. What kind of influencer do you want to be?
As an influencer, your greatest influential, and life-changing impact on others will not come with a paycheck, awards, or applause, and you have to be okay with that. You have to be okay with serving people and not getting any recognition for it. When you sign up to be an influencer, you sign up to be a vessel of hope and change, and vessels don’t always get the credit they deserve. The work they do is the reward. I’m not saying you should not chase greatness. We should aim for it because we were not put on this earth to be mediocre, but the pursuit of these things will require us to resist the temptation of wanting them for power. I have learned that, when our intentions are pure, and we set out to use our gifts from a place of love, not from a place of ego, greatness will take care of itself.
“People who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love.” – Condoleezza Rice
When love is the fuel behind our influence, instead of it being fueled by power, we find fulfillment, purpose, and contentment in our work. Purpose driven influencers know, if they show up for others, show up with the right intentions, show up with people and purpose in mind, the universe will show up for them. Life will create expansion for us and enlarge our influence territory. Our gifts and talents will open doors for us to be great and allow us to be on great platforms. On my path to becoming a purpose driven influencer, the game changer has been this:
Choose to put purpose before elevation, because elevation comes to those who put purpose first.