My grandparents were the greatest influences in my life for good. All four lived long and active lives. I was 25 when the first grandparent passed away, and 40 when I lost the last. In a day and age where most people don’t even remember their grandparents, my son was able to know all of his great-grandparents.
My grandparents were all wonderful people but I miss my maternal grandfather the most. Gramps was a big man but soft spoken and gentle. I don’t remember him ever losing his temper or even raising his voice. He was unfailingly kind, and always went out of his way to help everyone. He had a great sense of humour, and was well versed on virtually any topic you could think of. He had strong opinions but he was wise in how he expressed them. When he disagreed with someone, he always presented his side in a calm and logical manner, being considerate of the other person, whether or not they ever came to an agreement.
Everyone liked and respected my grandfather. They valued his opinion. So did I. He was a tremendous influence in other people’s lives, and remains one of the greatest influences in mine.
My maternal grandfather – 1910 – 1996
I think it’s easy to forget that we all influence others. Everyone we potentially come in contact with is in our range of influence. I often wonder what people would say if they were asked what kind of influence I’ve had on them. I would hope the answer would be positive but I also know myself, and I know my shortcomings. I know I’ve been a good influence at times but I also know there were many times I fell short. It just makes me want to be better in the future. It’s never too late to be a good influence.
I find it interesting how we potentially influence people we never even meet. This fact was driven home during a recent trip to Walmart to buy a clothes iron. When I got to the aisle where the irons were displayed, a middle aged man was already there, looking at the samples. He was holding a box and seemed to have all but made up his mind. I glanced at the box and knew I wasn’t going to choose the same one because I’d previously owned an iron by that manufacturer that didn’t live up to its promises. So instead, I quickly – and rather decisively – settled on the Black and Decker – The Classic Iron. I liked the weight of the it, the relative simplicity of its settings vs. other irons, and I’ve generally had good experiences with B&D products. I figured it was a win-win situation.
Black & Decker – The Classic Iron
But, what interested me most was the realization that this man – who was about to leave with his choice – literally stopped in his tracks to closely watch what I was doing. I picked up my choice and walked to the end of the aisle. When I looked back, the man was putting his choice back on the shelf and picking up mine. I hadn’t spoken a single word but, in the span of just a couple of minutes, I had influenced someone else to set aside their choice in favour of mine… a complete stranger.
If we can influence someone else that quickly and relatively easily – without even intending to – how much more do our words and actions influence others on a daily basis?
Consider that we all have the power to influence our spouse, our kids, our friends, our siblings, and our co-workers, to name but a few. But consider that you also have the power to influence the maid at the hotel you stayed at, the cashier at the grocery store, the person sitting beside you on the bus, the waiter or waitress at the restaurant, your neighbour. Consider that those people are also potentially influencing you.
Just watch the news or read the newspaper every day. We’re inundated with information that’s designed to influence what stand we’ll take, who we’ll vote for, who we’ll donate money to, what we’ll buy, what’s good for us, what’s bad for us… the list is endless.
The main thing about influence is that it’s everywhere. We’re influenced or potentially influenced in a myriad of ways. It’s our responsibility to first recognize it and second to minimize any negative impact on us. The other important thing is to recognize that it’s our responsibility to consistently be the kind of person who positively influences others. No one else can do it for us.
We’re all under the influence of something… or someone. Have I influenced you at all to consider the Black and Decker – The Classic Iron? Have you maybe even already Googled it? A percentage of you are nodding yes as you read these questions. Another percentage will reconsider when I say – quite truthfully – that it’s a great iron and does a great job. I don’t regret my choice at all.
So, how do you be a good influence? By setting a good example. A good example is intertwined with a good influence. You can’t have one without the other. So do the right thing more than the wrong thing. Admit your mistakes. Forgive. Love others. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be slow to find fault. Do the right thing when you think no one is looking. Have good humour. Be positive. Be authentic. The list could be endless but you get my drift.
You’re an influential person. Live like it.