I’m in a course right now all about influence. The idea behind being how do you influence people to help them live to their true potential. The homework for today is to write a blog post about who has influenced you the most. So, here’s my homework.

People who influence you fall into one of two categories. They either taught you how to think or they challenged you to do better. There is a whole industry based on both of these concepts. It’s what makes movies and books like “The Secret” so enormously popular: they teach us to shift how we think. Then there are life coaches who teach us to do better. Yes, you can remain comfortable and set safe goals, but what happens when you set uncomfortably high goals? The answer is that in challenging yourself, you grow faster. So who then has been my biggest influence.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about my director, Brendan Dick, who is retiring. That post is a good segueway to my influence homework. Without hesitation, I can say my director was my biggest influence in 2017. Brendan had a way of prying information out of me, examining it, and then refusing to accept what I said as being good enough. He sent me case law and board decisions to read and insisted I refine my mind. When he realized I was a willing student, he went so far as to give me some harsh truths about my sphere of influence and how it relates to my weight.

Yes. My boss talked to me about my weight.

Here is the thing: when you have influence with someone, and clearly he had been established in my mind as a person worth listening to, they can tell you uncomfortable realities. In this case, his message was clear: as long as I physically do not look like I have focus and drive, my sphere of influence will be limited to a smaller audience. If I want to have the presence I seek, I need to stop focusing purely on my mind and get focused on my health. That truth is incontrovertible and had it come from anyone else, it still would have been true. But it came from someone who had attached it to a significant amount of education. It didn’t become more true, but it became more important to focus on.

Since the boss put in his retirement notice, I have heard very little from him. He is now a few weeks away from retirement and his interest in continuing to shape and hone my skills has ended, but for the period of time that I had his undivided attention, I grew enormously as a person. Influence, it would seem, is not to be taken for granted. I am grateful for the time he took to refine my thinking and challenge me to do better.

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