Want to be an influential teacher? Want to be a productive boss? Want to be followed? Learn how to learn.
I want you to think back, to hold in your mind the teacher that counted, in your eyes, as a meaningful teacher. The Sir or Madam of whom you will not kindly forget; from whom you perhaps accredit a plethora of valuable life lessons learned.
I want you to hold on to that name.
Now I want you to ask yourself a question. How does that name make you feel? What emotions, what feelings are associated with that name? Possibly respect. That name is a name you respect and highly doubt yourself ever doing otherwise. That name moved you in someway, inspired you to strive for unchartered grounds and newfound territories of potential.
I want you to follow up that question with another, another potentially more important question: how does that name make you feel about yourself? Did that person, that stakeholder in your meaningful existence did that person make you feel respected? Does that name bring forth a memory of you yourself inviting yourself to take hold of life with an upper-hand and make something of it?
For me personally, all of these questions provoked answers fairly quickly. I have the name of the brilliant high school English teacher shining stark in my mind. The name of the teacher that inspired me in no small terms, enough to provoke a love of English learning in me and instill a desire to also join the rank of the English teacher. Our Emporia State University is a school known for it’s excellence in Education and there is no shortage of Education majors, most of whom I am privy to understand can also draw forth names that provoked the pursuit of the Education major.
And by no means is this restricted to us Education majors. I am sure that for every Nursing student there is a medical expert that influenced the desire to pursue nursing. For the Business major, I am sure there was the influential businessman or women who proved that business was a worthwhile enough adventure in which to invest life. We are prey to being influenced. We perhaps owe the great bulk of our ambition to the very entity of being influenced. You saw the new Star Wars movie and fell in love with the independent character of Rey? Now you firmly believe you, too, could be a Jedi? That’s grand! That’s influence.
Other people shape us constantly and considerably, whether consciously or subconsciously (hopefully unconscious can be ruled out for the most part here). I realize this is not a novelty idea in any respect.
But have you taken a moment to pause, to reflect over why these characters in the story of your life have had such revelations over you? Yes, your third grade teacher was super nice, she went out of her way to celebrate your birthday when your parents forgot. She influenced you to pursue a degree in Education. Yes, Rey was mostly just a stellar kick-butt strong female character. She influenced you to escape reality and want to become a Jedi.
I think often what influences us is simpler than exceptional kindness, or showing enough gusto to kick Kylo Ren’s butt in a Jedi dual. I sincerely believe that one does not have to possess exceptional character qualities or fantastical superpowers in order to be influential; I believe influence can be a simple and attainable characteristic for any human to attach to his or her resume of abilities.
Simply put, I believe the power to influence lies in the practice of showing often your own willingness to learn.
My high school English teacher was so grand in my eyes because he was willing to be corrected, such as when he mistakenly taught us that Shakespeare wrote Julius Ceasar in the 1600’s instead of in 1599. Yeah, trivial, I know. You can imagine the groans when the know-it-all kid raised his hand with an exasperated, “Actually…” I am sure my teacher was also throwing mental javelin spears at the bossy interrupter who stalled the class to boost his own ego by going the extra trivial mile to correct this insignificant fact. But my teacher didn’t let frustration show. Instead, my teacher asked for the source, and then nodded his head and exclaimed, “You know what, you’re right. I didn’t know that, and now I do, so thank you”. It really didn’t matter. But then again…it really did. Because this one example, alongside many, made me want to be just like him. I want to be so secure in my intellect and personal potential, that I do not dismiss any intellectual updates or knowledge or ideas. I am the first to admit that I do not know everything–why should I let either my pride or my insecurities stand in the way of my personal improvement? And when I am able to show someone that their information is significant, then I am communicating to them that they are significant.
I think that we all want to be lead by someone who makes us feel significant.
I urge you to bear this simple principle in mind if you have the desire to be as influential as your predecessors: if you want to have influence, show often that you are willing to learn.
One final note: I say simple because I do mean simple; this principle is an easy one to trace back and connect. But by simple, in no way do I mean easy. It takes a significant amount of discipline to prevent your ego from standing in the way. It can be difficult–nay, it is difficult–to admit your fault or ignorance. It can be damaging to the pride to stand corrected. This is something that takes humility.
But can’t you see the net gain? The chance to be someone’s name to the initial question? I would say that makes you significant.
What a unique opportunity for Humanity to rotate in such a beautiful cycle of convincing each other that we are significant.
Peace and Blessings,